In a world of transformative technologies, no recent development has been as rewarding to me as the synergistic combination of high-definition video, satellite television, and the digital video recorder (DVR). Those technologies by themselves are worth shouting about, but when put together form a “killer ap” that transcends the utility of the individual components. HD is nice, and a huge range of HD programming delivered by satellite television makes it even more compelling. But it’s the HD DVR, with its ability to let you watch that wide spectrum of HD content when you want to, that elevates the value of HD and satellite television.
The ultimate realization of this powerful synergy is DISH Network’s satellite service, extensive HD content, and ViP®722 DVR. I’ve used a variety of DVRs and satellite services and can say that DISH Network and the ViP®722 are the crème de la crème. In my experience, DISH Network offers the best user interface, technology, features, programming packages, HD content, and customer service. The TurboHD Gold package offers more than 75 all-HD channels in MPEG-4. The Platinum option adds 11 more channels. Counting core channels, pay-per-view, premium channels, VOD, and regional sports networks, DISH Network can deliver more than 140 HD channels. When connected to a broadband network, DISH Network offers more than 6,000 programming options (TV and movies) via IPVOD. Moreover, DISH is constantly expanding its offerings, adding more local stations in HD, and leading the way with features such as 1080p movies via Video-on-Demand and the first television series in 1080p (A&E’s The Beast). DISH Network even has a “place-shifting” technology that allows you to watch shows on your DVR wherever you are or to program your DVR via a broadband Internet connection (with the soon-to-be-released ViP®922 DVR). DISH was also the first pay-TV provider to commit entirely to MPEG-4 video coding, and is in the process of migrating all the channels to that superior encoding system.
Consider this satellite service/HD DVR if: you want the most HD content available along with a high-capacity DVR and a great user interface. The ViP722 also has an over-the-air tuner, allowing you to access local stations without paying for DISH Network’s local programming. The ability to archive HD content on an external drive is great for those who like to collect shows or series.
Look elsewhere if: you absolutely have to have DirecTV’s Signature NFL access package, or if you must have HD feeds to every TV in the house (the ViP722 has one HD output and one SD output).
The ViP®722 has three tuners—two satellite and one over-the-air. The two satellite tuners can be used to record two different channels simultaneously or for picture-in-picture. Storage capacity is a whopping 500GB, providing up to 350 hours of SD programming or 55 hours of HD content, and more than 100 hours of DISH On Demand for just over 500 hours of storage. Dual USB 2.0 ports allow you to archive SD or HD content from the ViP®722’s hard drive to an external off-the-shelf drive (1TB maximum). Content on the external drive is accessed just as easily as content on the integral drive. DISH charges a one-time fee of $39.99 to activate this feature.
The ViP®722 can drive two separate systems; one with HD output and one with SD output. The unit sits in an equipment rack in my listening/theater room driving a Sony VLP-VW50 1080p front projector, and also sends satellite or recorded content over-the-air to a 47” RPTV in the living room (you can also connect this second television with coax cable). The HD picture on the 92”-wide Stewart Filmscreen Grayhawk is spectacular, particularly on Discovery HD, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel. My wife and I enjoy nature shows, and seeing them in full HD on a 92” wide screen is breathtaking. The audio quality in the HD system is similarly impressive; the ViP®722 records the Dolby Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack (if present in the source). The picture sent wirelessly to the second TV is compromised by the downconversion to SD, along with the need to RF-modulate the signal for transmission.