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DISH Network Player-DVR 942 Review

Highs

  • Versatile; simple to use; two TV's can access the same HDTV recorder

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 7

Lows

  • The second TV cannot view content in HDTV quality resolutions
The model 942 certainly makes your life so much easier...

Summary

The DISH Player DVR model 942 is a high definition satellite receiver capable of recording up to 25 hours of high definition or 180 hours of programming on a 250GB hard-drive.  However, what really makes model 942 exceptional is the fact that it allows you multi-room capability via one satellite receiver.  It also includes DISH’s Video-On-Demand Service that provides the capability to “pause” live TV, record any type of DISH Network programming, skip recorded commercials, and create “instant replays.”  Besides being able to “pause” live TV, the Video-On-Demand service allows you to fast forward/fast reverse at four speeds ( 4x, 15x, 60x, and 300x), skip forward (30-second increments), and skip back (10-second increments), and the capability to view shows in slow motion or frame-by-frame.

Features and Design

The model 942 offers several types of recording capabilities.  It allows you to set TV1 and TV2, manual/auto event timers and also to do quick records.  It also allows you to record a “live” program while watching another pre-recorded program from the hard-drive.  If a program is broadcast in Dolby Digital, it will be recorded in Dolby Digital.  Of course, to fully appreciate Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, you will have to use the digital optical output tethered to a home theater receiver or processor with the proper number of speakers.  There are 50 automatic and manual event timers that can be used to program the 942 to record directly to the hard-drive.  You can also automatically set the receiver to tune to a program at a desired time, e.g. ABC at 9 p.m. on Sunday night for Desperate Housewives, or to have Into The West recorded on TNT-HD.  You can watch one channel, and record two standard definition channels.  Or, you can record one HD channel and a standard definition channel simultaneously.

As mentioned above, what’s really neat is that you get two receivers in one box:  you can watch TV in two separate locations, i.e., simultaneously watch two different programs on two different TVs.  Each room has its own dedicated remote, but the second room does not have a separate receiver.  Cool!  In the second room, you simply set the TV to a specific channel.  The second room’s signals are sent via your house’s coax cable wiring.  An RF antenna is attached to back of the box for channel changing and recording of programs.  It could not be simpler!

To assist in model 942’s recording capabilities, this unit features an extended Electronic Program Guide (EPG).  Simply navigate the cursor over to the desired program to “Record” and press the “Select” button.   It works in a similar fashion as TiVo or ReplayTV.  Then, the system gives your several options regarding your recording: once, weekly, Monday-Friday, etc.  It could not be easier!

The EPG features nine days’ worth of programming, which is stored on the hard-drive for quick and easy access to all listing information.  It is clear and concise, and very easy to read from across the room.  The EPG is easily to navigate; simply use the cursor key ring, which is centrally located on the universal remote.  To find your favorite programs, use the “Search” function, which can be accessed by the “Menu” key.  To access the EPG, simply press the “Guide” button on the remote.

Dish Network Player-DVR 942 Back
The back of the DISH player 942

Outputs include one HDMI output, one component video output, one A/V output, and one digital optical output.  For the best images, use the HDMI or component video output.  Besides the satellite antenna input, there is also an antenna RF input for over-the-air HD signals, which will allow you receive (and record) local high-definition channels.  There’s also twin satellite inputs on the back panel of the receiver, plus a USB port for unspecified future use, an in-distribution jack for the second TV, a phone jack, a UHF remote antenna jack, and an accessory jack (for the attachment of a VCR signal blaster).

Other standard features include parental control locks, program information (on the EPG), theme lists, favorite lists, browse, one-touch channel return (via the “Recall” button on the remote), closed-caption and alternate audio support.  There are two 4-component universal remote controls; one is UHF [2], which works up to a reported distance of 100-feet and through walls, and one is infrared [1].  Besides the satellite receiver, they can also control the TV, a VCR, and the AUX for a DVD player.

