The Dish Hopper DVR has so many features, there wasn't room in my last story for a Dish Hopper review. Despite all of the Hopper's capabilities, it also performs well and is easy to use. I have spent over six months with the Dish Hopper in which time I have seen it updated and can now fairly review it and give you some tips on for how to use it.
Hopper DVR and Menus
The Hopper has a wide variety of content yet makes it easy to browse and watch. This is due, in part, to the Hopper's fast processor. There is no lag time when scrolling through the program guide, or through a grid of recorded programs' cover art.
Once you press the DVR menu, you can access your timers and change recording by pressing the red button (yes, a device that truly takes advantage of those four color buttons on the remote!). The yellow button allows you to change how the episodes are displayed in folders and the green button will sort the shows alphabetically or by date.
Recorded shows marked with a little red kangaroo can be enabled to AutoHop through commercial breaks. The AutoHop function is not available until the day after you have recorded a show. When you press play on the show, a dialog box appears asking if you want to enable AutoHop. Choosing enable will cause the Hopper to skip over entire commercial breaks.
Primetime Anytime recordings and shows you have rented from the On Demand service will also be found in the DVR listings.
Videos on Demand
Because Blockbuster is part of the Dish family, there are hundreds of movies and TV shows to watch on demand. Press the "*" key on the remote to toggle between recent movies and movies that are free to watch. Note that the video on demand is delivered in the same way you might stream from the Internet. This means that the show is downloaded from the Internet to the Hopper. If your Internet access has a limit to how much you can download you will want to monitor how many movies you watch on Video on Demand.
When you choose a movie or TV show from the On Demand menu or a Video On Demand channel, you can watch it immediately, or it will download to the Hopper so it is ready to watch when you want. These videos are found under a "Rentals" folder (icon) along with your recordings in the DVR. Paid rentals will be available for 48 hours and will remain in the Rentals folder until you first press "play" to watch it.
I found that renting movies through the video on demand in the TV guide was a better experience than the streaming video on demand. Sound quality suffers and there are many boxy artifacts when watching the streaming copy. This is common for cable and satellite receivers that require high compression to send the video to your box.
Many DVRs and other devices have ineffective search features. Still, searches have been improving so I thought I'd give the Hopper search a thorough test. To my surprise, I found the Hopper search feature is exceptional. As you type in the title of a show, the name of an actor, or a word in the show's description, the Hopper will offer suggested matches from the TV listings, Videos on Demand, and your DVR recordings. Simply click on a listing of a future showing and click on "record this," or watch now on your DVR or On Demand. Again, the speedy processor makes fast work of finding matching TV shows and/or movies.
You'll need to set up an account login for Dish Online to use the mobile remote viewing apps on your smartphone or tablet. Once you've set up an account, if you are a subscriber you can use the Dish Online login for other mobile apps such as HBO Go Cinemax's Max Go or Showtime Anytime.
To use TV Everywhere requires a Slingbox optional accessory that can be requested when you have the Hopper installed. Next, download the Dish app to your tablet or phone, launch it, and sign in. From the app, you can choose what you want to watch on your smartphone or tablet. Watch live TV by clicking on the TV show in the Hopper's TV guide. You can play recordings from your DVR or On Demand movies and TV shows. You can also find shows to record on the Hopper for those times you forget to set up the recording before you leave home. TIP: Often I will get an error message that my Hopper is not turned on or available. When that happens, I will click on any show in the grid guide to wake up the Hopper and it will work perfectly after doing that.
And a few more features
The Hopper connects to your home network and can play videos and music and show photos from your computer and network attached storage (NAS) drives. It only plays a limited number of video and music formats—mostly Windows files. Videos can be added to a single playlist regardless of on which device they are saved.
It's easy to pair a set of Bluetooth headphones with the Hopper then mute your TV or AV receiver so you can watch TV without bothering others in the room. Press the "menu" button (not the DVR button) in the upper left of the remote control. Open the Settings then click on the Bluetooth menu item with the headphones switched on and choose it from the Bluetooth device list. Click on the device name to pair. Bluetooth worked well when watching TV, recordings, or On Demand video, but would cut on when streaming from my home network.
Here is an explanation of the Hopper's Basic features.