Both DIRECTV and DISH have some of the best DVRs available. Although it’s not the deciding factor between the providers for most customers, DVRs make a big difference in your viewing experience. There are a few important considerations:
- Storage capacity — We hate missing a recording or having to delete old recordings, so it’s important that we free ourselves up with extra space. Plus, the more HD we can squeeze in, the better.
- Convenience — We left channel surfing in the ’90s. DVRs give us sleek channel guides, recommendations, and playback controls (pause/rewind/fast-forward).
- Cost — A DVR is more than worth the price if it’s the same amount as a couple movie tickets.
The best overall DVR is the DISH Hopper
The Hopper stores more than any DVR we’ve reviewed. With 2 TB, which amounts to about 500 hours in HD, so you can get the entirety of Dancing With The Stars in without having to delete your kids’ favorite movies. Or if you’re a reality junkie, with shows like Survivor or The Real Housewives, you can spread decades of seasons across 2,000 hours in SD.
AutoHop skips across commercials in a few seconds, instead of making you wait and roll your eyes at awful ads for a few minutes. This takes the guesswork out of rewinding, pausing, and fast-forwarding. It’s one of our favorite DVR features.
One of the biggest advantages the Hopper has over the Genie (and most DVRs) is the inclusion of a voice control remote. Saying a show’s title is easier than skipping through menus looking for the right channels. You can also find shows by cast names, genres, or sports teams.
Genie vs. Hopper — features comparison
Let’s take a quick look at key features for these two DVRs.
DIRECTV includes DVR service and equipment price for four TVs, but you save more money with DISH. The Hopper also beats the Genie when it comes to storage, whole-home connectivity, and special features.
Storage capacity — which DVR holds more?
You’ll need a DVR with enough storage so you don’t waste time figuring out which old recordings you want to delete to fit the new recordings. The Genie and Hopper both have some of the highest storage capacities in the market, but Hopper has twice as much technical capacity (1 TB vs. 2 TB), which translates to a more fluid experience.
|DISH Hopper||DIRECTV Genie|
2 TB hard drive
1 TB hard drive
2,000 hours SD
500 hours HD
500 hours SD
200 hours HD
You have more than enough storage with both the Genie and Hopper. Average users won’t worry about deleting different shows and series to record new programs, which is helpful when you set the DVR to record an entire seasons or series.
Both DVRS can be set to record extra time before or after an episode, so that way you don’t miss anything due to network time conflicts. For those of us who watch series that get interrupted by weekly sports, this option is very helpful.
With either of these DVRs, you could record all of Game of Thrones and West World, but fans of sitcoms like Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother would want to opt for the Hopper to fit those long-running shows with 20+ episodes per season.
If you’re still worried about space, both DVRs can expand storage space with an external hard drive.
Whole home connectivity — simultaneous recording
For example, you may have four Genie Minis feeding off the main Genie, but only three will have a unique picture. The fourth one will be a duplicate of one of the other receivers.
Not a big deal for someone who hosts football games at their house—they may only need the single picture. It’s problematic for large households where everyone wants to watch something different. Consider how many different TVs you have in your home and if you can evade scheduling conflicts by planning ahead.
*Although Genie supports up to eight Minis, only three can be active at one time.
The Hopper is better for big families or households with multiple roommates. It allows independent viewing on each connected receiver, so you can watch up to seven different things at once in your home.
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DIRECTV earned the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award for its energy-efficient receivers, the only TV provider to do so.
The Hopper remote vs. the Genie remote
While remotes may seem like an afterthought for most consumers, you’d be surprised at what a difference it can make. Some remotes seem unresponsive unless pointed directly at the receiver. Others have a time delay between your clicks, which can be especially frustrating in cases where you’re fast-forwarding or rewinding to catch the right part. It can also be annoying to click out individual letters, but you won’t have to with these remotes because they both have predictive guessing. You don’t have to know the channel name either—you can search by title, actor/actress name, or other relevant keywords.