Dish Network Player-DVR 942 Remote Controls
The two 942 remote controls

Installation

Installation is very easy since EchoStar DISH Network has its own installation staff.  DISH Network has a somewhat different mindset regarding their equipment.  You can call them, go to a kiosk at the Mall, or even go to Radio Shack.  Instead of coming home with your gear, the retailer sets up an appointment for your installation.  The day before your install, EchoStar calls to verify time and place.  On the next day, the installer shows up with all the equipment needed, including your satellite dish and the set-top box satellite receiver you’ve ordered.  It takes approximately two hours to get the dish up and working in conjunction with the set-top box.  It could not be simpler.  Of course, you can go to any retailer that carries DISH Network products and bring it home yourself (and even install it yourself if you so choose), but why take the chance of falling off your roof? It’s a heck of a lot easier to let them do it for you.  I was happily surprised at how smoothly the installation went.

Like the other satellite company, DISH offers several programming packages based on the number of all-digital channels that you really want, including high-definition.  Recently, EchoStar purchased the VOOM HD channels and added them to their roster.  Cool!  They have a basic HD package ($9.99) that includes HD-NET, HD-NetMovies, Discovery HD Theater, ESPN-HD, HD Demo, and TNT-HD.  If you already receive CBS, HBO and Showtime, you’ll get those in HD as well.  For $5.00 more a month, you can have the 15 unique VOOM HD channels (from Monsters HD to RAVE).

Evaluation

Once the unit was up and working, it was easy to let my fingers do the walking.  The first thing I did was to pull up the EPG on-screen and scroll around the “Guide” to get a feel for it.  The cursor ring doubles as navigation keys; the up arrow brings you to higher channel numbers, for example, and the left arrow goes forward in time.  The “Guide” displays approximately four channels at a clip in one-hour increments.  The upper right-hand corner of the screen puts the watched channel into a PIP-like box so that you don’t miss anything.  To see a program description, simply touch the “Info” on the remote.  The top left-hand side of the screen always shows time, date, and channel number, which were clear and concise.  As I mentioned above, if you see a program that you want to watch later or “Record,” simply press the “Select” button.  It brings up a sub-menu with various recording and/or watching modes, including setting to go to the desired channel a minute early.  That’s pretty neat!

To watch any recorded shows, simply touch the center-mounted “DVR” button.  This brings up a list of all of your previously recorded shows.  Just go down the list to the show that you want watch, and press “Select” on the remote.  Anyone can access these recorded shows.  Anyone also can easily set up the timer to record a future show, even the technologically-challenged.

I have to say that I am really enjoying using the model 942.  My son likes it, too; he can watch all of the EchoStar programming and record his favorite shows like WWE with ease on a Philips 32-in. LCD.  We both found it easy to use, easy to record our favorite shows, and very easy to play back and skip commercials.  Yes, image quality was excellent:  HDMI on my Hitachi CineForm Director’s Series 3LCD HDTV (60VX915).  Images were superb, especially those in high-definition.  However, standard definition 480p while watching the SciFi channel also looked quite good and clear of virtually all artifacts.  I was especially taken with TNT-HD while watching the Into the West miniseries.  TNT-HD is seemingly exclusive to the Dish Network (as it’s not on DirecTV).  The western vistas looked especially compelling.  Of course, Deadwood on HBO-HD looked really gritty and dirty.  (Two completely opposite versions of the Old West).  On CBS-HD, NUMB3RS looked especially compelling also.

The model 942 certainly makes your life so much easier, and, in my mind, it makes a lot of sense to marry two good products in one box.  This is what convergence is all about:  combining the best aspects of two products and making them work as one.  It’s one cable to your television, and one cable (optical) to pass all audio signals to my A/V receiver.  I like simple.

Conclusion

To sum up, the model 942 is an ideal satellite HD receiver because it allows you to be able to watch and record satellite TV programs in two different locations simultaneously via only one box.  While the installation seemed a bit cumbersome for the installer, the end result is that I have two rooms with satellite programming; the second room doesn’t need the receiver, which is a neat trick.

Keep in mind however that the second TV will not be able to view recorded content at HDTV resolutions due to its coaxial input, nor will it be able to playback audio in 5.1 surround sound.

Pros:

    • Very versatile
    • Easy to use
    • Great picture quality
  • Supports two TV’s with one box

Cons:

    • The second TV cannot view content in HDTV quality resolutions
  • The second TV is limited to two-channel audio output

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