The Hopper DVR from Dish Network is one of the more hotly anticipated pieces of hardware in the consumer electronics industry for 2012. The most controversial feature – the namesake ability to skip over commercials in some primetime network programs – has garnered most of the attention, but the more traditional DVR features are pretty impressive as well.
Highlights – The Hopper is a full-featured “whole-home” DVR which offers 2 TB (terabytes) of storage (that’s ~1,000 hours of SD programming – so probably room for one full season of Kardashian-related programming on E! – but about half of that storage is used by the new prime time feature and OnDemand channels, etc.), three tuners, and the ability to service up to three additional rooms via “Joey” units. The ingenious Prime Time Anytime feature allows for all hours of prime time network programming to be stored for a week via just one tuner (apparently the four network signals are all combined and then unscrambled into individual programs as the user decides to watch). Using this feature, up to six prime-time programs can be recorded simultaneously, even though the device only has three tuners – impressive technology, indeed. The Hop feature allows the viewer to skip commercials (only for prime time network programming and only after 1:00 AM the day following original airing). The user interface has been streamlined and features Facebook, Pandora and Twitter capabilities, favoring Blockbuster@Home (owned by Dish Network) over Netflix.
The device is very small and lightweight for all the performance offered, and Dish Network technicians are typically available for quick installation and trouble-shooting. The Hopper DVR is free for new customers with most programming packages (America’s Top 120 and up; contact Dish for pricing details – currently for existing subscribers it is $99 but there is generally some room for negotiation) and the monthly fee for using the device is $10 ($7 per month for each Joey unit that delivers programming to different rooms). The unit has the expected USB and Smartcard slots, HDMI output and even a surprisingly convenient Locate Remote feature that causes the remote to beep when you can’t find it. (The remote is nothing to write home about, looks like every other previous Dish Network remote.)
Summary: Dish Network has created a device that is simple and intuitive; the ability to record six programs at once during prime time will settle numerous family arguments over what to record. Compared to the offerings from DirecTV and Tivo, the Hopper is a bargain as well. The Prime Time Anytime and Hop features represent some of the only real advancements in the DVR category in the last several years. Dish Network has created an impressive product that is a must-have for all its subscribers.