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DISH Network Hopper Whole-House DVR System Review

One major alternative to cable is DISH satellite TV service. The company’s Hopper and Joey whole-house DVR system offers industry-leading performance and other compelling reasons for your clients to consider making the switch.

As a general rule, people don’t have much love for their cable TV providers. Instead, cable companies often are looked upon as a necessary evil, with interactions kept to a strict minimum. Like proctology exams. Sure, they like having TV; they just hate the equipment, service, price, and company behind it. And with regular rate hikes and few offsetting improvements, it’s no wonder so many people are cord cutting. But as integrators, we are often thrust into the middle because it’s “our” TV at the end of the chain and “our” control system at the head-end. When things don’t work, clients look to us.

One major alternative to cable is DISH satellite TV service. The company’s Hopper and Joey whole-house DVR system offers industry-leading performance and other compelling reasons for your clients to consider making the switch.

Part of having DISH involves installation of an elliptical satellite dish outside the house. In my case—as is typical—this was handled by DISH installers. The technicians that DISH sent to my home worked with my schedule, were incredibly professional and meticulous, going over acceptable locations with me before securing the DISH. Of course, if you want to become an authorized DISH installer/retailer, that is an option, as well.

There are currently four components in the Hopper ecosystem: Hopper, Joey, Super Joey, and Wireless Joey. Every system begins with the Hopper, which supports up to three Joeys to drive a total of four TVs. The Hopper’s 2 TB hard drive stores up to 2,000 hours and its three tuners can record up to six channels at once when using PrimeTime Anytime (PTA)—a feature I’ll explain later.

The three different Joeys cover a variety of applications. The basic Joey is terrific in most cases, with an ultra-thin profile that can wall-mount behind a flat-panel TV. Wireless Joey is perfect for adding TV to an area with no existing RG6 cabling; it only requires electricity. Wireless Joeys use a DISH access point with roughly a 200-foot range that uses 802.11ac technology to deliver HD video without any dropouts. Super Joey has a slightly larger form factor that adds two additional tuners to the system, upping the system’s recording capability to eight channels.

Larger projects can add multiple Hoppers—and one additional Super Joey per Hopper–increasing both recording and viewing capabilities, but the system doesn’t automatically aggregate recordings or tuners across multiple Hoppers, meaning that users will have to manually select which Hopper’s content they want to browse. Of course, Hoppers and Joeys could be integrated as part of a matrixed video distribution system.

Hopper retains component video and analog audio outputs in case you have a legacy system, as well as HDMI, optical digital, two USB, two ethernet, telephone, and eSATA connections. All Joeys have composite video and analog audio along with optical digital, HDMI, and ethernet.

The system uses MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) to distribute content over the home’s RG6 cabling. When a Joey accesses content—live or recorded—it streams across the network from the Hopper. This network is phenomenally stable and I have never noticed any dropouts or issues.

Honestly, there are so many features available that I would run out of room even I were just to bullet point them, so I’m forced to triage the highlights here. Compared with cable, the picture quality is noticeably better. Whether it’s less compression or better video processing, the picture is cleaner with less noise, more detail, and better handling of fast motion—a real bonus for sports fans. While in the past, getting network channels was iffy (requiring channel waivers and such) all subscribers receive ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in HD. Additionally you can integrate an off-air antenna for local channels, with those channels integrated into the program guide and receiving the full DVR treatment. The off-air channels are also considered an additional tuner.

The hardware is powerful, stable, and reliable. While I went through about five cable boxes with Time Warner, I’ve never had a Hopper or Joey break in the three-and-a-half years I’ve lived with the system. Hopper features a Broadcom 7425 processor with 1305 MHz delivering zippy guide and menu navigation. It’s also powerful enough to drive the integrated Slingbox features, letting you view live or recorded content remotely using the DISH Anywhere app. Another awesome feature is the ability to transfer recorded programs to an iPad, iPhone, or Android device for remote, non-connected viewing—a godsend when taking kids on long car rides.

Each DISH component comes with a no-point, RF remote for controlling DISH devices. The remote is also a fairly full-featured universal that can control third-party devices like TVs, audio systems, Blu-ray players, etc., via IR. Beyond that, DISH has IP integration drivers for Control4, AMX, Crestron, RTI, and Pro Control. Users can also control their systems with the DISH Anywhere app.

