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DISH Hopper® vs DIRECTV Genie HMC (Home Media Center)

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Both DISH and DIRECTV, the two giants of satellite television, have home media center receivers available with most satellite TV plans. With DISH you can get the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR, and with DIRECTV you can get the Genie HD DVR.

These are the most sophisticated HD DVR home media centers available from each of these satellite TV providers. However, if you prefer a simpler home media center, each satellite TV provider has a range of receivers with different capabilities and features

Start your search for a new home media center receiver here. We will help you understand the differences between the different home media center receivers that you can get so that you can make the best possible selection.

The DISH Hopper

DISH Hopper Basic DVR Features

The DISH Hopper is DISH’s answer to the whole-home media center. The Hopper has basic DVR features that allow you to pause and rewind live TV. It also allows you to record any TV show.

Many DVRs have some pretty tight limitations on how many TV shows you can record at once. With the DISH Hopper, you can record up to 6 shows at once, a pretty big improvement over a lot of the more basic DVRs. According to the DISH website, however, your 6 shows are limited to selections from your 4 included local channels and then any 2 additional satellite channels.

DISH Hopper Upgrade

DISH Hopper software has been upgraded to improve user experience. With the new software update, the Hopper DVR enables users to take part in a program in-progress so they can skip back to the start of the show they are watching. As long as content of the show is in DISH's VOD library, this is a possible task.

Binge watching is now possible in the DISH Hopper upgrade. Once a subscriber has finished watching a linear TV or VOD series episode, he or she will receive a pop-up window where they can easily transition to the next installment of the series, provided that the show exists in the catalog of DISH VOD or it has been recorded on their DVR.

The last added feature to the upgrade enables viewers to easily decipher hard to hear and inaudible dialog with the help of closed-captioning. This new feature enables users to simply press a green button on their remote to activate one time closed captioning usage.

DISH Hopper Prime Time Features

With the DISH Hopper, you can customize your prime time viewing experience. You can automatically program the Hopper to record your favorite prime time shows so that you don’t have to remember to record them every week.

The DISH Hopper also has the unique PrimeTime Anytime feature that allows you to watch prime time shows as late as 8 days after their original airing date. You can select up to 3 hours of prime time content for later viewing. You can also permanently save some of your recorded content. The Primetime Anytime recordings do not count against your total DVR capacity.

Finally, on certain major networks you can skip commercials during prime time hours with a feature called AutoHop. These channels include ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. This is only for pre-recorded shows in the Primetime Anytime feature.

DISH Hopper Streaming Features

You can also use your DISH Hopper to stream On Demand shows through an Internet broadband connection.

In addition, you can instantly connect your other devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers to your Hopper so that you can use your smartphone to change the channel, or your tablet to record a show.

The DISH Hopper now comes with a built-in Slingbox which gives you the TV Everywhere service so you can watch satellite TV from any device and from any location as long as you have an Internet connection, so you can travel and move about without missing your favorite shows. DISH also upgraded their DISH Hopper recently to a new 1.3 GHz chip, so it runs much smoother. In addition, the built-in Slingbox is now deeply integrated with the DISH Hopper DVR, which makes usability simple, and also allows users to stream video to their iPad and tablet devices.

The Hopper and the Joey

Joeys are additional receivers that you would use to connect additional TVs to your Hopper. For example, if your main TV is in your family room, you can connect this TV to your Hopper. Each additional HD TV would need a Joey. So, if you have a TV in your bedroom, one in your child’s bedroom, and one in the kitchen, you can connect each of these TVs to a Joey which will connect them to the Hopper.

With a Joey, you can watch and record separate TV shows in different rooms, or you can start watching a show in one room, pause it, and continue watching in a different room.

If you want to use the Hopper for your home media center, you will need a Joey for each additional HD TV.

Additional Features

The Hopper has 2 terabytes of data which equals about 2000 hours of recorded TV. This is an unprecedented amount of data storage for a home media center.

And in addition, The Hopper features SRS TruVolume technology, a service designed to modulate and control volume changes when channels switch from TV shows to commercials. You may have noticed that often times commercials air at much louder volumes than broadcast TV shows. SRS TruVolume prevents annoying interruptions from sudden volume changes.

The Hopper also allows you to track and find your remote in case it gets lost, much in the way you might dial your cellphone from your landline when you can’t find it.

DISH Hopper Pricing

DISH currently offers a special promotion that includes a free Hopper upgrade. For example, at the time that this page was written, you could get a free Hopper with the America’s Top 120™ plan which costs $29.99/month for the first year, and $59.99/month after that.

The Hopper is available for free with all plans except for DISH’s cheapest plan, the Smart Pack for $19.99/month.

