Dish Network Hopper

8/3/2012 5:33:01 PM

A stable DVR solution for the whole-home

Various Save options. You will find 2 USB ports for storage and an eSATA for external hard disk behind Hopper

DVR for whole-home is a great idea. Instead of having a full digital video recorder with all set HDTV in-house, you can use the sole storage equipment to hold all recordings and the  equipment to get access to them on different TVs. Dish Network Hopper is the best performance of this idea we ever seen. IT is a 3-turner HD satellite receiver supporting up to 3 Joeys (4.5 stars) which originally are smaller devices that can access to Hopper’s turner and DVD Storage from other room through a connection. Reasonable price, diversified storage and well-designed interface make Hopper better than TiVo Premiere Elite (USD 399.99, 2.5 stars), making it our Editor’s Choice for DVR.  

Description: Various Save options. You will find 2 USB ports for storage and an eSATA for external hard disk behind Hopper

The medium package of Dish Network is now free; and it costs USD 99 for the Basic Package. Each installation can include 3 free Joeys for a multi-room installation. Dish charges USD 10 per month for whole-home with Hopper and plus USD 7 per month for every Joey connected to a TV.

Description: Reasonable price, diversified storage and well-designed interface make Hopper better than TiVo Premiere Elite

Reasonable price, diversified storage and well-designed interface make Hopper better than TiVo Premiere Elite

A diversified menu with few weaknesses

Considering its 3 turner and 2 TB storage capacity, Hopper seems to be small. With the size of 2.3 x 15.9 x 11.4 inch, it has mostly the same size to a Blu-ray player and half-size as Dis Network ViP722 (4.5 stars), meanwhile it supplies double-sized storage with much cheaper price. The front folding door contains controls including 1 navigation pad and convenient Locate Remote button. There is a USB port in the front panel on the right hand-side. The back of Hopper contains cable input, 1 HDMI output and 2 additional USB for the storage and 1 eSATA port for external hard disks.

The remote is big, round and has many buttons. While the pad is fairly enough for navigation, there are buttons for channel search, guide loading, DVR access, program recording and page navigation.

Description: The remote is big, round and has many buttons

The remote is big, round and has many buttons

Menu system is well-designed with clear label. Main menu provides with access to Blockbuster On Demand, Dish Network On demand, PrimeTime Anytime, Facebook, Pandora, etc. Unfortunately, Hopper does not include services such as Netflix or Hulu Plus, or even Youtube. On-demand video service of Blockbuster, PrimeTime Anytime and other apps on Hopper require an Ethernet connection, but the Library and channel guide of Dish work through satellites.  

Quick setup

Of course, with 3 turners and 2 TB capacity, you can record 500 hours of programs at high-definition or 1000 hours of standard-definition programs on the 1TB users partition (the other half is used for recording PrimeTime Anytime, On-demand videos and Dis Unplugged content), so you will not see Netflix and Hulu Plus much for sure. The Search and Record buttons specialize in quickly finding our favorite programs.  

Rearranging 3 turners requires dexterousness when you are recording many programs at the same time. The red button on remote brings the turner list, so you can quickly switch between running turners without disrupting DVR recording.

More convenient than TiVo

TiVo Premiere (USD 299.99, 3.5 stars) and Premiere Elite can be more advantageous than Dish Network Hopper: they support Netflix and Hulu Plus, and they offer suggestion based on your watching habits. However, you have to pay for each TiVo box and monthly TiVo subscription and you need an account for digital cable with a CableCARD for each box. With TiVo, multi-room DVR need a wired network connection or USD 90 dongle W-Fi for each more box. Considering everything, Dish Network offers a more convenient service with cheaper price.

In conclusion, Hopper is one of the best DVRs we have ever seen. It has only 3 turners, in comparison with 4 of TiVo Elite, and it does not offer suggestion and automatical DVR schedule based on your watching habit. However, price, clear design, and easy support for multi-room DVR make it something that a Dish Network subscriber should have. 

Dish Network Hopper


Cheap, well-designed interface, three turners and large storage.


No Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube streaming.

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