Sound Advice: Satellite providers win TV battle

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 4, 2012 - 8:47 AM

Cable quality and service vary widely from company to company and region to region but satellite providers have excellent picture quality, value for money and hardware.

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Q My neighbor and I have cable, and he recently looked into getting satellite. The DirecTV rep told him that Comcast does not broadcast HD signals in 1080 and that the best you ever get with it is 720. According to the rep, all DirecTV broadcasts are in 1080. Is this true? What do you think of the various options? 

A Although picture quality varies widely among providers, the HDTV format is determined by the broadcaster, not the cable or satellite company. For example, ABC, FOX and ESPN broadcast in 720p, and CBS, NBC and most HD pay channels broadcast in 1080i.

Incoming signals are converted to the native resolution of your set. For example, if I have a 720p HDTV and am watching an NBC 1080i broadcast, the set-top box or the television will convert the incoming signal to 720p for viewing.

According to J.D. Power, the top- rated pay-TV providers are (alphabetically) DirecTV, Dish, Verizon FiOS and WOW (Wide Open West.) Individual consumers typically don't have a choice among competing cable companies but might have a choice among cable, FiOS or satellite. To see how providers in your area compare, go to www.jdpower.com and look under the Consumer Telecom tab.

Cable quality and service vary widely from company to company and region to region. A/V buffs rave about FiOS picture quality but don't seem as impressed by the hardware.

I prefer satellite. Both satellite providers have excellent picture quality, value for money and hardware.

I have been a happy Dish (www.dish.com) customer for more than 16 years. Earlier this year, I got its Hopper and Joey whole-house DVR system, and it has transformed my TV experience. Comparing an ordinary DVR with the Hopper setup is like comparing videotape recording with a DVR.

I can program the DVR from any room, and whatever I record is available on all the televisions in the house. The AutoHop feature automatically skips primetime commercials, and with 2 terabytes of space and three tuners it is unlikely you will fill the DVR or run into recording conflicts between favorite shows. The Hopper can automatically record up to six primetime programs simultaneously. SRS TruVolume fights volume fluctuations. You also can access your system remotely to view live or recorded content on your mobile device or computer.

DirecTV's whole-house DVR (www.directv.com) is called the Genie. At 1 TB, it has half the Hopper's recording capacity, but it has five tuners, vs. three for the Hopper. The Genie Recommends feature will suggest and record new programming based on your viewing habits, and you can view past episodes up to five weeks back. Tuned in late? You can restart programs at the beginning. SRS TruVolume is included and one Genie box works the whole house without additional boxes on each television.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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