Editor's Note
  • March 14, 2018 - We’ve updated this review to address facts and policies that have changed since originally published. We also reformatted the presentation of information to more clearly display our research. Notably, DISH Network no longer offers internet service on its own, but you can still get it in select locations with a bundled package. We still recommend the company for its TV service and impressive DVR.

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 this DVR power will cost you $15 per month, but we think that’s fair price for those features, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value among traditional TV providers. On top of that, 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.

DISH Network's Claim

DISH Network claims to be committed to “challenging the economics of pay-TV.” That’s marketing-speak for making quality service affordable. For DISH, that means providing quality programming, the latest technology, and a variety of packages that allow you to find the best programming for your viewing habits, regardless of where you live.

Is It True?

Yes.

With DISH’s Hopper 3 DVR, its TV technology is leaps above the rest. The Hopper 3 is equipped to record 16 shows at once and store up to 2,000 hours of HD programming. For comparison, the DVR from DISH Network’s major competitor, DIRECTV, only lets you record five shows at once and 200 hours of programming. And with DISH Network’s mobile apps and HopperGO, you can access any recorded or On Demand program from your on-the-go devices.

DISH charges you an extra $15 per month for its DVR service, whereas DirecTV’s prices include DVR. Unless you plan on storing roughly 1,000 HD movies or 100 seasons of hour-long TV shows, that extra cost may be overkill. However, if you’re a power user who stores lots of HD movies and multiple seasons of TV shows on your DVR, DISH’s is a better value.

DISH offers four TV packages, ranging from $70 to $95 per month (before new customer promo prices). 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 (which is true for all providers).

Comparing DISH and DirecTV’s price directly, you could save significantly by choosing DISH. For example, the America’s Top 200 package is $70 for the first two years of service, then it jumps to an $85 “everyday price”. The comparable package from DirecTV, the Ultimate package, has a cheaper promotional price of $60. But with DirecTV, that price only lasts one year, and then it doubles. In that case, 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, and you’ll have to install a satellite dish onto your roof. That installation will be done professionally by DISH for free, and the company will take care of setting up DVR and receivers. It also offers 75-minute appointment windows, meaning you don’t have to block off an entire afternoon for waiting around.

Though satellite technology allows DISH Network to be available in even the most remote locations, there are some caveats. The dish on your roof has to have direct access to the satellite in space, meaning no trees or buildings in the way. 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 often experience severe weather conditions

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.
  • 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.
  • Two-year price guarantee: With DISH Network, you don’t have to worry about unexpected rate increases until after your second year with its service. DISH guarantees your rate for the duration of your contract, unlike most other TV providers.
  • Excellent customer service: DISH Network consistently ranks among the top TV providers for customer service by the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D.Power. It scored above average in every region of J.D. Power’s survey and was voted the top provider in the North Central and South regions.
  • 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, and more than most users likely need. There’s also an AutoHop feature that automatically skips commercials without requiring you to fast forward through them (although it’s only available on certain programs).
  • Monthly fee for DVRs: If the fancy DVR features appeal to you, you’ll have to add $15 to your monthly bill. This monthly DVR fee is common among cable TV providers, but DISH Network’s is on the high end. Most range between $8 and $10 per month.
  • Save by bundling: DISH only offers its internet service when bundled with your TV package. You can’t order these bundles online, and there’s very little information about its internet service, 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 more than 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. But in order to access that full functionality, you’ll need a TV that supports for 4K and video content that has been 4K optimized.
  • Built-in TV apps: There’s no need to decide between cable and streaming service; your Hopper 3 DVR comes with most of these apps built-in. You'll have access to 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: Satellite TV is a great option for roadtrippers, boaters, and tailgaters because you can bring your DISH service with you 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 rates the Hopper 3 DVR system “outstanding” by its metrics. Though the Hopper supports 4K video, PCMag found the feature misleading, because (as of April 2016) very few services offer 4K content (just VOD and Netflix). But 4K content is becoming increasingly common, and even back in 2016 PCMag said the Hopper’s many pros outweigh the lack of content. With 2,000 hours in storage capacity and the ability to record 16 shows simultaneously, PCMag calls it, “the new must-have set-top box for satellite television service.”

DISH Network vs. the Competition

DISH Network vs. DIRECTV

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 that may be plenty for most people.

DISH Network vs. Comcast XFINITY

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.

DISH Network vs. Verizon FiOS

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 nine 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 Alternatives: Sling TV

For those on a budget that DISH can’t accommodate, there are some cheaper alternatives. Streaming services are popular options and give you access to current season TV and movies, for a fraction of what you pay for a traditional TV subscription. One such service, Sling, is owned by DISH Network itself. It offers all the essentials; sports, news, comedy, and kids channels starting at $20 per month. It trims the excess that a traditional 250+ package has, and trims costs too — all without any contract obligations and the option to stream on all your smart devices.

The Bottom Line — DISH Network Review

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.