HD DBS Receiver DISH Network
The press has complained about the lack of HDTV programs is too long. In fact, there are plenty of HDTV broadcasts now-enough to guarantee the purchase of HDTV, anyway. You just need to know where to look. In certain areas, you can get most of CBS’s prime time lineup,as well as various shows and movies from NBC and ABC. Almost anywhere in the country, there are at least two cable networks, Showtime and HBO, and one pay-perview channel that broadcast HDTV signals. Granted, there isn’t as much high-def programming as there is NTSC programming and you can’t get it from cable, but who needs cable when you can have satellite tv?
A division of EchoStar Communications, is a direct broadcast satellite distributor and competitor of the other DBS company, Direct TV, which is a division of Hughes Electronics.The two coexist rather well.DISH Networks current top of the line product, the Model 6000, is a DBS satellite receiver that can tune both standard definition and high definition satellite programming. This does, however, require the use of two different, small dishes, pointed in two directions. Neither Dish TV is included in the receiver’s relatively low price of $499. One dish, the Dish 500, points south and receives DISHNetwork core programming from two different orbital locations at 110 and 119 degrees,while the second dish points east and receives HDTV programming from the 61.5-degree orbital location. An add-on module (currently available but not used in this review) offers terrestrial analog NTSC and digital ATSC (HDTV) broadcast reception when connected to a roof top antenna. While the antenna requires signals to be actually transmitted in your local area, the satellite signal is available nearly every where.
On the software side,DISH Network offers hundreds of channels dedicated to your favorite cable programming and dozens of channels dedicated to music. In most major markets, you can even get local TV stations, as well. While DirecTV offers more sports programming, DISH Network offers as many or more movie channels and twice as many HDTV channels. OK, so twice as many means two more than the competition. DISH Network offers Showtime and HBO, a demo channel for retail displays, and a dedicated 24-hour pay-per-view movie channel. DirecTV offers only HBO and a second channel that displays demo material during the day for retailers and pay-per-view programs in the evening. Regardless, for high-definition-display-owning, non sports enthusiast movie lovers like me, the extra HD channels are a big bonus.
Connection options are abundant: dual A/V connectors with one S-video output, a component output, a D-Sub 15-pin output, an optical digital out-put, and a phone jack.
An additional bonus for high definition enthusiasts is the flexibility in output formats. While both regular and high-def satellite and terrestrial broadcasts can be output in the NTSC (480i) format, you can also output these signals in either of the HDTV formats (1080i or 720p). As is common, signals transmitted in one rate are up- or down converted to the designated output rate. The receiver has a non functioning menu setting to account for 16:9 or 4:3 displays. According to DISHNetwork, an automatic software upgrade should enable this function by the time you read this. There’s even a handy light on the front to let you know if you’re in the high-def or standard-def output mode.
The Model 6000 continues to impress with its arrangement of outputs. Dual audio/video connections with one S-video output allow NTSC signals to be sent to multiple places. As with other HD DBS receiver, these are dormant if you’re using the high-definition outputs, which can be a drag if you want to use the system in multiple rooms simultaneously or if you have a better-quality external video processor. There is an SD/HD button on both the front panel and the remote, which will toggle between the regular and high-definition outputs. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy to automate. I’d recommend leaving the unit in one mode or the other. Fortunately, you have the option of using either component (Y/Pr/Pb) or RGBHV (in the form of a VGA-style D-Sub 15-pin connector) outputs for high-definition signals, making the system compatible with all HD monitors. A simple computer-monitor breakout cable will convert the D-Sub 15-pin connector into an RGBHV signal. Note that the component connection outputs only high-def or upconverted standard-def signals, and it does so only when the receiver is switched to the HD mode. It doesn’t, at any point, output standard-def signals.
Other connections include an optical digital output that offers Dolby Digital (5.1 or 2.0) or PCM (two-channel) audio signals that can be sent to your receiver/surround processor. The satellite receiver had no trouble switching between the two digital formats as I changed channels. Other systems have a slight delay that can trip up some surround processors. High-def programs, however, were noticeably softer than regular channels. According to DISH Networks, Dolby Digital channels are output at a lower level to maintain the dynamic range supported by the format.
There’s also the requisite phone jack, which connects to DISH Networks central, thus allowing you to order pay-per-view programs. Finally, you’ll find only one satellite input, as the satellite signals from the various LNBs are routed through a small external box, preferably located near the dish.
The receiver also has two module ports on back for upgrades: one can be used with the optional 8VSB tuner cartridge, the other to support future technologies as they emerge. DISH Network has already proven their commitment to customers in the past with the high-definition upgrade module that was available for DISH Networks 5000 customers. While there’s nothing I can think of that you might need for now, it’s nice to know that the option is there.
Once things are connected, you’ll find the receiver fairly easy to use. The front panel provides all the necessary controls to run the system, so you won’t be stuck if you lose the remote. The handheld, multiunit controller, while not as intuitive as some, is still simple, once you get the hang of it. The remote uses the back panel’s UHF antenna to transmit RF commands, but it also works with the front panel’s IR receiver. The RF signal will go through walls and cabinet doors, which is great if the system will be used in multiple rooms, although I don’t recommend this. If you’re going to spend the money for the HDTV receiver, you might as well spend another $100 to $200 for a second receiver for the rest of the house. As I mentioned, it’s rather cumbersome to use this receiver for both SD and HD duty (you have to remember to push the button).
Depending on what mode you’re in, you’ll want to look for the aspect-ratio control. When displaying regular 4:3, standard-def images (upconverted or not) on a 16:9 screen, the receiver draws black bars on the sides of the image, which is far less annoying than the gray bars that many systems use, although the latter does help prevent uneven tube wear. Then again, you can add gray bars if you want. You can even crop or zoom in on 4:3 images to fill a 16:9 screen. The trick is finding the aspect-ratio button. A hint: Try the star key at the bottom left of the remote. This control doesn’t affect true high-definition signals. Unfortunately, there’s no adjustment for 16:9 signals that are sent to a 4:3 display. DISH Networks official are hoping to have a software update that satellite tv offers more control available by the time you read this.
Picture quality is what really matters, and in that regard the Model 6000 does very well. Regular and high-definition channels look crisp and clean, with bright and detailed images. Dark images show grain, noise, or what might just be compression artifacts, but not any less or more than the competition. Direct comparisons with Direct TV are admittedly difficult; we don’t know if the same source is being fed at the same level to both systems. I tried to match picture levels as best I could. Regardless, I’d say that you certainly don’t sacrifice picture quality with one system over another.
I would give DISH Network the nod for no other reason than that the Model 6000 doesn’t shift or squish the picture. This may seem an odd feature (antifeature?), but competitive DirecTV receivers have exhibited a retrace timing incompatibility that some displays can’t compensate for. The Model 6000 doesn’t seem to have this problem.
DISH Network has a definite success on their hands with the Model 6000 and has made a much-needed commitment to high definition television. Save for a few ergonomic hang-ups that are also all-too-common on competitive models, the receiver satellite tv providers an excellent way to tune-in a plethora of source material. This includes terrestrial analog and digital broadcasts, when used with the optional 8VSB tuner cartridge, and both standard- and high-definition satellite programming, when combined with the appropriate dishes. Because of the extra high-definition channels, flexible connections, and multiple output formats, you’ll begin to see the Model 6000 as a step above its competition.
• Component (Y/Pr/Pb) and RGB connectors output 720p or 1080i
• DISH Network offers both Showtime and HBO
* HD-DBS Receiver DISH Networks Model 6000