If you’re in the market for a new satellite dish, be warned. Things can get complicated. Not every dish is compatible with every provider, and what are those weird ones with the dome? Before you throw your money in the wrong direction, let us fill you in on all the details. We’ve found the best satellite dishes of 2018—now let’s find which one’s right for you.
DISH vs. DIRECTV
Before we get into the dishes themselves, it’s important to first understand that the two major satellite TV providers, DISH and DIRECTV, each use their own satellite technology. That means most satellite dishes are compatible with one or the other, but not both.
We’ll cover the best dishes for both DISH and DIRECTV in each category, but you’ll need to decide which provider you want before you pick your dish. Generally speaking, DISH offers a better DVR (the Hopper 3) and guaranteed two-year pricing, while DIRECTV has better sports programming (like NFL SUNDAY TICKET).
Best Satellite Dish for Your Home
This decision is pretty simple. For most people, the dishes that come with your DISH or DIRECTV plan are just fine, and they’re included in your monthly bill. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s nice to have someone else take care of the installation. For that reason, we’d recommend sticking with what comes with your package. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Best Satellite Packages for Your Home
While dishes from DISH and DIRECTV are basically the same, the programming is a different story. Second only to choosing your satellite provider, choosing the right package for your home is an important decision you’ll want to get right the first time. Here are our favorite options for DISH and DIRECTV.
Our favorite DISH TV package is America’s Top 200™. This plan gets you 240+ channels for $79.99 per month, and it offers the best balance of price and variety of all the DISH satellite packages. For a limited time, you can also get SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, and DISH Movie Pack free for three months when you sign up. You’ll also get access to DISH Anywhere® for watching TV on the go.
For DIRECTV, the best value is DIRECTV ULTIMATE. This package gets you 250+ channels for $60 per month. Like our DISH pick, we think it offers the best balance of what you pay and what you get. And if you’re a sports fan, don’t forget about NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which lets you catch every out-of-market game of the season included for the first year when you sign up for select DIRECTV packages.
Best Satellite Dish for Your RV
Should I get an in-motion, stationary/mounted, or portable satellite dish?
Good question! While home satellite dishes are pretty straightforward, things get interesting when it comes to receiving a satellite signal on the go. There are three types, and we’ll break them down for you in the sections below.
Best In-Motion Satellite Dishes
In-motion dishes are designed to be used while your RV is—wait for it—in motion. These dishes feature a domed cover over the receiver to protect it from interference or damage while moving.
|KING VQ4500 Tailgater||$$||DISH|
|KING VQ4100 Quest||$$$||DIRECTV*|
|Winegard RT2000T RoadTrip T4||$$$$$||DISH and DIRECTV*|
*Only supports DIRECTV standard definition. No HD.
Pros and Cons of In-Motion Satellite Dishes
- It can be used while driving, thanks to the covered design. This means the family can chill in the back of the RV and have plenty of entertainment on long trips.
- The cover makes it more durable.
- Most models are either portable or can be mounted.
- There’s no support for DIRECTV HD programming due to the dome covering the dish (more protection on the road comes at the price of lower signal quality). If you want DIRECTV service in your RV, you might want to consider a different mounted option.
Best Mounted Satellite Dishes
Mounted dishes are what most people think of when they picture a satellite dish. These dishes mount to the roof of your RV and retract when not in use so you can drive without damaging them.
Pros and Cons of Mounted Satellite Dishes
- These models can receive DIRECTV HD signals, unlike domed models. This is a big deal for sports fans—there’s nothing quite like watching the big game in gorgeous high def from your camper.
- Some models, like the Winegard dishes featured here, are automated. This means you just push a single button to collapse the dish when it’s time to drive.
- You can’t use these while driving. That might be a deal breaker for those who spend more time on the road than chilling in the RV park.
