The best satellite TV receiver (also called a set top box) on the market right now is the DISH Hopper 3. Nothing really comes close to its power and storage capacity, not to mention is gargantuan simultaneous recordings. Still, the DIRECTV Genie remains a great choice for some folks. Here's what you can expect from each and how to know if you’re getting the best satellite receiver for your needs.
Best Satellite TV Receivers
Data effective 5/17/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Top satellite receivers
*Prices as of 5/24/2019. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
The best satellite TV receivers
- Best overall—DISH Hopper 3
- Best for sports—DIRECTV Genie
Here’s a rundown of our top satellite receiver picks. We’ll cover the upsides and downsides of each receiver to help you decide which one will work for you.
DISH Hopper 3: How much does Hopper 3 cost?
The Hopper 3 isn’t just the most powerful satellite receiver on the market—it’s the most powerful DVR on the market. Period. With up to 500 hours of HD storage, you can keep your favorite shows and movies longer.
And the 16 simultaneous recordings might seem like overkill, but they effectively take recording conflicts out of the equation, making for a frustration-free TV experience.
The Hopper 3 comes with DISH satellite TV service, which is an affordable option with plenty of channels to choose from. DISH offers a great balance of channel count, cost, and selection, making it easy to recommend. And it’s available almost everywhere.
Honestly, we don’t have much to complain about with the Hopper 3. TV fans will love this one.
DIRECTV Genie: How much does the Genie cost from DIRECTV?
The DIRECTV Genie offers an excellent satellite TV experience, combining solid storage capacity, simultaneous recordings, and outstanding DIRECTV service. The best part? The Genie is included in your subscription at no extra charge.
The Genie offers 200 hours of HD storage, which should keep you busy with stuff to watch for a while. Unfortunately, it offers only five simultaneous recordings, which should be enough for the average household but may cause some recording conflicts for champion binge-watchers.
But the Genie makes up for its slightly disappointing specs with killer DIRECTV service. DIRECTV has a great channel selection and the best sports programming of any TV provider, satellite or otherwise.
What to look for in a satellite TV receiver
All satellite receivers perform the same basic task, but not all do it equally. Here’s what to look for when shopping around to make sure you’re getting a dish that’s worth its salt.
Set top box storage space
Most satellite TV receivers double in function as DVRs, which makes storage capacity an important spec to consider. Most have capacities of over 1 TB these days, with some featuring as much as 2 TB.
However, the raw storage capacity doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s also important to look at how many hours of HD video the DVR can store. Some devices with the same storage capacity may actually store different amounts of video due to storage optimizations.
The gold standard for storage right now is the DISH Hopper 3, with 2 TB and up to 500 hours of HD storage capacity. If you’re a digital packrat like us, there’s just no substitute.
Set top box user interface
You’ll spend a lot of time navigating menus on your receiver, either to change settings, schedule recordings, or just find something good to watch. That’s why a usable and friendly user interface (UI) is important.
How do you know if a UI is any good? Well, if it is, you won’t even notice it’s there. And if it’s bad, you’ll want to throw your remote across the room.
The best UIs have a few common elements to look for:
- A simple menu structure
- An easy-to-use remote control
- Voice commands
Satellite receiver's simultaneous viewing and recording
This one’s a biggie. Many homes have multiple TVs, so if you’re sharing your living space and have different tastes from your spouse or roommate, watching two different shows in different rooms of the house is important.
Even more important, though, is recording multiple programs at once. This feature helps ensure you never miss an episode of anything, and the more shows you watch, the more simultaneous recordings you’ll want.
When it comes to multiple recordings, the DISH Hopper 3 is king with up to 16 simultaneous recordings possible. That might seem like more than you’ll need, but you’ll likely say goodbye to scheduling conflicts. Once you get used to 16, it’s hard to go back to something like the Genie with only five.
What about the satellite dish?
Satellite dishes are a crucial part of the satellite TV experience. They capture the signal from the orbiting satellite and route it to the receiver for processing. However, there’s not a huge difference between satellite dishes meant for home use. For the most part, the dish provided with your satellite service subscription will work just fine.
The one major exception is for portable or RV dishes—there are differences between these. We recommend the Winegard Carryout for portable or RV use. This covered dish can be either taken as is for a portable solution, or mounted to the roof of an RV or camper for use on the go, even while driving.
Satellite TV providers
Satellite receivers are usually locked to a specific provider. The Hopper 3 works with DISH and the Genie with DIRECTV, and they can’t be swapped to other services. That makes the provider an important piece of the puzzle.
Verdict: Your best satellite receiver
The Hopper 3 remains not only the king of DVRs but also the king of satellite receivers. Unless you have a specific need, like a certain sports channel that DISH doesn’t offer, we can’t see anyone being unhappy with this beast. Now what are you waiting for? Get hoppin’ and enjoy your satellite TV.
Satellite TV receivers FAQ
Can I get free satellite TV?
It is possible to get some free satellite TV channels. These are known as free-to-air TV. Although it’s similar to how you’d get free broadcast TV channels over-the-air, the equipment is a bit different. You need a receiver and satellite dish to receive free-to-air channels, which can be expensive, unlike OTA broadcast TV where you need only an antenna.
If you already have the equipment, free-to-air satellite channels are great. But for most people, we recommend just springing for an affordable subscription service or a basic broadcast TV antenna.
What’s the best portable satellite dish for an RV?
We recommend the Winegard Carryout G3 as the best portable satellite TV dish for an RV. If that doesn’t float your boat, check out The Best Satellite Dishes for Your RV and Tailgate for more options.
What’s Winegard Carryout?
Winegard Carryout is a portable satellite TV dish that can also be mounted to the roof of an RV or camper for viewing on the go. It works with both DISH and DIRECTV, so you can switch providers without worrying about buying a new dish. It’s a bit expensive, but it’s excellent if you want satellite TV you can take anywhere.
Edited by Cara Haynes