DISH Network Review
Although it’s not a true “streaming service”, we do suggest DISH network to some of our readers as the best choice for them when they “cut cable”. It’s a fine line to tread by suggesting DISH as an alternative to cable. However, they do offer some ridiculously good offers that sometimes makes them the right option for cord cutters. Before we go any further in this DISH review, we want to make it absolutely clear that DISH IS A CONTRACT BASED SERVICE. You cannot get a DISH subscription without a 2 year contract so please, only use it as your cable alternative if you’re interested in seeing your contract through. Ending the contract early is a headache and comes with cancellation fees that will quickly undo any savings you may have found by choosing it.
DISH Network Packages and Pricing
DISH Network’s packages are some of the best name packages that we’ve reviewed on this site. Compared to Sling TV’s color scheme and DirecTV Now’s random phrases like “Live a Little”, seeing the packages have numbers that relate them to one another is a great reprieve. The packages and prices that DISH offers are:
|Package||Price with Offer||Normal Price||Channel Count|
|America's Top 120||$59.99 /mo||$79.99 /mo||190|
|America's Top 120+||$69.99 /mo||$84.99 /mo||190+|
|America's Top 200||$79.99 /mo||$94.99 /mo||240+|
|America's Top 250||$89.99 /mo||$104.99 /mo||290+|
Although we like their naming convention, as you can tell it’s not quite perfect. I like to imagine that the packages were named that way when the channel count lined up with the number, but who knows. Either way, you’re getting more channels than the name would imply.
The Price with Offer column contains the numbers that actually matter. If the prices cost as much as their original list value, we probably wouldn’t have bothered to even write this review. However, the offers make DISH a really good value if you’d like a good amount of channels even without a cable subscription.
If you’ve recently cancelled your cable subscription you’re probably familiar with how these offers typically go. When you start your subscription you get a fantastic “new customer” offer. It offers free this and extra that and you have no complaints with the service (we’re pretending here). Then, after a year of being a loyal customer and paying your bills on time every month, they repay you by hiking your rates for the second year of your contract. DISH doesn’t follow that same business model. They offer the discounted price at the time of signup and honor it for the full duration of your 2 year contract. Although we still advocate for no contracts at all, at least DISH tries to be fair about it.
Although the DISH Network Packages are great offers if you watch a lot of channels, they’re nfot perfect for everyone. The entire reason this website exists is because so there are so many options for different packages that it’s almost impossible to find the right one. DISH has heard plenty of complains about their standard package size and has experienced extraordinary growth in with the Sling TV service by offering al la carte TV options. Recently, they’ve started to offer a similar package with a DISH subscription called the DISH Flex Pack.
Starting at $46.99 a month, the DISH Flex Pack lets you build your own package. While it’s not as al la carte as Sling, it’s a fantastic option if the “America’s Top 120” package has a little bit too many channels for your liking. The starting option comes with 50 channels including CNN, USA, Discovery, and plenty of other favorites. From there, you can choose whether or not you want to add on smaller packages that include local news channels, kids channels, national sports, and more. The packages range from their $4.00 Outdoor Pack to HBO for $15. It’s quite easy to find yourself adding channels that raise the price over the “America’s Top 120” package, so make sure that you’re not paying more for no reason!
One good thing about DISH is that it only costs you the monthly price. Even DISH’s popular streaming service Sling TV (yes they’re owned by DISH) requires you to purchase additional hardware to use it. DISH includes free standard installation for the hardware you need when you start your contract. In addition you get a Smart HD DVR and free voice remote.
DISH also includes another heavy hitter that helps to offset some more of the cost. DISH includes 3 free months of premium channels with its packages. The premium channels include are HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, and the DISH Movie pack. Considering that each of these channels individually cost between $5 and $15, it’s quite a good deal for the first three months. You would think that after the three months are over you have the option to add these channels on to your service. Technically, when the three months are over you have the option to NOT add them to your service. To put it simpler, you WILL be charged for these premium channels are the first three months are over regardless of how often you actually watch them. If you have their America’s Top 120 package and expect a $59.99 bill at the end of month four, but you didn’t take the time to call or cancel the premium channels, it might come as a shock to see an extra $55 tacked onto your bill. For a service that guarantees your package price for 2 years, it comes across as an extra shady tactic and a way to milk subscribers.
Unless you’re watching every single one of the premium add-ons we recommend cancelling after the three free months are up. There are plenty of ways to HBO without cable and the same is true for the other channels. In fact, adding HBO to your DISH subscription costs exactly the same as HBO’s standalone streaming service but includes far more commercials.
