DirecTV, DishNetwork or uVerse?
June 30, 2009 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Dish Network, DirecTV or uVerse?

We are a family of four living in suburban Austin, Texas. Our local cable service has changed hands two times in the last few years and is now owned by Suddenlink. We've had cable (with their provided DVR, a Motorola 6400 series) and internet with them for years, and have not been particularly unhappy until recently. With one of the buyouts, they removed some channels that we like (BBC America primarily) from our package and we really don't want to pay more for them.

But here's the big problem: I knew the DVR was not anywhere close to TiVo in functionality, but it did the job. In the last two weeks, however, they REPLACED the OS on the DVR (and cable box for our non-DVR TV, but that has less of an impact) and as a result, our DVR has lost some significant functionality and is practically unusable. That really pisses me off!

We're thinking of going elsewhere for TV and I would like your feedback.

NOTE: Our neighborhood was recently wired for AT&T uVerse, so that's an option, in addition to satellite.

Based on recent threads, it looks like MeFites generally prefer DirecTV over Dish, but Uverse is so new, I'm not seeing much about it on the green.

Here is some relevant info about us:
  • I'm not unhappy with my cable internet service; I don't see any reason to change it from Suddenlink unless there's a big bundling advantage
  • We have landline phone service with AT&T; we have tried Vonage and Suddenlink's VoIP but had voice quality problems (which may indicate that our internet service isn't that great; see first bullet item above)
  • We don't care a whit about sports on TV
  • We currently subscribe to basic cable + the big package of miscellaneous stuff: SciFi, Discovery, Comedy, TBS, etc., which is about what we would like to keep
  • We live by the DVR, so it's a must whichever way we go. Obviously, DVR usability is an issue
  • We get movies via NetFlix, so don't want to want to pay for premium movie channels
  • We watch primarily PBS, documentaries, some re-run sitcoms, etc.
  • We have one HDTV (with the DVR) where we do about 95% of our TV watching. We have a second, small analog TV in a study that hardly gets used for anything but gaming; we don't need a DVR for it
posted by tippiedog to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have had DirecTV for years now, and really like it, but have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for DirecTV to come out with a new TiVo. Last I heard it's now sometime next year.

(I also have cable Internet. It really, really annoys the cable company that I don't use them for TV as well, the installer tried to give me the hard sell.)
posted by JoanArkham at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2009

I've only ever had comcast and dish network - so let me say this.

I regret getting dish network.

Some big things:

You don't get "local on the 8's" on the weather channel. This might not seem like a big deal - but if your computer needs to be off because of storms, and for some reason the local stations aren't actively reporting on the weather - you are up a creek without a paddle in determining what's going on.

Their DVR software/OS sucks. Especially compared to comcast. It's more clunky. It's also less forgiving. You cannot watch one show while two record. You can only watch one of the shows that you are recording while a second records.

Also, if you want two tvs hooked up - you don't get two boxes, you get one box hooked up to two tvs and lose the ability to record two stations. If you want two boxes/dvrs, you need to fork over $99 right away and then a usage charge of another $5 a month.

They also charge you an additional $5 per box if that box is not hooked up to your phoneline (we have a landline, but there's only one jack in the entire house).

It all makes me wish I could go back to comcast. I can't - because I'm stuck in a contract that charges $10 for every month that we have left on it if we break it.
posted by royalsong at 2:12 PM on June 30, 2009

I really like my DirecTV service, and it seems to fit everything you're looking for (the DVR is actually really nice in the HD model). However, from what I've experienced of it, I do crave FiOS (can't get it in D.C.), and while I haven't heard much about uVerse, I do know that Verizon's particular brand of it is pretty sweet.

But, I can say you shouldn't be disappointed with DirecTV.
posted by General Malaise at 2:13 PM on June 30, 2009

With uverse the one DVR can be accessed by all TVs in the house. It's all TV over IP - the main box does the heavy lifting, the satellite boxes are just decoders. uverse can record up to four stream at once in SD, two in HD I believe, depending on the bandwidth in your local area.

Also, uverse home phone includes unlimited US & Canada long distance for only $20 or $30 which is a pretty good deal. They apparently include a local battery backup in the residential gateway to keep phone service up during blackouts.

I've been looking at uverse for home and will probably get it once I get some other wiring issues figured out. If you google "uverse forums" you'll find an AT&T based board and an independent one both of which have lots of info and stories about uverse installation and products.
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2009

DirecTV's DVR's are OK in my experience. I'd honestly rather have a Tivo, and like JoanArkham says it's coming soon. To be totally honest DirecTV's content choices really are quite good though I seem to recall hearing something about Dish having better HD.
posted by arimathea at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2009

Response by poster: I should add: HD is nice, but I'm not concerned about the number of HD channels we get.
posted by tippiedog at 2:48 PM on June 30, 2009

We've been DISH customers for over a decade now and are very very happy with their service. We chose them over DirecTV because they had a fewest number of sports channels bundled with their service. I think that difference has likely dissolved over the intervening years. What royalsong has to say about the service is true, although I'm not certain you get "local on the 8s" on the Weather Channel with DirecTV, either.

One advantage with using a satellite service is, if you move, getting the service to follow you is trivial and won't involve the same kind of contract-cancelation process you have with cable or FiOS.

