Best DVR

DISH

Streamlined, affordable packages
Higher starting prices
View Plans
Better Sports Programming

DIRECTV

More package selections
Price hike halfway through contract
View Plans

The Bottom Line

DISH is an excellent all-around TV provider with the best DVR in the business. The affordable, easy package choices combined with the superpowerful Hopper 3 make it an excellent option for anyone looking for a great TV provider.

DIRECTV really shines in the sports arena. Exclusive channels like NFL SUNDAY TICKET—and just more sports programming in general—make it the best provider for sports fans. It’s got a solid DVR and good channel selection too.

Comparing the Best Satellite TV Providers

Channel CountPriceContractDVRInstallation Fee
dish tv290+$59.99–$89.99/mo.2 yearsHopper 3 (+$5/mo.)NoneView Plans
directv logo330+$35–$110/mo.2 yearsGenie (included)$35 activation feeView Plans

Data effective 9/30/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay
†For 12 months with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.

Packages and Pricing

No matter what your budget is, there are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to satellite TV packages.

Overall, DISH offers a streamlined and affordable selection with a lot of value. DIRECTV has both cheaper packages that offer the basics at a good price and more expensive packages with more channels on tap. We’re pretty confident you’ll find something you like.

DISH Packages

PackagePrice*ChannelsDetails
America’s Top 120®$59.99/mo. 190View Plan
America’s Top 120+®$69.99/mo.190+View Plan
America’s Top 200®$79.99/mo.240+View Plan
America’s Top 250®$89.99/mo.290+View Plan

Data effective 9/30/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay

DISH keeps things simple: an affordable entry-level plan, a value-packed mid-tier option, and a top-tier plan with all the goodies. Each comes with a predictable price increase.

The one oddball is America’s Top 120+, which is identical to America’s Top 120 but adds regional sports channels for an extra ten bucks. If you’re thinking about going with this plan, you should stop. We’d honestly skip it altogether.  For about $10.00 more, you can jump to America’s Top 200 and still get the regional sports channels plus a bunch of other cool channels too.

Another major perk of DISH’s packages is the price is locked in for the full two years of the contract. With DIRECTV, the advertised price is locked in for one year, but then it goes up—and you’ve still got a year left on your agreement, so there’s no bailing when the paying gets tough.

DIRECTV Packages

PackagePrice*ChannelsDetails
DIRECTV SELECT™ All Included$35.00/mo.155+View Plan
DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT All Included$40.00/mo.160+View Plan
DIRECTV CHOICE™ All Included$45.00/mo.185+View Plan
DIRECTV XTRA All Included$55.00/mo. 235+View Plan
DIRECTV ULTIMATE All Included$60.00/mo.250+View Plan
DIRECTV PREMIER™ All Included$110.00/mo.330+View Plans

Data effective 9/30/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 12 months with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.

Unlike the transparent channel counts you get with DISH’s package names, DIRECTV’s package names don’t give much of an indication of what you’ll get. However, there are more channels to choose from overall. There’s a big price jump from ULTIMATE to PREMIER, but that’s because PREMIER includes premium channels like HBO®, Cinemax®, SHOWTIME®, and STARZ®.

Keep in mind that DIRECTV offers NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which is the NFL package. It’s a DIRECTV exclusive, so DISH customers are out of luck. It’s also included at no additional charge for the first year with any of the top four packages. After the first year, it gets pretty expensive—a little less than $300.00 per season—but for true NFL fans, it’s really a no-brainer.

Equipment

DVR ModelEquipment PriceSimul. RecordingsStorageRecording Capacity
DISH Hopper 3$5.00/mo.162 TBUp to 500 hours of HD
DIRECTV Genie Included in package price51 TBUp to 200 hours of HD

The Hopper 3 and Genie are both great DVRs, but there’s a clear winner here. The DISH Hopper 3 is so powerful it puts every other DVR on the market to shame. In fact, the Hopper is so good it might be reason enough to choose DISH all on its own.

Equipment Price

From purely a price perspective, this is the department—the only department—where DIRECTV takes DVR lead. DISH charges $5.00 per month for the Hopper 3, and that’s on top of the monthly package price you’re already paying. While that’s not too bad for a DVR as good as the Hopper 3, DIRECTV gives you the Genie essentially for free (included in your package price). In that context, five bucks suddenly sounds pretty expensive. If that monthly bill is really all you care about, the included DVR with DIRECTV might be your tipping point.

Simultaneous Recordings

This is where DISH starts to justify that $5.00 it charges for the Hopper 3. With a maximum of sixteen simultaneous recordings, DISH customers can kiss recording conflicts goodbye. The DIRECTV Genie, on the other hand, can record only five programs at once. While that’s probably enough for most folks, it’s still possible to max out the Genie’s capacity, which might leave you with some tough choices about which Game of Thrones episodes to record and which ones to release into the entertainment ether. The Hopper’s capacity is so expansive that it pushes those worries far, far away where you’ll never have to see them.

Storage

The Hopper 3 has double the hard drive space of the Genie. Double. Again, it’s hard to compete with one of the industry-leading DVRs, but the Genie may catch up eventually as advanced technology continues to become more accessible. But the Hopper has a clear lead for the foreseeable future.

Recording Capacity

DISH’s Hopper 3 can pack up to 500 hours of HD video onto that 2 TB hard drive. That’s a lot of video—almost three weeks of continuous watching. The DIRECTV Genie tops out at 200 hours of HD video. While that’s still a lot, it’s not the best.

