Network has recently introduced the Hopper™ Whole-Home HD DVR, the most advanced set-top box in the industry. The Hopper™ delivers features that will not only change the way you watch TV, but will provide you with unique capabilities not found in any other product. The Whole-Home DVR system offers an innovative new way to experience DVR service by letting you share recordings on any TV in the house. The Hopper™ is designed to communicate with multiple Joey™ units, each of which can stream content from the main Hopper™ DVR. The advantage is that all Joey™ receivers (3 in our case) that are connected to the Hopper™ have access to the same content with full user control (pause, rewind, fast-forward, and record live TV) in any room. The Hopper™ can record up to six live HD channels at once (during primetime hours) and stream four HD programs to different TVs simultaneously. I don't know of any other product capable of doing this.
See the New DISH Hopper™ with Sling Review
The Hopper™ also has an intuitive search capability that can search by title, actor, channel or other info to find your favorite shows, recorded programs and On Demand content. In addition, the predictive search feature will start showing results immediately as you type them in, so you'll find your favorites content fast. The Parental Controls can be password protected and locked from any TV, so you don’t need to worry about your kids flipping through
inappropriate content from the other rooms.
A massive 2 terabyte hard drive is included and with all the video options (DVR, PTAT, VOD, DISHUnplugged), there is more than 500 hours of HD programming available. However, only 1 terabyte of hard drive space is available for the user to record. The rest is reserved for DISH's new PrimeTime Anytime™, DISH On Demand (VOD) and other DISH features. We'll talk more about storage and the ability to add external hard drive storage to the Hopper™. In addition, we will put it through a series of tests to see how it performs in real-world settings.
DISH On Demand
DISH On Demand (VOD) allow customers to immediately order and begin viewing hundreds of On Demand
titles, including new releases. These titles are stored on the Hopper’s
hard drive (not part of the user storage), so there is no need to wait for downloading.
PrimeTime Anytime™ is designed to give users instant On Demand access to their favorite primetime shows on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC in HD. A special PrimeTime Anytime™ folder in the DVR menu and Main menu is available for quick access to this content. This will give you instant access to the primetime programming without having to set timers or using up your personal DVR hard drive space. The system stores three hours per night of HD primetime programming and four hours on Sunday for up to
8 days from initial air date. PrimeTime Anytime™ is enabled through the main menu of the Hopper and will automatically record all
primetime programming from 8 to 11 PM ET Monday through Saturday, and from 7 to 11 PM ET on
Sunday. DISH gives users the option to save their favorite on demand primetime content to their DVR before
the 8 day window expires. When PrimeTime Anytime™ is recording programs; only one of the three satellite tuners will be used.
Our Hopper™ installation included a DISH 1000.2 triple LNB satellite dish aimed at orbital positions 110°, 119°, and 129° angled up about 50 degrees from the horizon towards the Southern skies. Our installer Lukas, did an excellent job mounting the new dish and opted to re-align it rather than use the old mounting hardware to get the best signal possible from all satellites. DISH offers several configuration options based on the location and the number of receivers being installed. Our test system consisted of a single Hopper™ with 3 Joeys™ all on the same network. Two of the Joeys™ were located in different rooms, while the third Joey™ was located relatively close to the main Hopper™ unit. This allowed Lukas to run only three lines down from the roof (one to each Joey™ and the third line to the main Hopper™ and remaining Joey™). We'll cover a few installation options to give you a better idea what to expect when you call out your DISH installer. We wanted to minimize new cables and while the main Hopper™ unit requires the same basic connections as traditional DISH DVRs (LNB, phone line, and ethernet), the Joeys™ only require a coaxial connection thanks to the MoCA (Multimedia over Coaxial Alliance) technology. MoCA is the technology behind the Hopper™ whole-home
DVR that allows you to access a common DVR playlist from any connected TV in
the Hopper’s network. MoCA fully supports both HD and SD video in the home.
