Pros Excellent quality picture; sufficient HD channel choices!
Cons Setup a bit more difficult than described.
Summary Since writing our previous review (under the ViP622), we've had a bit more time. And guess what, we had to have them send a replacement 722 because a minor hardware problem - we started getting a "jumping freeze frame" with normal audio. But their tech support has been great, so we are not downgrading our rating.
The HD picture is incredible. And, in fact, we just watched the new Law & Order CI on USA - non-HD but wide screen and the picture was incredibly clear for digital standard definition TV compared to our older Dish receiver-recorders we still use.
Also, we added a Western Digital MyBook Essential 750GB External Hard Drive which expands the storage capacity of the system to what appears to be about 100 HD movies. (If you choose to do this, do not buy the MyBook Premium Edition as it has some nifty things you might want for your computer, but not for this use).
Here's our original review:
We have been Echostar (Dish Network's parent company) satellite TV service customers since 1988. The company tries to provide, and generally succeeds in providing, adequate, competitive service. Based on our own experience when we had two homes plus on the experience of friends and family, Dish Network's service is on a par with, if not better than, cable service and DirectTV. Keep in mind for any of them: "sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn't."
With that said, we did not leap into Dish HD even though we've had a 42 inch HD plasma tv since 2003. The reason was simple, we live in the Redwoods and most of the initial Dish HD signals were on satellites we cannot "see." (The satellite companies are clear - lacking an unobstructed "southern sky" view can be a problem for service, a problem not found in cable service.) We still cannot get some of the HD service we theoretically are paying for because of this. But almost every HD feed we'd like to see we now can. (We also waited a few months for the release of the ViP722 because it is black as are the other components in our home theater system.)
Since we were adding to our Dish Network Standard Definition service (keeping our existing two receiver/recorders active) , we knew what we were getting into. If you are new to satellite TV browse the links at http://www.dbstalk.com/ and particularly the Dish Network info at http://ekb.dbstalk.com/
Things went pretty much as expected. We called the Dish Network number and explained we wanted to add an HD 722 receiver/recorder to our existing two feeds - four feeds total. The woman took the order without needing alot of explanation and but she gave an incorrect price which she couldn't get straight, but...oh well.... Three days later two installers wearing shirts with the Dish logo arrived in a old, but well maintained, unmarked pickup. One spoke only Spanish, but the other who was the lead was fluently bilingual. (My Spanish is comparable to George Bush's so I speak English but listen carefully.) The lead installer discussed his flawed work order with me, called his supervisor to get permission to do what we had ordered. Installation went well. But, you need to know that we had the cables to our theater system hooked up with the end plugs for the ViP722 waiting on the shelf for the installer to plug in. He will likely not have with him more than RCA's for composite video and two channel sound and an S-video cable. We have HD component connections and an optical surround sound connector to our theater system, plus an S-video and RCA stereo to our additional room distribution box. He activated the system which resulted in most signals being activated before he left, but some (local channels for instance) took another three hours. (We knew this would happen from previous experiences with changing our programming.)
Even though we had prevous service with older (508) recorders, the menu's for the 722 are complex and require some deciphering, the adequate operating manual notwithstanding. For us, the Dish Tech Portal at http://tech.dishnetwork.com/departmental_content/TechPortal/content/tech/receiver/722.shtml is very helpful. Nonetheless, after about two weeks of setting it up like we want it, the HD picture and 5.1 sound is as good as our DVD player provides (no we don't have brand new HD or BluRay) and certainly as good as we are ever going to be able to appreciate.
For us, several consideration were involved. Even though we did not have cable service available when we first moved here, we now have Comcast which is our high speed internet service provider. We had Comcast in our other home and two of our adult kids have Comcast. We have no problem with Comcast but it would be more expensive and they are just now upgrading to be able to offer HD in the future. We could have gotten a huge new customer discount from DirectTV, but DirectTV's packages are not what we want (we aren't big sports enthusiasts) and they are just beginning the process of providing HD. Additionally, no other service has provided the state-of-the-art recording technology as reliablly as Dish. Some people prefer TiVo, but that appears to be a personal preference. We do have rare weather related signal losses. But our cable system goes down more frequently and in a power outage it simply goes down. With satellite our battery backup lasts long enough for us to start up our generator without losing service and programs being recorded. In a two or three day power outage which does occur every four or five years, this is a big plus.
Pros Access to DVR content from two rooms/TV's
Cons User interface, Programming Guide and Remote are all vastly inferior to Tivo.
Summary Dish Network does NOT know their own product. In the course of switching to this unit from a Direct Tv/Tivo I had seven people at the company, including three installers, tell me point blank that the unit would not allow pausing live TV on the two tuners and switching between them. Some of them said they'd never heard of such a thing. Some of them said that it would not do that if you chose to make the DVR accessible to a second television.