One thing that DISH is doing correctly is their DVR offerings. With each package, you’ll get a free Hopper Duo DVR for two TVs. However, we think it’s prudent to mention the option to upgrade one of your DVRs for an extra $5 a month. This upgrade will get you the recently released Hopper 3 DVR which is one of the best in the industry. It lets you record up to 16 shows at the same time and offers 2,000 hours of recorded content. While it doesn’t compare to YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR, recording 16 shows at the same time is a little mind boggling. I can’t even think of 16 shows that I would record that run at the same time of the year let alone at the same time on live TV! If you do find 16 shows, you should have plenty of room to store them. Although the storage space isn’t technically unlimited, who’s actually going to watch 2,000 hours of recording shows anyway? Unless you have three months to binge-watch TV 24/7, the Hopper 3’s 2,000 hours should be more than enough.
But what would 2,000 hours of recorded content be if they weren’t recorded in 4K ? One of the biggest changes that came with the Hopper 3 is the ability to stream and record 4K video. Although there’s not much 4K content available at the moment, more channels are starting to offer 4K and that number can only increase from here. The Hopper 3 also upgraded performance a lot and it’s particularly noticeable within the search function. The smaller 4K Joey receivers that you add to your secondary TVs has also experienced a large speed increase. The Joey doesn’t have a tuner of it’s own, but the Hopper 3 is able to stream four channels simultaneously. You’ll still need to link everything with coaxial cable if you’re looking for 4K content though because DISH’s wireless Joey doesn’t support 4K streaming yet.
The Hopper DVRs (including the new Hopper 3) allow you to skip commercials on any recorded shows. There’s a single button on the remote that will skip directly to the end of the commercials so you don’t have to play the whack a mole game of stopping your fast forward button. A lot of people record live TV shows and start watching them 5-10 minutes after the show starts in order to skip the commercials. If you’re used to Netflix binging, you’re probably used to commercial free viewing experiences. The single button skip function really helps to make DISH feel less like a cable subscription and more like you’ve cut the cord.
Use Amazon Alexa with Dish
If you couldn’t tell from the section above, we’re fans of the Hopper 3. To sweeten the deal even more, DISH added Amazon Alexa integration to the latest Hopper. If you already find yourself asking Alexa to read you an audio book, turn on music, or adjust your lights, you’ll love the full integration into the DISH network. Alexa is able to help search for a specific show, genre, or actor; pause or rewind a TV show; and then turn your TV off when you finish.
Using voice recognition software to improve the search functionality on streaming services isn’t groundbreaking. In fact, DISH’s own remote control included with the hopper allows for voice control. Even if the voice feature might be a little redundant, it’s nice to see DISH embracing technology and striving to improve their user experience. Alexa’s integration is able to offer a bunch of cool but not incredibly useful features for DISH subscribers at the moment, but we’re making sure to keep an eye on it and see if anything amazing comes out of it in the future. There’s so much potential with the platform and we’re excited to see where it goes.
DISH Anywhere is where we start to see DISH as an actual member of the cord cutting family. Their mobile app allows you take your DISH live and recorded content anywhere you go. It also acts as a mobile command center that gives you complete control over your Hopper DVR. You can use it to schedule recordings, delete shows, manage recording conflicts, change access settings, and more.
Once you download the app through iTunes or Google Play, you can link it your DISH account. Once linked, you’ll be able to watch live content while you’re connected to the internet, or download any of your recorded programs to watch later without internet. You can even download on-demand movies to watch when you’re traveling, camping, or anywhere else you can’t connect to the web.
Overall DISH Network review
DISH is a great option for someone who wants a similar experience to cable and doesn’t mind a contract. Their packages are fairly priced in terms of channels per dollar, but are a little bit bulky and expensive if you don’t consume enough content. We’ve voiced our distaste with DISH’s shady tactic for how they bill you once your “free” premium package ends, but other than that we’re happy with their billing. It’s nice to know that the price you sign up for is going to stick with you for the entire duration of your contract unless you choose to add to it.
The DISH Flex Pack is a step in the right direction for how media should be purchased, but it can quickly become an unnecessarily expensive package. Their customer service, installation technicians, and reliability are all strong reasons to choose DISH if their packages line up with your channel needs. If you’re a sports fan, DISH probably isn’t the best option for you, but it can be the right fit for a lot of other people.