There are a couple of basic configurations for the Hopper™ and Joeys™. The first is a single Hopper™ with up to 3 Joeys™. The second configuration utilizes two Hoppers™ with up to 4 Joeys™ for a maximum of 6 TVs. For more details on the setups, the configurations are shown below.
Hopper™ + 3 Joeys™
The new Hopper™ system is designed to be flexible for easy installation. Our configuration has the 1000.2 dish connected to a Solo Node, which includes a server and client connection. The client then feeds a 2-way splitter and then to the two Joeys™. The server cable can run into the general area where the additional Joey™ is being installed and split to the two devices (Hopper™ and Joey™) using a Tap. This allowed us to use our existing three RG6 cables without the need for an additional cable. Here is a photo of the installation under the eave.
A different approach to the same basic configuration (1 Hopper™ and 3 Joeys™) can be achieved using the Solo Node along with a 3-way splitter. This is particularly attractive if the dish is located far from the rooms where the Joeys™ are being used. A single cable from the Solo Node can be used and the 3-way splitter can be installed where the three (Joey™) rooms are located. The Hopper™ will still need a dedicated cable. This configuration can help reduce overall cable clutter.
2 Hoppers™ + 4 Joeys™
A more complex setup involves two Hoppers™ and four Joeys™ to support a total of six TVs. This configuration requires a Duo Node that is basically split into two systems. The Duo Node has two sets of host/client interfaces and requires three connections from the 1000.2 dish. At the present time, only two Joeys™ can access the DVR features and tuners from one Hopper™ and the two Hoppers cannot communicate with each other. However, according to DISH, the ability for two Hoppers
to share DVR functionality and tuners will be available in the future.
The cost of owning the Hopper™ and Joeys™ depends on the number of units in the system. For a single Hopper™ there is a standard $10 per month fee ($6/mo DVR fee and $4/mo Whole Home HD DVR Service fee) and an additional $7 per month fee for each Joey installed. That's a total of $31 per month for one Hopper™ and three Joeys™. The table to the right helps detail the cost.
Hopper™ HD DVR
The Hopper™ serves as the hub for your Whole-Home TV entertainment system with 3 satellite tuners for recording simultaneous programs or a combination including live channels. The Hopper™ supports home media formats that include MKV & MP4 video, MP3 music, and JPG photos. The unit has a lower profile design than previous DISH DVRs measuring only 16”W x 2.05”H x 11”D and weighing 8 pounds.
The Hopper™ is powered by a 750MHz Broadcom BCM7420 Multiformat Dual HD Digital Video/Audio chip with an integrated MoCA® (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) 1.1 core. The chip supports 1080p60 video quality and includes a 1700-DMIPs (Dhrystone Millions of Instructions per Second) CPU. This is one reason the Hopper™ is so responsive to the remote. DISH is the first to offer SRS TruVolume in its set-top
boxes, which is designed to prevent the annoying volume fluctuations between normal programming and commercials.
The front left side has a flip-down panel with a magnetic latch. Behind the cover are 12 panel buttons (power, sys info, up, down,
left, right, select, info, menu, jump, reset and
locate remote) and a slot for the smart card. The center of the unit has a green power and red record light indicators. The lower right of the unit has a USB 2.0 port (one of three).
The rear panel of the Hopper™ has two female F-connectors
for the satellite dish LNB and the wireless remote UHF
antenna. Analog video (composite and component) is provided along with two channels of analog audio. Like many current video products, the Hopper™ does not include an s-video output. The HDMI output provides both digital video and digital audio for modern A/V products. There is also a toslink (optical) audio output. Two USB 2.0 ports, dual ethernet jacks, eSATA (future use), and a phone jack is provided. Connecting your receiver to your home’s broadband Internet service using the ethernet connection or a wireless adapter will expand your benefits as a DISH subscriber. Benefits include instant access to thousands of on demand movies and television shows, PPV (Pay-Per-View) movies and events using your remote, managing your DVR from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and getting TV Everywhere™ by plugging in a Sling® Adapter into your Hopper (stream thousands of movies to your TV).