Both of these remotes are a cut above the average remote, but the Hopper remote is special.
|DISH Hopper Remote||DIRECTV Genie Remote|
|Simple streamlined design: Yes|
Built-in voice control: Yes
Backlit buttons: Yes
Remote locator: Yes
|Simple streamlined design: Yes|
Built-in voice control: No*
Backlit buttons: No
Remote locator: No
*Voice control available with the DIRECTV app if using a phone, tablet, etc.
We love the Hopper remote for its voice functionality. While the Genie has voice control when connected to a mobile device, we prefer the convenience of a dedicated remote while having our phones and tablets free. As you may have read in our XFINITY X1 Review, voice control is a personal favorite for making watching TV effortless.
Beyond voice control, the Hopper’s backlit display makes it easy to read if you’re in a dark theater room or have a hard time reading small print. The remote doesn’t just light up for readability, but also to be found. Lost remote? You can push a button on the Hopper DVR or Joey receivers that will cause the remote to light up and blink while beeping so you can hear it underneath couch cushions or see it amongst a sea of black devices.
The Genie took a step in the right direction by including both infrared and radio frequency technology, giving your remote and receiver better communication. Although we didn’t have any trouble with the Hopper’s remote, the inclusion of both technologies avoids common problems like the receiver not directly “seeing” the remote. Infrared allows signals to go through cabinet windows and doors more easily.
If you end up hating the provided remote from either brand, you can always opt for either using your mobile device or a universal remote—but if you choose the Hopper, you won’t want to give up the remote.
Remote control nice-to-haves
Most DVRs pause and rewind live television, but with both the Genie and the Hopper you can also skip ahead. Fast-forward seems like it should be common since DVRs are essentially digital VCRs, but due to licensing agreements, only the larger companies can afford to make this a consistent feature.
Avoiding obnoxious ads is one of our favorite things. The Hopper does this just a bit better with the “AutoHop” feature that cuts right to the end of the commercial. The Genie has regular fast forwarding or 30-second skipping, so you may find yourself trying to find the balance between skipping too far ahead and accidentally rewatching the same commercial over and over.
DVR on my mobile device? Get out of here!
One of the biggest benefits about having a DVR means catching up on your TV while you’re on the move. Watch something while sipping on a latte at the coffee shop.
It’s one thing to have access at any time, but another to save time and hassle by picking up right where you left off. Place-shifting allows you to switch from your computer to TV to device and back. You won’t lose your spot or your mind trying to find it.
Forgot to save something to watch? Both providers include on-demand libraries that work on mobile devices. These libraries usually have restrictions on programming, but you’ll find plenty of choices.
So, you want to go wireless in the home?
Some people opt for a wireless setup to keep cords minimal for a clean look. Some just prefer the idea of not getting cables mixed up or damaged. However, going wireless comes with a price. DIRECTV will charge you a one-time Wireless Installation Fee of $99 regardless of how many units you order. DISH charges a one-time Equipment Leasing Fee of $25 for each unit.
Neither Genie or Hopper has built-in Wi-Fi, so your separate break-out box (sometimes called a Wireless Video Bridge) will provide the connection to your in-home network. The only other thing you have to keep in mind by going wireless is the lack of an ethernet connection: on-demand programing requires an internet connection, so if you have weak Wi-Fi, the streaming may take a bit to buffer.
Using your DVR for content discovery
Getting recommendations could be helpful for those who hate channel surfing or just want to find similar shows.
DIRECTV has two different ways of recommending shows:
- Genie Recommends, which records shows based off what you already watch. The predictive technology isn’t perfect and definitely favors quantity, so if you’re the type to leave a reality show on while you do chores around the house, you’ll get a ton of similar recommendations for more reality shows, even if you’d personally rate West World much higher than Jersey Shore Season 3.
- Google-like contextual recommendations, which make more sense than Genie Recommends. As you search, you’ll get recommendations based on similar genres or look at specific details like actors or directors and search for similar programs.