Speaking of apps, DISH supports a host of them, including Pandora, Netflix, Vevo, Facebook, Twitter, Weather Channel, and Sirius/XM. It also has a GameFinder feature powered by Thuuz that ranks how “exciting” each sporting event is, letting you tune into the games that people will be talking about the next day.

With hundreds of channels available, DISH makes finding what you want to watch easy, either via search or sort. Pressing the #-key lets you search for a program by name with results sorted by TV, Movies, and Sports. You can also browse the nine-day guide in a variety of ways, including all channels, HD only, and four user-defined lists perfect for setting different family member’s favs. Hopper also supports on-demand viewing from multiple channels along with a ton of pay-per-view content, some available in 1080p.

Two other cool Hopper features are PTA and AutoHop. When enabled, PTA dedicates one tuner to record every show, every night between 8–11 p.m. on the four networks. Hopper keeps all of these shows for eight days (unless you click to save them) meaning there is always a ton of content to watch. I can’t tell you how often my wife and I have discovered a show we “missed” that Hopper scooped up.

AutoHop is another feature that time-shift viewers will immediately fall in love with. When viewing recorded primetime shows, the system can automatically jump over all the commercials. This is only available for most channels on the day after a show has aired, but for record-and-view watchers that time shift their viewing—and skip the ads anyhow—AutoHop is a mini miracle. AutoHop has been coming under fire by the networks that have forced DISH to throttle back the feature during contract renegotiations. For example, AutoHop only works three days following initial airing of shows on ABC, and CBS makes viewers wait seven days. (Manual fast-forward–or 30-second skip-ahead–continues to work on all channels/recordings.)

DVR viewers will also enjoy being able to pause a program in one room and finish it in another. I can’t tell you how often I’ll start a program, pause it, and then finish it later somewhere else. It’s kind of like a Kaleidescape for my TV viewing.

I’m not gonna lie; I’m a huge fan of DISH’s Hopper. I’ve lived with it long enough to say definitively that it is reliable and solid, rarely requiring the kinds of reboots and lock-ups that plague cable boxes. And after my time with Hopper, the thought of going back to cable makes me cringe. Recommending it to your company and your customers is a no-brainer.


Terrific picture quality; awesome DVR features; a plethora of tuners; a Joey to fit any application

Some customers still object to a satellite dish

Product Specs

  • 2 Terabyte hard drive stores 2000 hours of video 
  • Records six live HD channels at once using PrimeTime Anytime (three HD tuners); Expandable to eight live HD channels (five HD tuners) with Super Joey
  • Supports up to 3 Joeys (one Super Joey); 
  • Integrated Wi-Fi and Sling adapter with transfer for mobile viewing
  • Connections: Hopper: Outputs: Analog audio, optical digital, HDMI, component and composite video; Inputs: F-connector (1 for satellite input, 1 for RF remote antenna); USB (1 front, 2 rear); Other: LANx2 (10/100), RJ11 telephone connection, eSATA; Detachable power cord


  • Hopper: 16 x 11.4 x 2.05-inches (WxDxH); 8 pounds
  • Joey: 6.62 x 5.27 x 1.69-inches; 0.7 pounds
  • Super Joey: 10.8 x 8.7 x 1.7-inch;
  • Wireless Joey
  • Dimensions: 2.60” x 7.56” x 5.51”
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Super Joey
  • Dimensions: 1.67” x 11.27” x 8.29”
  • Weight: 2.3 lbs
  • Access Point
  • Dimensions: 1.9” x 6.3” x 5.4”
  • Weight: 12.6 oz

Developing A Relationship with DISH 

Custom installers have a few options for developing a relationship with DISH.

The DISH Local Retailer Program is available to dealers who want to purchase equipment, build accounts for clients and perform installations. An online form to start the application process can be found at This is a full-service program. Dealers who are accepted will have the option to have a sales-only relationship with DISH. Under this program, dealers can build accounts for clients, but outsource equipment delivery and satellite installation back to DISH.

Full-service and sales-only retailers are eligible to receive sales incentives for selling and/or installing DISH, plus a DISH Showroom account that includes programming at a greatly reduced rate. A VIP Concierge is available to dealers who are willing to forego the sales incentives, but still want assistance arranging DISH service and installation for clients.

For more information, dealers can email Frank DeFilippis, DISH’s channel manager for Custom Install.