The Joey™ units are compact, measuring only 2”W x 1.69”H x 5.27”D and weighing only 0.7 lbs. The Joey™ is a thin client receiver that communicates with the
Hopper™, giving you full HD DVR functionality on each of your Joey™-based TVs. You will get the same full-featured user interface you see on the Hopper™, so you will never know that you are controlling a DVR remotely. The base of the Joey™ snaps to a mounting plate that can be attached to the wall or a cabinet with four screws. The plate has a large metal base that also acts as a heatsink to pull heat out of the unit.
The Joey™ is powered by a 450MHz Broadcom BCM7340 single-chip (1100 DMIPs), multi-format HD satellite STB solution, featuring an integrated MoCA® (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) 1.1 core that allows DISH to deploy multi-room DVR capabilities while significantly reducing cost and power associated with separate DVR units. The Joey™ offers the same video quality and multi-channel digital audio found on its mother Hopper™ unit. The Joey™ is also very responsive to the remote.
The front has 6 buttons (power, system info, up, down,
select, and locate remote). To reset the unit, simply hold down the power button for several seconds and unit will reboot.
The rear panel of the Joey™ has an F-connector
for the MoCA connection to the Hopper system. Composite video (480i) and two-channel analog audio provide standard definition interfaces to older televisions. The HDMI is all that is needed for modern displays including those systems with an integrated receiver for PCM stereo or multi-channel Dolby Digital. A separate toslink (optical) jack provides a dedicated interface for digital audio. The USB jack is a feature that is currently not implemented on the Joey™. The ethernet provides a dedicated broadband connection, but currently all of the content is available directly from the Hopper™.
The Hopper™ Whole-Home TV entertainment system has other benefits, especially when it comes to overall power consumption in your home. Our measurements showed that the main Hopper™ unit consumed about 52 watts and each of the Joey™ units consumed about 12 watts each. This is significantly lower than what is required to power separate DVRs in the house. Another advantage of having the Joey units is that they do not require hard drives or fans, so they run completely silent in the bedrooms where they are installed. Some users have complained that DVR noise can sometimes wake people up during late night or early morning hours, so it is best to have the Hopper™ strategically installed. Often times the DVR fan will run at full speed with hard drive activity during a reboot or update, so if you happen to be a light sleeper the Joey design solves this problem.
Both the Hopper™ and Joey™ units can get warm particularly if they are placed in confined areas. We found that the hottest parts of the Hopper™ and Joey™ could easily reach temperatures above 120° Fahrenheit. Elevated temperatures decrease life of electronics and can cause premature failures in extreme cases. We like to keep our electronics as cool as possible, so we recommend products such as the Dual-Mode Component Cooler™ from Active Thermal to pull in fresh air and push the warm air out of the cabinet. We were able to bring down the temperature of the Hopper™ by 20 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a much more reasonable (100° Fahrenheit) operating temperature.
If your Hopper is connected to the internet,
you can add a Sling® Adapter and enjoy TV Everywhere. This allows you to watch live TV and DVR
recordings as well as manage your DVR from your computer, tablet, or smartphone while you
are on the go. Our favorite playback devices are the iPad and laptop, since they offer the best user interface and the largest screen size including high definition. The playback quality will be largely limited by the bandwidth of your connection, so if you are relying on 3G, you might experience some performance degradation depending on your signal strength. Higher speed 4G and standard broadband connections will get the best performance. Other portable devices that we tested with the system include the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Android), but due to their limited screen size these devices are not as enjoyable. Up to 5 users can simultaneously access thousands of TV shows and movies online through DISH Online.
External Hard Drive
A great feature that has been carried from the earlier generation DVRs is the ability to add an external hard drive to Hopper™. This provides a convenient way to off-load content from the main user storage space, which is limited to 1TB out of the 2TB capacity. We connected a standard 2TB external drive to the back of the Hopper™ using the USB port and increased our user storage capacity by 3 times. Upon connecting the drive, the Hopper™ notified us that a drive was detected and identified it as "External Device 1". We were then prompted to reformat the drive (as shown), a requirement for compatibility with the DISH DVR. The format process only take a couple of minutes to complete and then the drive was ready to be used.
