Dish Hopper 3 Satellite DVR Review

PRICE $15/month

16 built-in tuners
Supports Netflix 4K UHD content
Non-backlit remote

In one simple-to-operate device, the Hopper 3 combines the best of satellite TV—including 4K support—with the most compelling aspects of internet streaming. When you also consider its extensive multiroom distribution capabilities, there’s not another home entertainment device that can match the category-bending Hopper 3.

If the new satellite receiver/DVR from Dish, the Hopper 3, were indeed merely a new satellite receiver/DVR, the chances of us reviewing it would be between slim and you’ve got to be kidding me. After all, this is the age of internet streaming and cord cutting—and linear TV is just soooo last century. Since this is actually a genuine review of the Hopper 3, I guess it’s not a spoiler to say that there’s more to this third-generation, whole-home satellite DVR from Dish than time-shifting network broadcasts.

There’s no short-and-sweet way to describe the Hopper 3. Yeah, at its core, it’s a satellite TV receiver with a built-in DVR—but it’s a whopper when compared with Dish’s past Hoppers. It has more tuners than you can shake a remote at…extensive use of internet connectivity…Netflix integration, including in universal search results…whole-home A/V distribution capabilities…access to TV and movie trailers for on-demand and in-theater titles…and a slew of other features already available in the Hopper, such as the Dish Anywhere app and online integration. The Hopper 3 has so much going for it, it almost needs a product category all its own. Dish calls the Hopper 3 an “entertainment hub” for the whole house. Considering all the entertainment it has access to, I think it’s better described as a weapon of mass distraction.

If You Come to a 4K in the Road…
I purposely didn’t mention the Hopper 3’s support for 4K UHD in the laundry list of features above because 4K support isn’t that much of a surprise. If the Hopper 3 didn’t include 4K, no one would pay attention to it, regardless of its other just as compelling features. Besides, Dish had already announced, late last year, the pending release of the 4K Joey, a receiver with 4K support that can be added to systems with a Hopper 2 or a Hopper 3. Now that both models are shipping, Dish sent a Hopper 3 and a 4K Joey for review. Each supports up to 4K, 60-Hz, 10-bit video, H.264 and H.265 decoding, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, and is compatible with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. Regardless of the specs, however, 4K UHD video support is only as good as the amount of 4K content available to watch. So Dish has made good use of their connections with the TV networks and movie studios to ink a number of 4K content agreements, including with Sony Pictures, the Orchard, and Mance Media.


That’s not all the 4K content, though. The Hopper 3 also supports Netflix’s 4K TV and movie offerings. (You do have to subscribe to a Netflix plan that includes Ultra HD content. No free 4K rides here.) While the total amount of 4K content certainly ain’t great from any source yet, the Hopper 3’s combination of titles from both Dish’s and Netflix’s 4K treasure troves provides more choices than many of the alternatives. In case you’re wondering, Amazon Video isn’t supported, so you won’t be watching Breaking Bad in 4K through the Hopper 3 anytime soon. Some happier news is that support for YouTube is “coming soon.”

It’s worth pointing out that Netflix selections (SD, HD, and 4K), as well as most of Dish’s own video-on-demand titles, stream over your internet connection—not via the Dish satellite—which means you’re going to need a seriously robust internet connection to successfully stream 4K content without numerous breaks for buffering. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for your rental to download to the DVR before you can watch it uninterrupted. If you suffer under the oppressive yoke of a data cap, be aware that a two-hour-long 4K movie can eat up as much as 14 gigabytes of data, almost an entire month’s allotment for some ISP subscription plans. Thankfully, Dish preloads some of their popular 4K (and HD) titles onto the Hopper 3’s hard drive via the satellite feed. Those titles are available to rent and watch instantly without affecting your data usage.

16 Tuners and a Battle of None
Satellite TV tuners are like condoms. When there’s not one available when you need it, you’re screwed…or not screwed…or, OK, maybe condoms aren’t the right comparison. But the important take-away here is that you can’t record anything being broadcast if you don’t have an available tuner. With 700,000 channels in the program guide from which to choose (all right, that’s an exaggeration, but there are a couple of hundred channels), it’s easy to find yourself using up lots of tuners with just a few remote control clicks.


Dish decided to fix that problem once and for all by including 16 tuners in the Hopper 3. If you’re thinking, “That’s a lot of friggin’ tuners,” you’re right: That is a lot of friggin’ tuners. Still, it’s not as extravagantly over the top as it seems. Remember that “entertainment hub” moniker? The “hub” refers partly to the fact that you can build an elaborate whole-home entertainment distribution system around the Hopper 3. By itself, the Hopper 3 connects directly (or through an A/V system) to one TV. But it supports up to six different connected Joey client receivers, including the standard Joey, the Wireless Joey, and the new 4K Joey. That’s a total of seven interconnected rooms that can share content or play different content simultaneously. Those Joeys, by the way, don’t include built-in tuners. Instead, each one relies on a separate tuner in the Hopper 3 for viewing live TV. A maxed-out, all-on-live-TV Hopper 3 system with six Joeys requires seven of the Hopper 3’s no-longer-excessive total of 16 tuners—and that’s not counting tuners that might be needed for timer recordings going on concurrently.

If you feel cheated having idle tuners, don’t worry. In Sports Bar Mode, the Hopper 3 will grab programs—on the fly, in real time—from four different sources (including tuners, DVR recordings, and streaming movies) and display them, with one source’s feed in each quadrant, simultaneously on your main TV’s screen. Think of it as “picture next to picture above picture next to picture” or “side by side times two.” If you have a 4K Ultra HDTV, each quadrant is displayed in 1080 resolution. People who can’t be bothered to help out the TV manufacturers and buy new 4K UHD sets to replace the perfectly good 1080p HD sets they already own will see only 540 resolution in each quadrant.

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jhanken's picture

We have had the Hopper 3 and one Joey for several months now, we love the feature set and interface, the remote is great, picture great. The only issue we have is a bad one though, frequent freezes. Pause and rewind will simply stop responding for seconds up to a few minutes at a time. Super frustrating when watching sports when pause won't pause and the thing won't skip back when you tell it to. I think the problem is getting better, probably due to patching.