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Hands-on with the Dish Network Hopper Whole-Home DVR

The Hopper is to a standard DVR what my standard DVR was to the VCR I had growing up.

Apr 16 2013, 1:48pm CDT | by

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Hands-on with the Dish Network Hopper Whole-Home DVR

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Hands-on with the Dish Network Hopper Whole-Home DVR

When it comes to technology that most of us use each and every day, we take much of that tech for granted. Some of those pieces of technology would be very difficult to live without, include things like mobile phones, computers, and televisions. I've always thought one of the pieces of technology that would be most difficult to give up is the DVR.

Having grown up in the 80s, I remember distinctly how difficult it was to get a VCR to record my favorite television show. If you had a program that stupid clock, you could just give it up and know that you wouldn't be watching your program. I've had a DVR in my home for years now and knowing it will record my favorite shows each week is something that I wouldn't be willing to live without.

I also couldn't live without the ability to fast-forward recorded programs to skip stuff I don't want see, such as commercials or any part of the show with a musical number. Not too long ago Dish Network came out with a new whole home DVR called the Hopper and recently I spent some hands-on time using the system in my home. I can honestly say that the Hopper is to a standard DVR what my standard DVR was to that VCR I had growing up. The difference between the two devices is simply night and day.

My old DVR had a meager 20 GB hard drive. That sounds like a lot of space until you realize I have an eight-year-old daughter who feels compelled to record every episode of SpongeBob and Big Time Rush that airs. My wife also tends to record every movie she sees, even if she already owns it on DVD. That meant that all my favorite shows ended up getting deleted before I ever had a chance to watch them.

That is certainly not the case with the Hopper whole home DVR service. This bad boy has a 2 TB hard drive, which is enough to record 2000 hours of programming. It's hard to wrap your brain around 2000 hours of programming. What I can tell you is that my daughter has literally 100 episodes of SpongeBob recorded, my wife has all of her vampire movies and musicals recorded along with every episode ever made of Glee. Despite all that programming recorded on the DVR, I'm still barely 30% full on the hard drive. That means all of my programs and all of the movies that I want don't get deleted.

The massive hard drive is very nice, but that's not the best feature of the Hopper whole home DVR system. The best feature is called PrimeTime Anytime. That feature automatically records every single program on the four major networks that comes on during prime time. You may be thinking that's not such a big deal because you could always set your favorite shows to record each week on any old DVR.

The thing that's so awesome about this feature on the Hopper whole home DVR is that you don't have to remember to tell it to record new shows. That means when new shows come out in the fall, or midseason shows kickoff in the spring, you don't have to remember to record them, the DVR does it automatically.

You might worry that recording every primetime show, seven days a week would quickly fill up your DVR. Bopper only keeps an episode or two of each of those primetime shows and continually overwrites the same segment of the DVR hard drive. If you decide you like a show, you can easily opt to save the entire series so that they are never deleted.

Within this PrimeTime Anytime feature is also another feature that is incredibly useful called Auto Hop. Auto Hop is a feature of the DVR that you have to activate for each episode of a show you watch, every time. That sounds annoying, but it's Dish Networks way to get around lawsuits with the major networks. What happens is once you activate Auto Hop the DVR automatically recognizes a commercial and you only have to watch a few seconds of it before that commercial block is completely skipped leaving you to see only the last few seconds in the last commercial no matter how many commercials are played in a row.

I honestly don't understand why the major networks are so worried about this feature, I end up watching more of their commercials with Auto Hop enabled than I do working the remote control manually. I never watch commercials with my plain DVR before, I fast forwarded through the entire thing as soon as I could tell my show was about to make a commercial break. Typically, I would end up fast forwarding a few seconds into the return of the show only to rewind slightly completely bypassing every bit of commercial.

Since I've been using the Hopper DVR system, I end up watching the first 5 seconds or so of the first commercial and the last 5 seconds or so of the last commercial before my show comes back on. What I found, especially with funny commercials or commercials for movies I'm interested in, is that I routinely rewind and actually watch the entire commercial. TV studios should be thanking Dish Network rather than trying to have the feature removed via legal means. I'm sure I'm not the only person using the Hopper who is watching more commercials now than they did before.

Another very nice feature for the Hopper system is that it will automatically package your favorite TV shows for export to your mobile device. It can shoot shows out to your tablet, smartphone, or notebook computer using integrated Sling technology. Since I work from home, I never take advantage of this feature but it's nice to know it's there so my daughter can take some of those SpongeBob episodes with her on road trips. You can also watch your shows via the web while on vacation or at the office when the boss isn't looking.

Another of the features that is incredibly useful with the Hopper whole-home DVR service is the fact that you can play the content back in any room of your home where you have a Joey box set up. The Joey box is like a small cable converter or set top box that plugs into your televisions in every room of the home. Using a remote control through that Joey box, you can access the centralized recorded content to play it back in any room of your house.

That means if I record Castle in the living room and the wife is watching Glee, I can go upstairs and watch Castle without any hassles. It also means that while I'm watching Castle, my wife is watching Glee, if my daughter wants to watch SpongeBob we can all do that at the same time, while my son watches whatever live TV show he wants to see or recorded programs in his room. This is truly an epic DVR system. It's hard to understand how much better it is than a normal DVR into you actually get it and spend some time with it. Trust me; you'll never go back to normal DVR.


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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/3" rel="author">Shane McGlaun</a>
Leading our review center, Shane McGlaun (Google) knows technology inside out. His extensive experience in testing computer hardware and consumer electronics enable him to effectively qualify new products and trends. If you want us review your product, please contact Shane.
Shane can be contacted directly at




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