Best Portable Satellite Dishes
These dishes are intended to be packed up and carried to a location, so they typically rely on tripods or other stands. Thanks to their portability, these dishes are great for camping and tailgating. Pair them with a portable TV for best results.
|Satellite Oasis SWM SL3S Satellite Tripod Kit for DIRECTV||$$||DISH|
|Satellite Oasis DISH Turbo HDTV Satellite Tripod Kit||$$$$$||DIRECTV|
Pros and Cons of Portable Satellite Dishes
- Portable dishes are—well, portable. If you need something you can cart to the campsite or simply don’t want to mount a big satellite dish to your expensive RV, a portable dish is a great alternative.
- Portable dishes are usually much more affordable than other options.
- There’s no fancy automation features here. This means you’ll need to find the best position for the dish yourself. There are tools that can help you gauge signal strength, but there’s usually some trial and error involved.
Portable Satellite Dishes vs. Mounted Satellite Dishes
Deciding which type of dish is right for you comes down to two things:
- How you want to use the dish
- How much you value convenience
If you’re planning to take the dish camping or tailgating without an RV or camper, a portable dish is the way to go. However, if it’s for an RV, there are reasons to consider both:
- A portable dish is more flexible. If your mounted dish can’t get a good lock on the signal, you’d have to move the whole RV. With a portable dish, you could just move the dish to an area without as many trees or other obstructions.
- A mounted dish is more convenient. Since these dishes are stationary, you don’t have to worry about packing them with the rest of your stuff. Some of them are automatic and can be stowed with the push of a button. And many can automatically find the strongest satellite signal and position themselves for maximum reception, saving you that hassle.
- In-motion mounted dishes can be used while driving. If you want your passengers to watch TV on the road, get a mounted dish. It’ll make the time pass more quickly when you’re driving through a desert or stuck in traffic.
Equipment and Installation
Satellite TV Equipment
You’ll need a few other items in addition to your satellite dish before you can enjoy your favorite satellite programming.
- A receiver and plan from your satellite TV provider—The satellite dish picks up the signal from the satellite in orbit. That signal isn’t something your TV can understand without a receiver. You’ll get a receiver from your service provider when you sign up for a plan.
- A satellite signal finder—If your dish doesn’t feature automatic tracking, a signal finder takes some of the guesswork out of positioning your dish.
- Cabling, mounting gear, and other necessities—Generally each dish will come with everything it needs to operate, but it’s a good idea to double-check. Occasionally, mounting brackets and hardware are sold separately.
Installing your satellite dish is generally pretty simple. For mounted dishes, bolt them down to your RV roof and run the coaxial cable from the dish to your receiver. Most dishes come with everything you’ll need, but there are a few exceptions. Like we said earlier, it’s important to have everything you need before you begin the installation process. (For the portable dishes, you’ll use a tripod, so no installation necessary.)
Mobile Satellite Internet
If you want mobile internet service with your satellite TV, you have some options. RV satellite internet is available from a couple providers: Viasat and HughesNet. This service is uber accessible, but there are a couple things to keep in mind:
- You’ll need a separate dish for your internet and TV service. Satellite TV equipment is meant for one-way delivery (receiving), while satellite internet needs to both send and receive.
- In comparison to other types of internet, satellite internet is slower and more expensive. Once the promo period ends, you can pay as much as $150 per month for just 30 Mbps internet with Viasat, whereas some gigabit fiber plans cost less than $100 per month. Of course, the tradeoff is that you can use satellite internet anywhere, while fiber is hard to find even in fixed locations.
Between the two big players, Viasat offers slightly faster speeds on the top-tier plan—up to 100 Mbps in some areas compared to 25 Mbps for HughesNet. HughesNet has more package choices and slightly lower prices though.
Can I pick up HD programming with my satellite dish?
Yes! The only exception is with in-motion dishes, which can’t pick up DIRECTV in HD due to the protective dome.
Can I get satellite internet anywhere?
You can get satellite internet anywhere you can get satellite TV. As long as you have a clear view of the southern sky, you shouldn’t have any problems getting a satellite internet signal in the US.