That said, even though the Genie trails behind the Hopper in almost every stat, it’s still a good DVR overall. It’s like the difference between a Lexus and a Toyota—of course you want the Lexus, but you’ll also be more than satisfied with the Toyota.

Customer Experience

The story doesn’t end when you pick a provider and sign an agreement. After that, you’ve got to actually live with the company for a year or two. When it comes to settling down with a provider, what’s it really like? What goes on behind signed agreements and installed equipment?

satellite dish installation

Installation

Installation for satellite providers is a little different than plain ol’ cable. That’s because DISH and DIRECTV both require a satellite dish to receive the signal. Your dish needs a clear view of the sky, which in many cases means installing it on your roof. That’s obviously something you don’t want to attempt yourself, so you’ll need professional installation. Both companies make the process pretty painless with trained professional techs available to handle all the roof climbing and signal chasing.

Neither DISH nor DIRECTV charges an installation fee, though DIRECTV does tack a $19.95 activation fee on your first bill. That’s pretty affordable compared to a lot of the cable competition, so we give both providers a thumbs up with installation.

Mobile Apps

DISH Anywhere App

dish network app

DIRECTV App

directv app

The mobile apps for DISH and DIRECTV are pretty similar in terms of features and ratings. The one major difference is that DISH’s app doesn’t offer a remote-control function, so you can’t use your phone to control your DVR while you’re watching. You can still use the DISH app to schedule recordings and stream live TV though.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Now that we’ve gone through the nitty-gritty, let’s recap the major pros and cons of DISH and DIRECTV.

DISH

Thumbs Up Pros

  • Guaranteed price for 2 years
  • Best DVR on the market
  • Free installation
  • Easy-to-understand plans

Thumbs Down Cons

  • Lower maximum channel count
  • Higher starting price

DIRECTV

Thumbs Up Pros

  • Wider range of packages
  • Higher channel count
  • Exclusive sports content
  • Included DVR

Thumbs Down Cons

  • Increased prices after one year
  • Less powerful DVR

How to Bundle with Satellite TV

You’ve got your satellite TV all figured out—but what about internet? Neither provider offers its own internet service. Instead, they partner with local Internet Service Providers to offer bundles. Your options for this will vary depending on where you live. If you’re in a rural area,  DISH and DIRECTV pair perfectly with HughesNet or Viasat satellite internet.

Add Internet to Your DISH Plan

For local DSL, cable, or fiber internet, DISH Network partners with Frontier. Frontier offers bundles with DISH TV service at reasonable prices, though availability can vary with location. If Frontier isn’t an option for you, check out satellite internet. It’s available pretty much anywhere.

Add Internet to Your DIRECTV Plan

DIRECTV mainly partners with its parent company AT&T to offer internet access. CenturyLink internet also offers bundles with DIRECTV. Both AT&T and CenturyLink offer DSL and fiber plans, depending on where you live. Again, if you live off the beaten path, satellite internet might be the best option for you.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet is the catch-all option for adding internet to DISH and DIRECTV. HughesNet and Viasat are both compelling options that are available basically anywhere DISH and DIRECTV are. HughesNet plans start at around $59.99 per month.

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The Verdict

In the end, choosing between DISH and DIRECTV comes down to whether or not you’re a sports fan. If you are, DIRECTV has more sports channels, plus the exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which is hard to say no to if you live for game day. If sports aren’t a huge deal for you, DISH is probably the way to go. It still offers a similar channel selection—including several sports channels—and a much better DVR, which might just push it over the finish line first for some people.

What do you think? If you have a preference between DISH and DIRECTV, let us know in the comments! We’re always up for hearing more about what these providers are like to live with.

FAQs about Satellite TV

We said a lot of stuff already, but sometimes that’s just not enough. For those who still have burning questions about the great big world of satellite TV, you’re not alone. Here are some questions we get asked all the time.

What is satellite TV?

Satellite TV is television service where the signal is beamed from satellites in orbit to a satellite dish at your home. Most TV services operate with location-based services that limit their availability. Satellite TV, on the other hand, is available pretty much anywhere you can get a clear view of the sky, since the signal literally comes from space. It’s pretty cool. Really the only signal issues you have to worry about with satellite TV are related to weather. A fierce bought of snow or rain has the potential to temporarily interrupt your signal.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet operates on the same principle as satellite TV: the signal is beamed from stationary satellites. Satellite internet is subject to more latency than traditional cable or DSL internet because it has to travel through the atmosphere to reach your home. It’s an excellent option if you live out in the middle of nowhere because it requires no infrastructure besides the dish antenna. It’s not the fastest service in the world, but it’s certainly better than nothing. It’s strongest trait is its widespread availability. No other tech type is as capable of getting you online in rural areas.Learn more about satellite internet.

Which satellite TV provider is the best?

It depends on what you want. We recommend DIRECTV for sports fans and DISH for everyone else. DIRECTV has the exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET, but DISH offers a better DVR, excellent channel selection, and affordable prices.

What’s the difference between DIRECTV and DISH?

Here’s the basics of what DIRECTV offers:

  • More packages to choose from
  • Better sports programming
  • A higher channel count

And here’s the basics of what DISH offers:

  • More consistent package prices
  • A more powerful DVR
  • Cheaper plans overall

(This is a good place to start, but we’ve got a lot more to say about this matchup, which you can read in detail above.)

Who’s the best satellite internet provider?

It’s basically a toss-up between HughesNet and Viasat. HughesNet offers lower prices, whereas Viasat has the faster speeds. The provider that’s the best fit for you just depends on what you need from your service. To get all the details, check out our full review.

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