Naturally, if the device connected is designated as "External Device 1" then we asked ourselves, Why wouldn't it support more drives?
Earlier DISH DVRs did not support more than one drive at a time. However, you could disconnect one drive and connect a different drive to increase storage. While this worked, it wasn't the most convenient way to off-load files.
Once the external drive is recognized by the system, it will appear as playback option in the DVR menu. This goes for the Joey units as well, so all TVs have access to the transferred content over the network. We have two drives connected to the Hopper™ through a USB hub. One drive is the kid's shows, while the other drive is reserved for the adults. Password protection is still maintained for the content stored on the drives. Only one external drive can be active at a time. If you happen to be using a green drive that sleeps, you may have to wait for it to come back online (otherwise you may get an access error message) before you can start streaming content. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.
The new model 40.0 Hopper™ Universal Remote Control is a 4-component design based on DISH
Network's earlier DVR models in terms of layout, functionality, and features. The UHF/IR remote control uses a proprietary ZigBee RF4CE profile (provided with every receiver) and has 2-way learning functionality. To pair the remote to the receiver simply press the “System Info” button on the front of your receiver and then press the “Pair” button on the remote. There is no backlighting except for the four selectable (Sat, TV, DVD,
and Aux) device buttons on the top of the remote, but the white buttons make it easier to view in low-light conditions.
Each of the three additional
component buttons can be programmed to operate (via IR) other components in the
system. A universal learning system wizard is used to pair with other devices such as your TV, DVD, and audio receiver. We programmed the remote to operate
our Mitsubishi LT-52148 LCD television and our OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray
player. The standard DVR buttons provide skip forward (30-seconds), skip back (10-seconds), stop,
play, pause, fast-forward and rewind (4x, 15x, 60x, 300x). The remote measures 2.25” x 8.25” x 1.125” and runs from four "AAA" batteries (included).
The color coded buttons on the Hopper™ and Joey™ remotes have specific functions as defined on the screen. The Red button (TV Viewing Status) allows you to start watching a program in one room and continue
watching it in another room. The Green button (Quick Clicks list) is used to create a list of your favorite channels for fast access. The Yellow button provides System Settings. While viewing the Guide, the Blue button is used to expand collapsible menus,
such as SiriusXM and international channels as well as for adjusting network settings.
Remote Control Locator
DISH has made finding your remote easy using the Locate Remote button on the front of the Hopper™ and Joey™ units. Simply press the Locate Remote button and the corresponding remote will sound the alarm. The multi-tone pulses emitted from the remote make it easy to find.
The Hopper™ has a tile-based user interface that provides a glossy
look and feel with colorful icons that leverage from the ViP® 922design. The speed
of the Hopper™ is impressive and for first-time users and those with 622's or 722's will be pleasantly surprised with the performance increase. Apps for Pandora, Facebook, Weather Channel, msnbc, NBC Sports and Access
Hollywood provide a quick way to get the latest entertainment and information
you want. Picture-in-Picture is available on the
Hopper™ allowing you to watch two programs on a single TV screen with one on the full
screen and one in the inset window. Two tuners must be
available for the PIP to function.
Whole Home Network
Each of the three connected Joeys™ is displayed and have unique (selectable) names corresponding to the rooms they are installed in.
Searching for content is fast on the DISH Hopper allowing you to quickly find listings for your favorite programs on live TV, VOD, or your DVR. As you type in the search box, the results automatically appear in poster art, making it easier for you to quickly identify the content.
The Hopper™ has a graphic-rich user interface
that displays 3-hour blocks of programming on a single screen. Users can view up to 9 days of programming through the program
guide. The user can select from All My
Channels, All Available, or from four other custom channel
lists that can be named. We labeled each one with the members of the household. Each channel has unique content
provider graphics for easy visual recognition. This is something that first showed up on the ViP 922 giving the user interface a nice look.
