How the Hopper® Compares to Other DVRs

DVRs can record programming digitally by storing it on a hard drive. Different types of DVRs have different size hard drives, and that determines the amount of programming that the machine is capable of storing. High Definition programming uses much more hard drive space than Single Definition.

Standalone DVR Units
A standalone DVR is one that doesn’t require a digital television box. Because they only have one receiver built into the system, DVR viewing is only available on the connected television. TiVo is the most familiar of the stand-alone DVRs. Anyone who uses TiVo, or other stand-alone DVRs, has to purchase the box from a retailer and then subscribe to a service. With TiVo, there are three possible options. One is a regular box with a smaller hard drive capacity, a one-year contract, and the user pays a monthly subscription fee. Because of the small hard drive capacity, the box is much cheaper than the deluxe unit.

Users opting to purchase the deluxe unit (TiVo Premier XL) purchase a larger box for $299, and then pay a one-time fee that allows them to record programming for the life of the DVR machine. The newest addition to TiVos line of DVRs is the Premier Elite, TiVo’s top of the line system, and for $500, plus the subscription service, it boasts a 2 TB hard drive, four tuners and the ability to store 300 hours of HD programming. This system will definitely rival the newly introduced Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR system that DISH unveiled at the Consumer Electronic Show 2012 (CES) in Las Vegas in January.

In addition to recording abilities, the TiVo Premier Elite offers subscribers the ability to stream content from services such as Blockbuster, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora. It replaces the digital cable box and still allows users to get all of the digital channels, however, they still have to subscribe to the cable service, so that is another cost on top of the TiVo subscription charge.

Because the TiVo DVR doubles as the digital receiver, subscribers to cable television have to have a Multimedia or M-Stream cable card or single stream cable card. Cable television providers supply the cards, and subscribers rent them for a monthly fee, in addition to the amount that they pay for their cable service. Single stream cable cards only record one program at a time. Another potential disadvantage of cable cards is the fact that because they only support one way communication, some of the features of digital cable, such as the on-screen program guide, are disabled.

Integrated Set-Top DVRs

Cable and satellite television companies typically offer DVR players that are integrated in to the digital or satellite receiver box. Both satellite and cable companies offer additional boxes to hook up to other televisions in the home so that subscribers can receive the same satellite or cable programming on additional televisions throughout the home. Most cable companies such as Time Warner and Cox Communications rent the equipment to subscribers who pay an extra monthly fee, on top of what they pay for their regular service.

The Whole Home DVR experience

DirectTV and DISH are competing for subscribers with their own deluxe DVR package. DirectTV has Whole Home DVR service that takes the DirectTV Plus HD DVR service, and adds that to their Whole Home DVR service, allowing subscribers to connect the DVR to as many as 15 other HD DVRs or HD receivers. Connected receivers can access the main DVR, and if there are additional DVRs in the house, the Whole Home service pools the storage capacity of all of the units to create a single playing list. As long as a room in the house has an HD receiver, it can manage, record and watch programming from the main DVR in the home.

The Hopper is DISH’s version of a whole-home DVR service. The Hopper has a 2 TB hard drive and can record up to six programs at the same time. Recorded content is pushed into up to three Joey® boxes that are placed in additional rooms. Unlike older systems, viewers in any room that is connected to the Hopper through a Joey receiver can watch programming, manage the DVR, record, play back or watch live HD programs, and this can happen in four rooms at the same time.

The Hopper and Joey system eliminates the need for additional HD receivers in other rooms. However, only four rooms can connect with the system. DIRECTV has the capacity to connect as many as 15 televisions, but they either have to have an HD receiver or an HD DVR, so either way you face some complications. But realistically, who needs 15 TV’s?

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