DISH’s recommendations will pop up as soon as you start typing or say a voice command. So if you have a favorite team, you can say something like “Go Jazz!” and it’ll pull up the NBA team and any games, but you might come up with some hip music documentaries, too. Plus, Smart Search scans across all live TV, Netflix, and on demand programs, meaning you don’t have to dig into separate menus to find what you want.
Hopper vs. Genie — Cost Comparison
When it comes to cost, we believe a DVR makes a night and day difference in how we watch TV. We dislike commercials, we love streaming, and we don’t mind tons of movies for the price of a date night at the theater. Both DVRs are fully worth it.
DVRs add cost to your bill in a few different ways: price of service, equipment rental, installation, and wireless connectivity. As you’ll see, equipment costs can add a lot to your monthly bill and installation costs.
Both DIRECTV and DISH include primary receiver service and rental, as well as HD fees. Both satellite brands require a two-year contract, but only DIRECTV increases price during the second year. With this in mind, you’ll see how DISH beats out DIRECTV in terms of cost.
For this example, let’s assume you’re getting a DVR setup for five rooms so each TV can play something different. We’ll also opt for wireless receivers for a clean look. As you’ll see, DISH’s Hopper and Joeys cost less than DIRECTV Genie and Genie Minis, especially if you only need a room or two.
|DISH Hopper||DIRECTV Genie|
|Monthly service fee: $10||Monthly service fee: None|
|Monthly equipments fees|
(3) Joeys at $5 ($15 total)
(1) Super Joey at $10
|Monthly equipments fees|
(3) Genie Minis included)
(1) Genie Mini at $7
(3) Leased Wireless Receivers*: $25 ($75 total)
5th Genie Mini installation: $49
Wireless installation: $99
|View DISH Plans||View DIRECTV Plans|
*This fee only applies to wireless Joeys. Prices vary according to location and do not include taxes.
When it comes down to equipment costs alone, DIRECTV does a great job of including receivers for an entire household in your initial price. However, after the first year, the package price really goes up and essentially cancels out the included receiver fees. Although DISH has equipment rental fees, the low price of the package compensates for it—it’s cheaper to go with DISH most of the time.
The bottom line
You won’t go wrong with either the DIRECTV Genie or DISH Hopper, but if DVRs are the deciding factor for you between the two satellite providers, we’d say go for the Hopper for its state-of-the-art technology and user-friendly design and interface.
We like the voice control and AutoHop features in particular, but the large storage capacity seals the deal for us.
What’s up with DIRECTV and DISH’s built-in apps?
Every company throws in a few bonus features that seem like a little more than talking points for well-connected users. These apps may overlap with mobile apps, but are typically accessed directly from the TV. Aside from the sports app, DIRECTV Genie apps are a little boring, unless you’re keen on the weather.
DISH Hopper apps are a bit better and include built-in Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Vevo, Facebook, The Weather Channel, and ESPN. If you’re using your TV to play music, you may find apps like Pandora or Spotify helpful, but we mostly like apps that act like Widgets (such as the sports app).
How can I connect my DIRECTV or DISH DVR?
Genie (model HR34 or higher) inputs/outputs:
- Ethernet jack
- RCA Composite
- S-Video Component
- Coax digital audio output
- Digital optical audio output
- 2 USB ports (front/back)
- Phone jack
- IR (infrared)
- AC power connector
Hopper 3 inputs/outputs:
- Standard HDMI
- Composite outputs
- Digital audio output
- 2 Ethernet jacks
- 2 USB ports
How many tuners are in a Genie or Hopper?
DIRECTV Genie DVR has five tuners. DISH Hopper has sixteen tuners, over three times as many as the DIRECTV Genie.
What’s the difference between DISH Joeys and Super Joeys?
If you haven’t realized, DISH DVRs have kangaroo-related names. Joeys are baby kangaroos, as such you can think of the joeys as “baby receivers” for the Hopper. They have the same interface and abilities as the main Hopper receiver, but do not provide additional network tuners.
Super Joeys give you an additional two network tuners. If you need to add up to 16 tuners, choose additional Super Joeys. We recommend calling or chatting with a sales agent for DISH to figure out your exact home setup.