DISH Network is a popular satellite TV provider for consumers.
Disclosure: DISH provided us with service to make this review possible . All opinions and thoughts expressed within this review had no bias or outside influence. We may earn a commission on referred sales, but content integrity remains our top priority.
Based on our year to evaluate and review the satellite service, we found DISH to be top-notch and far surpass competitors like DirecTV from our experience.
The company's apparent focus on providing a quality and convenient viewing experience shows they are willing to listen and cater to their customers in their mission to improve their service year after year.
While their pricing won't always beat cable providers who market a bundled promotion for TV/internet/phone, DISH is the ideal choice for those who want the best TV viewing experience and wish to keep their internet and TV providers separate for greater flexibility.
If you want a consumer-focused satellite TV experience that is priced competitively within the market then DISH comes highly recommended.
The Ideal Buyer
Anyone who wants easy access to foreign or specialized channels that are not available through traditional cable subscriptions. DirecTV subscribers who want to stay with satellite over cable, but want to take advantage of DISH's advantages & cost savings. Additionally, if anyone wants to keep their TV provider separate from their Internet provider for cost savings (further explained later in this review).
The world of television consumption has changed rapidly over the years with the introduction of online streaming services. However, the majority of us still prefer a traditional cable or satellite subscription to gain reliable and widespread access to the TV shows and sporting events that we enjoy watching.
Over the years, DISH (formerly known as DISH Network) has been focusing on making their satellite television the most comfortable and user-centric service for consumer households. While we have been cable subscriber all of our lives, DISH approached us with a sponsored opportunity to let us test out their service and provide an honest opinion after a full year of use.
In the remainder of this article, we will share our experience using DISH on a regular basis for a period of just a few days short of 12 months. While we were granted a year of service and compensation for our time writing this article, all opinions and expressed within this review of genuine and of our own without any outside bias towards DISH.
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DISH Company Overview
DISH Network, now branded as just DISH is a satellite TV company that was founded on March 4th, 1996 as a part of the satellite television equipment distributor EchoStar.
As of November 2016, the company provides service to 13.24M television subscribers as well as 580,000 broadband Internet subscribers (satellite Internet). DISH employs in upwards of 17,000 employees with their headquarters based in Meridian, Colorado.
Revenues in 2017 reached $14.4 billion, and the subsidiaries of DISH include Blockbuster LLC, Sling TV and Sling Media.
Satellite Versus Cable: Pros & Cons
As a cable subscriber all of my life up until this past year, I had been hesitant about signing up for a satellite contract as I've heard a lot of mixed reviews in the past from others mainly on the Internet.
However, this opportunity allowed us a chance to test out DISH for a whole year and determine the strengths and weaknesses of satellite versus cable. In the following few paragraphs, I will cover the topic areas of concern and how each service compares to the topic.
Traditional cable television is the most common form of TV distribution primarily due to it being around since 1948. In a conventional cable setup, radio frequency signals are transmitted to paid subscribers through coaxial or fiber optic cables which are typically wired underground or connected to a house via telephone poles. Most modern homes are already wired for cable so self-installation is possible under certain providers.
Satellite TV (DISH)
A more modern technology that launched for consumers in 1962 and became well established in the USA and Europe by 1980. Unlike traditional cable, satellite television utilizes satellites both in space and mounted to consumer households to transmit signals. This requires a more extensive installation in return for a wider array of channels and overall capabilities.
Pricing & Availability: How Much Does DISH Cost?
The base DISH package dubbed ‘America's Top 120' is priced for $59.99 per month. This package includes 190 channels in total including ESPN and local channels and high definition broadcasting.
Three more pricing plans are available:
DISH provided us with the America's Top 250 service plan for our year long evaluation period so our review is based on this package (though still relevant for the remaining plans).
All installation, monthly bill payments and cancellation costs can be paid online with a credit card or bank account through their billing portal.
It is clear that the cost of the actual DISH satellite service is not as cheap as a streaming TV company like Sling TV (DISH's own cord-cutting subsidiary), but there is a big difference in programing options, channel lineups, content availability and advanced features.
Installation and Setup Fees (DISH vs DirecTV)
Professional installation is free with any plan. All plans require a 2 year contract which guarantees the pricing for the next 24 months.
The DISH price lock differs from DirecTV which increases their prices after the first 12 months of service unless you are already an AT&T wireless customer.
If you move halfway through your subscription, your DISH service will likely be able to move with you during the process as their satellite signal is available in virtually any location.
A representative will help you get the move process started and offer a free standard installation at your new residence (you'll need to pack and bring your existing hardware and remotes).
DISH Hardware Costs
A single Hopper Duo is included with the service, but you'll need to dish out an extra $5 a month extra to upgrade to a Hopper w/Sling or Hopper 3 (which based on my review experience is highly recommended).
