Our DISH Network Review

DISH Network is an innovator among pay-TV providers. Its Hopper 3 DVR is unmatched, with the ability to record 16 shows simultaneously and hold 2,000 hours of HD programming, which means you could record all 20 seasons of “Law & Order,” plus all 19 seasons of “Law & Order SVU,” and still have more than half your DVR space open.

All DISH plans come with a two-year price guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about rate increases over the course of your contract. And you’ll have to tack on an extra $15 per month if you plan on getting that superpowered DVR instead of a basic receiver. But that aside, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value among traditional TV providers.

The Claim

DISH Network says it’s committed to “challenging the economics of pay-TV.” That means providing quality programming, the latest technology, and a variety of packages that allow you to find the programming you want at an affordable monthly rate. It also boasts being available anywhere, rather than cable providers who sometimes offer very limited coverage.

Is It True?

Yes.

We’ll be honest: DISH and DirecTV are pretty similar when it comes to programming and pricing. Both offer a range of channel packages, including HD and 4K content. DirecTV has more package options (six, versus DISH’s four), but we had a little trouble distinguishing DirecTV’s choices. Both companies will let you browse the channel lineup for various packages, but DISH concisely summarizes the differences on its packaging page, making it easier for you to see which channels you’re getting when you pay more money.

DISH offers four TV packages, ranging from $70 to $95 per month, although promotional pricing can knock $15 – $20 from that price for the first couple years. DISH Network’s main competitor, DirecTV, offers cheaper packages, but hikes its rates after the first year unless you bundle with “qualified AT&T services.” DISH offers a two-year price guarantee for every new customer. After those first two years, DISH will charge “then-current everyday prices,” which means you won’t have clarity on future prices until your contract is up. But DISH’s everyday prices still offer substantial savings over DirecTV’s after the promotional prices end.

Let’s take a look at an example to see how those prices play out. The America’s Top 200 package from DISH has an “everyday” price of $85 (versus $70 for new customers' first two years). In other words, if you’ve had DISH service for three or more years, your price goes up $15. The comparable package from DirecTV, the Ultimate package, has a cheaper promotional price ($60 vs. DISH’s $70), but the price literally doubles once that promotional pricing ends. So, after the first year, you’re saving $420 per year with the DISH package.

The other real differentiator between DISH and DirecTV is DVR. DISH Network’s Hopper 3 DVR is unmatched in the industry, enabling you to record 16 shows at once and store up to 2,000 hours of HD programming. DIRECTV’s DVR, by comparison, only lets you record five shows at once and 200 hours of programming. DISH Network’s mobile apps and HopperGO give you the option to access all those recorded programs, as well as On Demand shows, movies, and even live TV from your smartphone or tablet.

DISH charges you an extra $15 per month for its DVR service, whereas DirecTV’s prices include DVR. But we believe that extra cost is well worth the cost for TV- and movie-lovers. We’re talking about the capacity for roughly 1,000 HD movies or 100 seasons of hour-long TV shows — 10 times as much as its closest competition.

Other Considerations

DISH Network is a satellite TV provider, which is a slightly different experience from cable TV. The most fundamental difference is that you’ll need a satellite dish installed at your home, but DISH seems committed to take the pain out of installation: The company will install your dish, receiver, and any DVRs, free of charge. It also offers 75-minute appointment windows, meaning you don’t have to block off an entire afternoon just to get customer service.

Satellite service isn’t strictly better or worse than cable — it has its own pros and cons. The biggest pro is availability: While rural residences might be outside the reach of major cable providers, satellite service can reach even the most remote locations. The cons? Your dish will need to face south and be unobstructed by trees or buildings. Satellite service can also be interrupted by winds and rain, so if you live in an area with frequent severe storms, cable might be a more reliable option.

A Closer Look at Features

Price America’s Top 120: $70/month
America’s Top 120+: $75/month
America’s Top 200: $85/month
America’s Top 250: $95/month
Channels America’s Top 120: 190 channels
America’s Top 120+: 190+ channels
America’s Top 200: 240+ channels
America’s Top 250: 290+ channels
HD Channels 200+
TV Provider Type Satellite
Contract Term 2 years
Early Termination Fee $20/month remaining on contract
Installation Fee None
Bundles Available Internet, Phone
Best for... People interested in saving money, sports fans
Not for... People who can't stand to have their TV service interrupted during bad weather