DISH On Demand
DISH On Demand (VOD) allows users to immediately order and begin viewing hundreds of On Demand
titles, including new releases and some with 1080p video quality. Many VOD titles are stored on the Hopper’s
hard drive so there is no need to wait for downloading. Some of the free rentals such as Soul Surfer are transferred to the hard drive upon request and can take several minutes depending on your download speed. We selected several movies and they all queued up and transferred one after another. We saw transfer speeds as high as 16 Mb/s and the speed was only limited by our internet service provider (Verizon FIOS).
Other VOD movies such as Hunger Games costs $6.99 for a 48-hour period. My daughter talked me into watching this movie with her and I was very impressed with the 1080p video quality. The multi-channel surround sound provided an engaging experience complementing the prestine video.
We also rented and played Puss n Boots in 3D (thanks to the kids) to see how this works with a Mitsubishi HC-7800U 3D DLP projector. The projector had no problem synchronizing and displaying the 3D content with impressive visual effects. It is good to see that DISH is providing 3D VOD content to its customers. Best of all, the Joeys also support 3D content, so TVs in other rooms can enjoy the same benefits as those connected directly to the Hopper™.
When you subscribe to premium channels such as
Blockbuster @Home, hundreds of on demand titles are automatically pre-downloaded to your hard drive for instant viewing. There is no
broadband connection required since the content is sent over the satellite link.
DISH DVRs are among the best performing products on the market with features that others only wish they had. The new Hopper™ and Joey™ units performed extremely well during our review period, which is pretty impressive for a product that has just been released. We expect DISH will provide future updates as needed to make an already powerful DVR system even better as the product matures.
A review would not be complete if we didn't run a series of stress tests
on the Hopper™ and Joeys™. To start we began recording multiple high definition channels to the hard drive. Two HBO channels and four PrimeTime Anytime™ channels for a total of six streams. We then began to playback four different prerecorded shows on each of the televisions (1 Hopper™ and 3 Joeys) concurrent with the six channels recording. This is an incredible amount of processing power when you think about the number of high definition streams, but is not unrealistic in terms of how the system may be used by real customers. Users can stop the prerecorded shows and watch one of the six channels being recorded. During non-primetime, users can watch any one of the three live channels available over the satellite. The performance of this system was nothing short of amazing with excellent audio and video quality regardless of whether it came from the Hopper™ or Joey™ units.
The new Hopper™ Whole Home DVR takes a slightly different approach to an already impressive line of DVRs offered by DISH Network. The Hopper™ gives DISH users a whole new way to share their DVR content in the home using one or more hard drives with the speed and agility of separate DVRs, but without the need to have separate power hungry set-top boxes in each room. The ultra-quiet Joeys are particularly attractive for those rooms where conventional DVRs make too much noise during the wee hours of the night.
The Hopper™ user interface is intuitive and gets you access to the content you love without the hassle of being slow and cumbersome and builds on the already popular and highly regarded ViP® 922. Whether you are controlling your content from the main Hopper™ or from one of the Joeys™, users will have access to full high definition video (including 3D content) along with high quality PCM or Dolby Digital (up to 5.1) audio.
The Hopper™ is one of the most advanced DVRs offered by DISH
Network and it fully integrated satellite-based programming, video-on-demand content, remote access, along with internet and home media
capabilities. Each of the Joey™ units only require a single coaxial connection thanks to MoCA (Multimedia over Coaxial Alliance) technology, while still providing full featured capabilities on all TVs. The product has been running in our home for several weeks now and works great. With our electric bill riding into tier 5 every month, the new lower power solution offered with the Hopper™/Joey™ combination is welcomed. Customers will be pleased with the Hopper's capabilities and easy of use. If you are like me, you will love the way this new system works.
- Kevin Nakano
Hopper™ now offers the Autohop feature that allows users who watch Primtime Anytime content to automatically skip over commercials. When a show is started, users have the option to enable this feature. When activated, commercials are automatically skipped. It's a clever system that works very well. We tested it on many shows and we like it. However, you must have Primetime Anytime recording enabled to benefit from this feature.