Additional monthly fees will be charged for extra hardware (for use in other rooms):
- Hopper – $15/m
- Joey – $5/m
- Super Joey – $10/m
- Wireless Joey – $50 up front then $7/month
The first three months of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz and DISH Movie Pack are included for free, but you'll need to call or go online to cancel ahead of time to avoid a $55/month re-bill once the three-month promotion has ended.
For our evaluation purposes, DISH supplied a Hopper 3 and three wireless Joey units to offer TV access in each room of my home.
Premium & Foreign Channels
One of the huge benefits of a satellite provider such as DISH over cable is the ability to access a wider array of channels including international, movie and sports stations.
If you are a movie buff, there are over 20 movie channels and popular premium channels available for accessible for purchase such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, EPIX and the DISH Movie Pack (includes FXM, STARZ, EPIX, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and more).
For those who just love watching sports, DISH offers plenty of national and regional sporting events through various dedicated sports channels including:
- NFL Red Zone
- NFL Network
- MLB Network
- beIN SPORTS
- SEC Network
- Longhorn Network
- Racetrack Television Network (RTN)
- NBA League Pass
- NHL Center Ice
- Fox Soccer Plus
- Outdoor Channel
- World Fishing Network
- Willow Cricket HD
- The Golf Channel
DISH Cancellation & End Of Service Costs
If you want to stop ahead the end of your service contract, you'll be faced with an early termination fee depending on how much is left in your contract. The cost of these cancellation fees can range from several hundred dollars if you try to end very early in your 2 year commitment.
In some cases, a DISH Network representative may be able to adjust your plan (adding or removing features) or apply a new promotion to keep you satisfied or remain within a lower monthly budget.
The Cost Benefits Of Service Segregation
While most internet providers (most often cable providers) will offer dual or triple service bundles for things like home phone, TV and internet for a single cost, we do not recommend this for several reasons.
Bundling your TV, internet and phone may be convenient from a bill standpoint, but putting all your eggs in one basket can be a risky endeavor if one of the services declines in performance or a better alternative comes out.
In the past, I used to be a customer with one of the largest suppliers of cable services in the country under their ‘triple play' plan as they were the only internet provider in my general location.
They told me their three service bundle it was the cheapest option for my needs despite no use for a home phone (somehow this came out to be even cheaper than a dual bundle or single service).
When I ultimately wanted to drop my cable and phone and just pay for Internet (I planned to sign up for SlingTV instead of their cable subscription), they had gotten me in a trap. While I was paying $165 a month for all three services, if I dropped TV/phone then they would be charge me the ‘standard rate' of $115/month for internet only.
This led to frustration as I had been seeing them offering $39.99 plans for the same internet that I was paying for in the bundle so I questioned the cost. Their response was that the bundled rate is a promotional price and each account is not eligible for promotional rates for multiple services nor could I end one promo rate to start another.
My only options were to keep my triple service promo rate and be stuck with cable as my provider or drop the TV and phone. In return, I'd pay an outrageous premium for my internet service and since I rely on the internet for my business, this was a serious inconvenience.
Knowing what I know now, I would have just signed up for internet through my cable provider (which at the time was the only company offering reasonable speeds in my area) and choose a competing cable or satellite provider for TV.
This is exactly what I have done since moving to Florida going with Frontier's FIOs internet coupled with DISH's TV services. The combination offers the best of both worlds with blazing fast internet and an advanced television experience that has blown my past experiences with traditional cable out of the water.
Installation & Setup of DISH
Around the time that this review opportunity came to fruition, we had just relocated our company from a small town in western Massachusetts to beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida.
I called DISH and spoke with a representative over the phone who scheduled my installation appointment with one of their certified representatives. They informed me that I would need to be present at my home for the installation appointment.
They gave me a 5 hour window of time that the technician would arrive and the installation process could take anywhere from 2-4 hours once begun.
On the day of the installation, the representative arrived within an hour of my scheduled appointment window and the whole process took about three hours from start to finish.
However, this process was likely longer than most since it included many tasks including mounting the satellite, installing the Hopper 3 along with three wireless Joeys, configuring their wireless to match my network and explaining how to use the most common features.
The satellite was mounted onto the rear of my home in the corner away from view from the road and pointed at an angle that achieved the best signal. From there, the Dish Network technician ran some cabling through the attic and down one of the interior closets to reach the Hopper 3 unit.
My home was flipped in previous years so the standard cables were removed from all of the walls. This required a new hardwire to be run through that closet as the Hopper 3 requires a physical cable (he asked for permission before doing so).
Due to the rest of the rooms not having any physical cabling existing through the walls, the technician suggested that we switch from traditional Joey systems (that also require a physical cable for operation) to DISH's Wireless Joeys.