Sit down with channel lists for all the services, start crossing off the channels which appear on all the services, and then you can decide based on what is not common between the lot.
posted by hippybear at 3:21 PM on June 30, 2009

Dish can be cheaper, but you'll get fewer channels. I'd sit down with Dish and Direct's channel line-ups and see who has the channels you must have. I have Directv with a dvr and like it fine. I've had them for around 7 years I guess and essentially any time I've had a gripe they've fixed it. I've threatened to leave once or twice and they've given me some freebies.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:23 PM on June 30, 2009

We use DirecTV and absolutely love it.

However! For DVR we use the last integrated Tivo box they sold, which is several, several years old, and only like 40gb or something (wouldn't be good for HDTV).

For a short period we "upgraded" to one of their newer models of DirecTV branded DVRs and absolutely hated it. Tivo is the golden standard in DVR usability.
posted by Precision at 5:30 PM on June 30, 2009

I have Dish Network and am out of the contract period with them, but:

I regularly record or tune into things that are listed on the guide but don't match up with what's actually on that channel. (This is mostly with certain channels, but it still sucks when I try to record a movie and get something unexpected). However, I do like the DVR itself, it works really well when everything's consistent.

To get EVERY channel in one of the premium packages with two receivers and two DVRs, I pay about $120/month and then pay extra for cable Internet. I plan on terminating this soon because of the cost alone; bundled service seems to be cheaper, and I am also considering Uverse.

Dish Network's customer service is based out of India now. Don't call the number for customer support EVER, unless you want to get frustrated. Try the online chat support instead if you decide to go with that; unfortunately you can't terminate your service that way. You have to call and they won't deal with anyone but you (this sounds great until your spouse/child calls and you're on a plane/missing/asleep in the car on a road trip with your brother, for example) and the customer service people hang up on them. Literally.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:55 PM on June 30, 2009

...I'm not certain you get "local on the 8s" on the Weather Channel with DirecTV...

With a DirecTV HD receiver you can get both "local on the 8's" and your local weather on demand. Just hit the red button on the remote & it'll bring up a screen with your local five day forecast with options for local radar and weather for five cities of your choosing.
posted by torquemaniac at 6:09 PM on June 30, 2009

Dish was fine for me until I moved and had to cancel. Their customer service really sucks. The thing is, you don't own the box or the dish, so when you cancel, they send a box to you to send the equipment back. If you're moving, they can't send the box to your new address until after the service ends. It took me three phone calls and three emails until they finally sent a box to the right address.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:16 PM on June 30, 2009

Make sure your wiring is up-to-spec for uverse and there's no weird/unknown drops or detours. Uverse is VDSL tech and quite sensitive to line noise. If AT&T re-uses the existing copper to bring it from the local fibre node into your house (likely unless it's very new construction where it uses fibre instead) then subtle things can go wrong. I spent a week trying to get uverse installed. Three techs, three different days, gradually escalating through the food chain. Eventually it seems that although all the testers checked out, and the parameters, and the line stats, several different DSL routers ("Residential Gateways" or "RGs") simply couldn't sync up properly.
posted by meehawl at 7:54 PM on June 30, 2009

I have just left DirecTV for FiOS, but my DirecTV service was good. It performed exactly as it should: I paid them every month, they downlinked channels to my satellite boxes. I never had any billing issues, but I also never used an installer as I've been with them for so long that self-installation (they drop ship you the equipment and you hire someone local or figure it out yourself) was the rule, not the exception.

Like Precision, I had DirecTiVos (DirecTV DVR with TiVo) and cannot stand DirecTV's DVRs. One of our big reasons for moving to FiOS is the ability to use the new TiVo HD. All the channels we want, no giving up the DVR greatness that is TiVo. That said, if you would like a couple of our DVRs (you will need to purchase new cards for them from DirecTV and activate at least one brand new box on your account to get started as a new customer), I would be happy to provide at no charge. MeMail me (I'm in Dallas) if you like and we can set up details.
posted by fireoyster at 10:16 PM on June 30, 2009

Response by poster: Meehawl: Thanks for sharing your experience with installing uVerse. I'm not sure what AT&T did when they enabled uVerse in our neighborhood, but they dug up each house's connection up by the street (and the contractors who did it broke many people's sprinkler systems. Grr.)

I went to AT&T's site last night, and their "AT&T U-verse U300 Triple Pack" bundle would cost us about $30 less per month than we're currently paying for cable and internet from Suddenlink and old-fashioned landline phone from AT&T, plus we'd get a few more semi-premium channels than we get now.

I'm a geek, but a conservative one. I'm not usually an eager early adopter, but we're thinking of taking the plunge and trying out uVerse. The cost savings of bundling is enticing.
posted by tippiedog at 6:48 AM on July 1, 2009

Response by poster: Follow-up: We got U-verse with the '300 Triple pack' mentioned above. Promotional price is $142/month. Goes up something like $25 after promotional period.

Installation took four hours, which didn't surprise me, but it was done by a 30-year AT&T employee who, my wife felt (she was home for the install), knew what he was doing.

When I got home that night, I had to call AT&T to get our web site username and password (either the installer didn't leave it or my wife didn't get it to me). I got a clearly North America-based CSR who was friendly and helpful.

After 10 days or so of use, I'm pretty impressed. We actually got a lot more channels than I realized and a lot more HD channels. The UI on the set-top boxes is very nice; it's cool to have the DVR functionality on both our TVs (now I want to replace our second TV--19-inch CRT--with a larger flat screen!

It's really clear that all three components--TV, internet, phone--were developed from the ground up as an integrated service.

Still waiting to see if they get the billing part right.
posted by tippiedog at 11:59 AM on August 12, 2009

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