Our Deep Dive

  • Available nationwide: Unlike cable TV providers, DISH Network isn’t limited by a physical network, so it’s available even in places not serviced by cable. All you need is a clear view of the sky.
  • Two-year price guarantee: With DISH Network, you don’t have to worry about unexpected rate increases after your first year. It guarantees your rate for the duration of your contract, unlike most other TV providers.
  • Excellent customer service: DISH Network was consistently rated above all major cable TV providers by the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, though it did fall slightly behind DirecTV. It scored above average in every region of J.D. Power’s survey and was voted the top provider in the North Central region.
  • Outages due to inclement weather: As a satellite TV provider, DISH Network’s service may be temporarily interrupted if you’re experiencing strong storms. It promises 99% reliability, though, so if you do experience outages, it won’t be very often.
  • Superior DVR: DISH Network’s Hopper 3 DVR enables you to record 16 shows at once and store up to 2,000 hours of HD programming. That’s 10 times the capacity of DirecTV's Genie DVR. There’s also an AutoHop feature that automatically skips commercials without requiring you to fast forward through them. Your recorded programs are accessible through the mobile apps and the HopperGO, which is a portable device that you can store up to 100 hours of programming on and stream to up to five devices at once.
  • Monthly fee for DVRs: Depending on what type of DVR you get (if any), you’ll have to add $15 to your monthly bill. This monthly service fee is common among cable TV providers, but DISH Network’s are on the high end. Most range between $8 and $10 per month.
  • Save by bundling: DISH offers bundles with internet, though TV must be included — just choose your TV package and internet speed. You can’t order these bundles online, so you’ll have to call and speak to a representative if you’re interested in one of these deals.
  • Watch your favorite shows anywhere: The DISH Anywhere mobile app is available for Android and iOS devices as well as Kindle Fire. It enables you to watch live and recorded programs, as well as access DISH Network’s On Demand library, which contains over 20,000 titles. You can also set new recordings on your phone for your DVR back home. Depending on what kind of receiver you have, you can even transfer recorded programs from your DVR to your smartphone or tablet to watch offline.
  • Three months of premium channels free: When you sign up for TV service with DISH Network, you get three months of free premium channels, including HBO, Showtime and Cinemax. If you don’t want to continue paying for the service after the three months are up, you’ll have to contact DISH Network before the trial ends and remove it; otherwise, you’ll automatically be charged.
  • Great for sports fans: DISH Network offers ESPN on all four of its standard packages, and the NFL Network on three of the four. Its America’s Top 200 and America’s Top 250 packages also include the MLB Network, NBA TV, and the NHL Network.
  • 4K video: DISH Network’s receivers support 4K Ultra HD programming, the latest advancement in video resolution. All you need to get started is a 4K TV, a Hopper 3 DVR or Joey receiver, and one of its TV packages.
  • Built-in TV apps: Your Hopper 3 DVR comes with built-in apps for YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, The Weather Channel and other popular applications.
  • Advanced voice remote: With DISH Network’s voice remote, you can find a program just by speaking to it. Tell it to record programs, change the channel or find a movie On Demand. The remote also has a location feature, so if it gets lost, you just press a button on the Hopper and your remote will beep, so you can find it.
  • Portable satellites for outdoor viewing: Roadtrippers and tailgaters can bring their DISH service with them by purchasing a portable satellite. You can either pay as you go for the outdoor service, or you can add it to your regular TV subscription for an extra $7 per month.

What Others Are Saying

  • PCMag reviewed the Hopper 3 DVR and was very impressed. It gave it an “outstanding” rating and couldn’t find any flaws, except that (as of April 2016) there wasn’t much 4K media for those who want it. But this is trivial in light of its 2,000-hour storage capacity and the option to record 16 shows at once. The article calls the Hopper “the new must-have set-top box for satellite television service.”

The Competition

  • DirecTV, DISH Network’s main competitor for satellite TV, offers six packages ranging from $40 to $115 per month, although you can save $5 monthly by enrolling in autopay. All packages include standard installation and no monthly equipment fees for your first two rooms. There’s also no DVR monthly service fee, which is uncommon. DirecTV requires a two-year contract, just like DISH. However, prices roughly double after the first year, unless you lock in your pricing for two years by bundling with a “qualified” AT&T service. DirecTV offers some exclusive options you can’t find elsewhere, like the NFL SUNDAY TICKET, but it can’t compete with DISH when it comes to DVR. DirecTV’s most advanced model can only record five shows at once and store 200 hours of HD programming, although this should still be plenty for most people.
  • Comcast XFINITY offers three standard TV packages ranging from $40 to $95 per month. You only have to sign a one-year contract and your price is locked in for that year. Comcast also offers double and triple play bundles for those who are interested in adding internet or home phone service. XFINITY is one of the few cable providers that offers Internet+Voice bundles for those who prefer not to sign up for a traditional TV subscription.
  • Verizon FiOS offers a 100 percent digital fiber-optic connection, offering crisp video quality and fast download speeds. And, unlike DISH Network and DirecTV, the service is impervious to storms, since it’s not satellite-based. Unfortunately, it’s only available in eight states. Its Premium Service plan can record up to 12 shows simultaneously and store more than 200 hours of programming. The standard FiOS TV and DVR options are similar to a standard cable package anywhere else, including similar channels and interface.

Cheaper (or Free!) Alternatives

If you find DISH Network’s TV packages too pricey, you can always sign up for a streaming service instead. These services give you access to current season TV and movies for a fraction of what you pay for a traditional TV subscription. DISH Network owns Sling, a streaming TV service that offers access to sports, news, comedy, and other programming starting at $20 per month. Sling enables you to stream your favorite shows on all your smart devices, and there’s no long-term contract, so you can cancel the service at any time.

We also recommend the Roku Premiere Plus for streaming. It enables you to search across all your streaming apps simultaneously in order to help you find out if the program you want to watch is available for free anywhere. It also has voice search functionality, so you can just tell it what to search for without having to manually enter any information.

The Bottom Line

DISH Network is a great choice if you’re fed up with traditional TV subscriptions, but aren’t quite ready to join the ranks of cord cutters yet. And with the Hopper 3 DVR’s impressive storage capacity, even the most avid binge-watchers won’t have to worry about being able to record all their favorite shows at once.