Each Wireless Joey needed to be setup with power and HDMI connections then run through a configuration setup to connect them to my personal home Wi-Fi network (to connect to the Hopper 3). From there, you can adjust the physical location of the device to ensure the strongest signal strengths.
Since the connection is wireless, it is not advised to mount the Wireless Joeys to the back of your TV like you would with a multimedia streaming dongle like an Amazon Fire Stick as it can highly degrade the connection strength. Due to this, I opted to install a basic IKEA shelve unit in two of the rooms where my TVs were wall-mounted.
Overall, the DISH Network technician was polite, knowledgeable and he left with me feeling confident in both the quality of the installation and how to work DISH's receivers as a new user. I can't vouch for all DISH technicians, but my experience was very positive.
DISH Hardware: Hopper 3, Wireless Joey & HopperGO
Over the years DISH has offered many iterations of hardware receivers and accessories, but in this section we will cover the four main hardware components that we had been given through our evaluation period.
The latest and greatest digital receiver and DVR from DISH is their Hopper 3 system which is available for an extra $5/month off the base Hopper DVR included with every plan.
From a cosmetic standpoint, the Hopper 3 looks like most receiver/DVR systems as a large rectangular box. A small Hopper 3 with Sling and DISH logo are found on the left side of the front which actually is a hidden flap to access the physical button controls.
The front of the Hopper 3 is made of a gloss black finish with a small red line near the bottom whereas the rest of the plastic chassis is matte black. Gloss black usually collects noticeable dust and fingerprints worse than matte black so the front of the Hopper 3 may require cleaning more often.
On the back of the device, you've got nearly every input that you could want including an HDMI, USB 2.0/3.0, SPDIF, component and traditional coaxial jack. From a performance standpoint, the Hopper 3 is incredibly advanced and powerful compared to its competition.
The DVR functionality offers simultaneous recording of up to 16 shows at once with over 2,000 hours of storage space. These numbers from DISH are effectively twice as much as any DVR competition from DirecTV or other cable companies.
Advanced features that we will touch upon later include built-in apps like Netflix or YouTube, a one-touch remote finder, DISHAnywhere support or multi-view for split-screen viewing up to four channels when combined with a 4K UHD TV.
While the Hopper 3 acts as the central command hub for our DISH system, we ended up using wireless Joeys to supply a TV signal to my home office, master bedroom and spare bedroom.
As I stated in the installation section, we chose the Wireless Joeys over the traditional Joey as my home was flipped a few years ago and no longer has proper cabling/coaxial jacks run through the walls which would enable the use of a standard Joey.
Standard & Touch Remote With Voice Control
During our year of testing, we got a chance to use two of out of the three remote types of which DISH offers for their customers.
The standard remote looks like an ordinary TV remote with a matte black finish and a red ring running all the way around the edge of the remote's chassis. On this model, the buttons are not backlit and there is no support for voice control.
The touch remote is notably smaller than the standard remote dropping the number pad in exchange for a large touchpad which is used for navigating throughout the interface with swiping and clicking.
This touchpad can also double as a backlit number pad with the touch of a button. On the side of this remote is a button which when held down allows you to give voice commands to control the Hopper 3's interface.
Lastly, DISH has since released a new voice remote that looks like a combination of both remotes that we have tested. It looks like the standard remote with a longer design and physical keys, but incorporates a voice control button within it.
The new voice remote is supposed to be included with every new package so chances are if you sign up after reading DISH reviews like this one then you'll have access to this new remote.
HopperGO Portable DVR
One of the most unique pieces of hardware that DISH offers is their HopperGO which is a standalone portable DVR device that is available for purchase for an extra $99.
The small box looks like a portable USB charging brick, but instead it holds 100 hours of content with a built-in battery and wireless connectivity to up to give iOS or Android devices.
To load the HopperGO with recorded content, you must plug it into the USB port on the front of the Hopper 3. From there, you go through a few easy steps initiate the transfer of pre-recorded content to your HopperGO.
The HopperGO from DISH was both convenient and a breeze to use allowing me to catch up on some missed episodes of The Walking Dead and Silicon Valley while on a flight to Vegas for CES 2018.
Battery life on the HopperGO exceeded their four hour estimate from my experience although I was only streaming to one device (their estimate is for two simultaneous devices streaming).
DISH Software: User Interface & Experience
Something that has been evident from the start of my DISH review is how dedicated they are as a company to offer a simplified and convenience user experience through their product line-up.
DISH Network User Interface
The result is a well organized interface that is easy to navigate. Better yet, you can access much of the core features directly through dedicated buttons on their remote controls such as apps, DVR, guide and search.
Remote Location & Identification
One of the most convenience feature elements built into all of the DISH receivers is a remote finder function. By clicking a labeled button on the front of the satellite box, an audible signal will automatically begin to go off on any paired remote.