All of them were wrong and the only way I determined this was by reading CNET's review before going to the Dish website.
As for user experience, it's mixed:
-Image quality. The Direct TV signal provided marginally better quality for non-HD viewing than Dish does. Didn't have HD with Direct so I can't compare that.
-User interface. I've used Tivo for a few years now and thought it was brilliant from the first hour. What a shame Dish couldn't have incorporated some of those principles in to their software.
-Remote. Ditto. A blizzard of buttons spread out in ways that put the controls for associated functions in awkward places and the way those buttons control those functions is frequently badly thought-out.
-Two rooms can access the same content.
-As Tivo no longer supports two satellite inputs and so will not time-shift two tuners it's only suitable for cable subscribers, so it's no longer a solution for Sat. customers, so our only choice is between Dish and Direct TV. And from what I've heard Direct's UI, remote and DVR are even worse.
Pros On-screen menus are colorful and crisp
Cons not intuitive; awkward; limited wishlist options
Summary We switched to Dish this month to avoid paying the $279 DirecTV wanted for an HD DVR. We had DirecTV's "Tivo" based receiver and it was far superior. The focus of all these machines frustratingly appears to be to record favorite TV shows. Our main use is to have it record shows we don't know exist, by entering a keyword and asking it to autorecord, e.g., an actor's name or subject. Both Dish and Direct want you to first look at what's on their guide (only 9 days for Dish and over 14 for Direct) but the only way to really accomplish this successfully is to by-pass that option and create a "timer" in Dish or a keyword autorecord in Direct. The Dish installer had no idea this could be done and DirecTV support haven't a clue either. I would like to NOT be dependent on cable/sattelite at all since we aren't network program viewers and don't subscribe to movie channels. We pick up what we like by keyword (timer) which usually turns up on BBCAmerica, PBS, or a couple of network channels. When will this technology become civilised?
Pros Stable & responsive
Cons User Interface is mediocre at best
Summary After living with TiVo on DirecTV for 6+ years, we moved to Dish for HD, because the DirecTV DVR gets such terrible reviews. The ViP722 does the job, but it's much harder to use than TiVo.
Reliability has been very good, and after 2 months we've only had to re-boot once when it mysteriously decided not to stop showing any HD channels. It's fast and responsive, though the remote control is sluggish and plastered with buttons - we still get confused by it sometimes. It comes (at least as of Dec 2007) with a 500MB disk which records some 55 hours of HD or 300 hours of SD.
The user interface is definitely not intuitive and continues to leave us occasionally lost. The dual tuners and dual TV outputs in their default setup is simply baffling - what were they thinking? Once you switch it off, things start behaving in a sane way, i.e. being able to record 2 HD programs at once, transparently.
While it's been very reliable, there aren't any features on this that TiVo didn't do even better, and more intuitively. But for now, this seems to be the best non-Cable HD DVR you can get.Updated
Update after 6 months: DVR is still ok, it needs a hard reset once every 2 months and the interface is still mediocre, but you can learn to live with it. Overall it's very reliable.
HOWEVER, Dish just removed all the Voom Network channels from their HD lineup, replacing these interesting and unusual choices with typical pap like the Hallmark HD channel, etc. So instead of having quirky or European-inspired programs from Gallery, Equator, Rave, Monster, etc channel we now have the 700 Club and America's Funniest Home Videos in HD.
It's astounding that Dish would be so foolish as to get rid of the one differentiator in their programming that set them above DirecTV. Our satisfaction with Dish has dropped from high to mediocre, and we'll probably downgrade our subscription level because more of the same just isn't worth paying for.
"Great DVR Software"on by KmanFL
Pros Very easy to set up and use
Cons Have not found any yet
Summary Set up was very easy. The unit comes with a usable "All Subscribed" channels list. There are 4 user assignable favorites list. Search defaults to the "All Subscribed" list which contains Sports Packages and PPV. This list can be edited with "Channel Locks," "Lock PPV" and "Hide Locked" options. After setting up "Locks" the DVR will only search and record unblocked channels.
Creating TiVo-like Wish Lists can be done through the remote: 2 button is "a,b,c 3 is d,e,f. Being able to key the search terms really speeds search time. There a myriad of other recording options which all work.
For Home Theater users the remote comes preprogrammed to operate TV, receiver and VCR/DVD. This can be accomplished manually or automatically. Volume default is assignable. When it determines which code works the TV, the DVR automatically adjusts the picture output to match the TV at either 480i, 480p, 720p or 1080i.
On screen guide has seven different customizations so you can choose font size and number of channels to display with or without picture. Other DVRs limit the display to a very short 4 or 5 lines.
There is a PIP feature that allows you to view two satellite pictures at the same time in a variety of different formats, including split screen.
This DVR replaced a short lived competitor's DVR which replaced a 7 year old TiVo with a large hard drive. So far the ViP722 has the best software package.