Place-shifting built in; Intuitive interface; Can download programs to your iOS device; Customized channel listings
My Faves channels doesn't transfer from Joey to Hopper; My Transfers take a long time to prepare
The Hopper with Sling combines a whole-house DVR with location-shifting features, making it one of the most compelling pieces of home entertainment technology.
It's the device that launched a thousand lawsuits. Dish Network's Hopper with Sling is not only a DVR that lets you skip ads with abandon, but also lets you watch your home TV on your iOS device wherever you go. Even better, you can download those shows or movies to your iPhone or iPad -- perfect for those times when you don't have an Internet connection. The Hopper is so good, you may want to ditch cable or DirecTV just to get it.
The Hopper's little brother, affectionately called the Joey, is a much smaller 6.5 x 5.1 x 1.5 inches, and is designed to be used in a bedroom or secondary room. It too has a wide selection of ports: HDMI, Coaxial, Composite, Optical audio, Ethernet and USB 2.0. Up to three Joeys can be connected to a single Hopper.
Having three tuners in one device means that you can record two shows while watching a third, or, record one show while watching a second show on the Hopper, and a third show on the Joey. With many cable DVRs, you're forced to watch one of the two programs you're simultaneously recording.
Dish's on-screen channel listing looks much the same as other cable providers, in that it lists channels in a large grid. However, we liked that we could choose to display only HD channels, or create a custom list of channels. You can create up to four custom lists -- good if you have a few people in your house -- but unfortunately, our list didn't transfer from the Hopper to the Joey. It would also be great if our favorite channels automatically were sent to the mobile apps, too.
Pressing the Menu button lets you access Blockbuster @Home, Prime Time Anytime, On Demand, the DVR and 16 apps, the most compelling of which are Pandora, Facebook and The Weather Channel. We wish Dish offered YouTube, Netflix and Hulu, too.
The Home Media Application lets you connect to network-attached storage drives on your local network. Sure enough, the Hopper recognized our Buffalo Pogoplug instantly. However, it had trouble displaying the content on our NAS device.
When watching live TV, we like that you can expand or contract the channel listings to take up as much or as little of the screen as you like. The controls to skip forward or back, though, aren't as smooth as using the actual remote. There was often a delay of a second or two before our input had any effect.
Note that you can stream to only mobile device at a time. While we were streaming to our iPad and tried to watch on our Mac, we received a warning on the latter device, asking us if we wanted to take control. Still you can stream one channel to, say, your computer, while watching another on your TV, a feature that proved especially useful during the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
One clever feature of the Hopper DVR is that, if you stop watching a recorded program on your iPad, you can pick up right where you left off on another device. Pretty neat.
You can also use the Dish Anywhere app to change the channel on your TV. While it's not as slick as Peel's implementation, which learns your preferences and offers you suggestions, you can set favorite channels, filter by type and search for particular shows.
We especially like that the Dish apps are free; if you were to purchase a Slingbox, the iOS app costs $29. It's a shame that all these great features are spread across three apps, instead of being consolidated into one.
Performance issues and limitations
Of course, there are a few issues with the Dish Network, some of which are out of the company's control. While we were testing, a snowstorm caused us to lose the satellite signal. Also, Dish doesn't carry the MSG network, which means we couldn't watch our beloved New Jersey Devils games. Note that the company is currently involved in litigation with a number of networks, most notably CBS.
Dish service, which requires you sign up for a two-year contract, starts with the America's Top 120 package, which offers 190 channels for $24.99 per month for the first year, and $49.99 per month after. The America's Top 250, which has more than 290 channels, starts at $39.99 per month for the first year, and costs $74.99 afterward. The Hopper is free, but each Joey costs $7 extra per month. It's more than worth it.
|Size||15.9 x 11.4 x 2.3-inch Joey: 6.5 x 5.1 x 1.5 inches|