I ended up remembering this feature after scouring my bedroom for about 20 minutes one night after misplacing my remote. After pressing the button on my Wireless Joey, it only took a few seconds to find my remote had fallen between my nightstand and the wall.
As you'd expect, it won't find a remote with a dead battery so you'll want to check your batteries every once in awhile.
Another small, but appreciated gesture from DISH is that each remote is labeled during installation with a designated sticker for location of the paired TV such as ‘Living Room'. Additionally, a second sticker can be applied which tells you what input to set the TV to such as ‘tune TV to HDMI 1'.
Manufacturers have been producing television models for decades that offer picture-in-picture technology, but DISH took it a step further. Beyond just your traditional 2-channel split, you can watch up to four channels at once all perfectly in 1080P when paired with a 4K TV.
While most of us won't ever need to watch four channels at once, it is convenient for sports fans who want to watch the multiple events at once or someone who wants to catch the latest episodes of their favorite TV show while simultaneously being able to stay up to date with the score and view highlights from the game.
With much of our interactions with consumer electronics shifting to the realm of voice controls, DISH has integrated this technology into their service for added convenience. This can be done in one of three ways, through the new voice remote which is included with every new service plan, through any of Amazon's Alexa-enabled devices or through Google Assistant.
The mobile and web apps from DISH allows you to view your channel guide, schedule recording, watch previously recorded DVRs while on the same network as your Hopper 3 and stream live TV.
Primetime Anytime & 'AutoHop' Commercial Skip Feature
Primetime Anytime is a built-in feature from DISH for their Hopper 3 DVR system which utilizes the massive storage space to automatically record TV programs on primetime channels and times on a temporary basis (8 days is the default length of storage).
Personally, I didn't think I'd use this much although there were several occasions where it came into use such as when I missed watching the premiere episode of a new NBC series that has peaked my interest. Another time, I had forgotten to record the Oscars and then realized that my Hopper 3 automatically had done so.
Best of all, any Primetime Anytime content can utilize their ‘autohop' feature which will automatically scan through the entirety of the content and cut out any of the annoying commercials.
An autohop prompt will appear at the beginning of watching the recorded content so you have the option to decline this feature if you oddly desire to watch the commercials.
Integrated Streaming Apps
If you have a relatively new HDTV then likely offers some Smart capabilities allowing it to connect to popular streaming services.
However, if you don't have this ability or you don't want to have to switch inputs when streaming then you can install and watch some native streaming apps like YouTube and Netflix directly through DISH's receivers.
Doing so will allow you to browse these service's offering using your DISH remote and the interface mimics what you'd expect through a native smart TV app.
Additionally, you can use DISH's integrated search tool to identify if your show will air on live TV, already recorded on your DVR or is available on Netflix.
Performance Over A 12-Month Period Of Using DISH Network
My service was installed on May 17th, 2017 and I have been watching TV daily since this date. So far, I have had no notable issues with DISH nor have I had to have a representative visit my home for any reasons.
Throughout my review experience, I did contact their phone support once a few months in to help access my DISHAnywhere account for the first time when my information wasn't working. Their support was prompt, spoke great English and got to the matter of the problem quickly.
Being in Florida, I wasn't as worried about the DISH being affected by weather as obviously snow doesn't play a factor in here. An average rain storm in Florida has no effect on the signal or television playback.
However, I did have a two instances where I was watching TV during a serve thunderstorm with heavy wind/rain and temporarily lost the signal to DISH for a short period lasting only a few minutes.
Beyond this instance, the DISH service was reliable and consistent. Considering the time table of our yearly evaluation going through hurricane season, I was particularly interested in how the exterior satellite would last through a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
Unfortunately, just three months into living in Florida, we were met with hurricane Irma which was the largest and most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. We were fortunate enough in the Tampa Bay area to get hit only as a category 2 hurricane versus the category 5 level that it was before it made landfall.
However, we still faced a mandatory evacuation from our home and the exterior DISH was met with heavy wind speeds up to 100 mph for several hours on the morning of the storm.
To my surprise, this heavy wind did NOT affect the placement of the satellite's angle. Upon returning to my home and waiting five days for my power to be restored, the DISH booted up and worked as expected. This was a relief as I didn't need a technician to come reset the angle like I thought I might have.
After evaluating our DISH satellite TV service for a period of just under a year, we were very satisfied with the service and think it is the best satellite TV provider currently offered.
In our market that has a wide variety of TV/Internet competition, we prefer to keep these services with separate companies. Our combination of Frontier's FIOs internet and DISH for TV was an excellent match for our needs offering the best quality of service in both spectrums at reasonable prices.
While DISH might not be the right fit for everyone's needs or budgets, they are dedicated to keeping their customer experience as convenient and seamless as possible.
Their wide availability of traditional and specialized programming in the form of movies, sports or international content make it a great choice for many prospective customers.