Without a plan with DISH, Hoppers can cost up to $249.

Certain customers are also eligible to get up to 3 included Joeys free with certain plans.

Alternative Receiver Solutions with DISH

DISH also sells the following simpler receivers that may be more appropriate for some customers:

  • DuoDVR ViP 722k: This is an HD DVR that supports 2 TVs.
  • SoloDVR ViP 612: This is an HD DVR that supports 1 TV.
  • DuoDVR 625: This is an SD DVR that supports 2 TVs.
  • SoloDVR 512: This is an SD DVR that supports 1 TV.
  • Duo ViP 222k: This is an HD receiver that supports 2 TVs. This receiver is not a DVR.
  • Solo ViP 211k: This is an HD receiver that supports 1 TV. This receiver is not a DVR.
  • Duo 322: This is an SD receiver that supports 2 TVs. It is not a DVR.
  • Solo 311: This is an SD receiver that supports 1 TV. It is not a DVR.

DIRECTV Home Media Center Genie

The DIRECTV Genie is DIRECTV’s latest development in HD DVR technology.

DIRECTV Genie Basic DVR Features

The Genie includes all basic DVR features like pausing and rewinding during live TV.

Like the DISH Hopper, the DIRECTV Genie allows you to record more shows than a basic DVR would. With the DIRECTV Genie, you can record up to 5 shows at once, 1 less than the Hopper. However, you can record all 5 shows on any selection of HD channels at once. DISH is slightly more limited on the number of channels available for simultaneous recording.

DIRECTV Genie Storing and Viewing Features

With the DIRECTV Genie, you can store lots of recorded programming for as long as you want. The Genie has 1 terabyte of memory, so about half the memory capacity of the DISH Hopper. This means you should be able to store about 1000 hours of recorded TV.

You can also record a TV show in one room and watch the show on any other TV in the house. And as with the DISH Hopper, you can use the Genie to stream On Demand and pay-per-view shows instantly.

You can also check the DIRECTV directory for upcoming programming up to 2 weeks in advance. The Genie also allows you to watch newly aired programming up to 5 weeks later.

The DIRECTV Genie also allows you to watch 2 programs simultaneously with Picture-On-Picture viewing. You can either minimize a show in 1 screen and watch it on top of the other show, or you can watch the 2 shows on side-by-side screens.

And if you get home late and didn’t set a particular show to record, you can restart a show from the beginning so you won’t miss out on anything, or have to wait for a rerun.

DIRECTV Genie Recommendations Feature

The Genie is unique in that it will note your viewing preferences and then recommend similar programs that you might like. The Genie will even ask you if you want to record a single episode or a whole series of a similar show with the push of a button.

DIRECTV Genie and Mini Clients (C31 Clients)

Like the DISH Hopper, the DIRECTV Genie can serve up to 4 TVs. You can connect the Genie to your main TV in your family room, and then you can use a Mini Client to connect each additional TV in your house to the Genie in your family room. The Genie Mini Client is DIRECTV’s equivalent to the DISH Joey.

As with the Joey, the Genie Mini Client allows you to watch and record separate shows from the main Genie system. And as with the Joeys, the Genie Mini Client cannot support some of the features available on the main Genie system. For example, the Picture-On-Picture viewing available on the main Genie system is not available on a Genie Mini Client.

DIRECTV Genie Pricing

At the time that this page was written, the Genie was available for free with any of the DIRECTV satellite plans starting with the cheapest plan, the Entertainment plan for $29.99/month for the first year and $54.99/month after that.

Without a satellite TV plan with DIRECTV, the Genie can cost $299, while each Mini Client can cost an additional $99.

You can get up to 3 Genie Mini Clients for free with each plan, but if you need more than 3, each additional Mini Client will cost $49.

Alternative Receiver Solutions with DIRECTV

DIRECTV also has a range of other receivers with different levels of options and features. Depending on your needs and TV viewing habits, you may be better served by a simpler receiver.

DIRECTV sells the following alternative receiver solutions:

  • HD DVR: This is a whole-home HD DVR system that does not include all of the advanced features of the Genie HD DVR. Requires additional HD Receivers for whole-home functionality.
  • TiVO HD DVR: This is an HD DVR receiver that does not allow whole-home service.  
  • DVR Receiver: This is a DVR receiver for SD TVs. It is not compatible with HD TVs. It does not support whole-home service.
  • HD Receiver: This is a receiver for HD TVs that does not include DVR. It does not support whole-home service.
  • Standard Receiver: This is a receiver for SD TVs. It does not include DVR and it cannot be used with HD TVs. It does not support whole-home service.

All of these receivers are available for free with any DIRECTV plan. However, if you need additional receivers after the first, you may have to pay extra.