Which is truly better? Cable or Dish Network?
January 28, 2013 2:28 PM   Subscribe

One of the longest-running modern-day battles is that of Cable vs. Dish Network. Both seem to basically offer the same stuff. Most everything I read says Dish Network offers everything Cable does, except it's cheaper. Which is better and why? Does Dish Network really go out when it rains or is cloudy? Do you have experience with both and a compelling reason for one over the other? Thanks in advance.
posted by dep to Technology (23 answers total)
I have Dish and yes, it really does go out in storms. Hasn't happened when it's cloudy though. The only thing I have to compare it to is Fios, which was phenomenal and I would get if they had it where I live. But Dish is satisfactory -- I'm happy with it since it's the cheaper option, and I don't have a compelling reason to pay more when I don't have to.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2013

We had cable, and now we have Dish. Living in San Francisco, we have plenty of cloudy and rainy days (well, rainy at this time of year), but the only time I've seen it flicker or die - and it wasn't for long - is when we've had extraordinary storms with absurd gusts and torrential downpours. An ordinary rainstorm doesn't seem to affect it.
posted by rtha at 2:37 PM on January 28, 2013

Some cable companies don't carry the (HD) channels you want, or packages them in such a way that you have to pay a lot more for only one channel you actually want. I get PBS in HD over the air, where the local Cable Co only offers SD.

Check the pricing for the channels you want for both local cable and Dish, because local cable can vary greatly. Also, depending on where you live and what you want to watch, you can see if an HD antenna will get you what you want, for free. You can even make your own antenna.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on January 28, 2013

Yes, Dish does go out in rain, snow, and storms. My parents complain about it all the time, and wish they'd never switched. They live in East TN, not that far from you (according to your profile).
posted by kimdog at 2:42 PM on January 28, 2013

I've had both. Yes, Dish did go out whenever there was a heavy storm, thick clouds, etc.. Not often, but once in a while. On the other hand, cable goes out when some idiot hits a pole and takes a line down 10 miles from my house, it's a toss up.

Price out the packages you want, see who offers the best deal.

Also, you need line of sight from the dish, my last house had too much of a tree cover to use it...

The other thing to consider is, do you get a discount by combining cable TV, Internet, and Phone?
posted by HuronBob at 2:47 PM on January 28, 2013

I'm a DISH customer in Florida, where we tend to have our fair share of storms. If there is a torrential downpour, I do lose the signal. Typical storms don't seem to be a problem. YMMV., but I share rtha's experience.

I've been a DISH customer for about eight years. Other than the recent brouhaha with AMC (they gave me a free Roku and paid for season passes to AMC shows I watch), I've been satisfied. You might also want to take a look at DirecTV. We went with DISH for the international programming, but I understand sports fans with choose their satellite provider based on what sports packages are offered.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2013

I had Dish in Florida and it SUCKED! I mean SUCKED. I've had Comcast and I have U-Verse and I've had great experences with them. I wouldn't have Dish for free. Feh!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:07 PM on January 28, 2013

I had DISH or DirecTV from 1992 until about 3 months ago. I switched to Comcast to cut costs when I eliminated the land line phone and DSL.

I've called tech support at Comcast more in the last 3 months than I did in the 20 years I was with the satellite companies. I am not exaggerating. And the guide on my TV still says "TBD" for anywhere from 10% to 50% of the program listings, at all times.

I wish I was still on Satellite.
posted by COD at 3:12 PM on January 28, 2013

I would rather be locked in a room with a dozen screaming babies than ever deal with Comcast again. Their customer service is horrendous and their pricing is farcical.

I have had Dish in both Florida and California, and I have never been disappointed. Their packages are well priced, their customer service is spectacular, and I rarely experience outage issues - I watched a Roseanne marathon during one of the many hurricanes I lived through in Florida. I don't know what happens during earthquakes, and I hope to never find out!
posted by AlliKat75 at 3:24 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think a lot depends on your cable company -- they control a lot of different variables:
- customer support (obviously)
- what is available over the internet
- what equipment they provide to you (I have Comcast and I hate my Set-Top Box software, but not enough to switch)
- their "local plant" -- is the cable underground (like mine) or above ground (like HuronBob) as well as a bunch of other stuff that is required to get the TV channel into your house

Cable is a very Balkanized industry -- your area may be serviced by the massive Comcast or TimeWarner or little companies like Bend Broadband. Even within a big company like Comcast, product/service offerings and experience can vary a lot from region to region.
posted by elmay at 4:18 PM on January 28, 2013

I’ve had Dish so long I can’t even comment on the current state of cable, 15+ years at least, in CA and GA. It goes out if there is a really bad storm, maybe a couple times a year for anywhere from 15-30 minutes. There were no storms in CA that strong.

I think it depends on your signal strength to begin with. When you set it up you need to get a good alignment. If your signal is marginal to begin with it’s probably easier to knock out.
posted by bongo_x at 4:40 PM on January 28, 2013

I had dish about 4 years ago. It was awful.
posted by fifilaru at 4:42 PM on January 28, 2013

I can't comment on Dish, and it's been so long since I've have had cable I can't comment on it either, but I do have a DirecTV. One advantage to DirecTV is that either stations are the East Coast feed or there's both East and West Coast feeds for the same station, which means that if you're on the West Coast, you can get shows 3 hours earlier than those with cable.
posted by ShooBoo at 5:21 PM on January 28, 2013

If you're a heavy DVR user, I'd definitely recommend the Dish equipment over anything Comcast is currently offering.

Dish's HD DVRs are pretty freaking solid and can do some nice things, like stream to a second TV over your existing CATV wiring without laying ethernet or extra cables. Their new Hopper line of boxes are supposed to be pretty great too. And they own Slingbox.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:37 PM on January 28, 2013

I got DirecTV about 12 years ago, and chose it over Dish because Direct’s satellite is a little higher off the horizon and easier to see over the trees where I live. The funny thing is, I also had free access to standard cable from Time Warner but I was little wary of it, because it was like that when I moved in and I figured they would not be happy if they ever found out about it.

Long story short, I had both satellite and cable until a tree fell on the cable about six months ago. Before that the cable had more overall downtime than the satellite system, and this is in the stormy Southeast.
posted by Huplescat at 5:38 PM on January 28, 2013

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the satellite tv picture was better than standard cable... and DirecTV's on-screen programing guide left Time Warner's in the dust.
posted by Huplescat at 5:57 PM on January 28, 2013

It may not be relevant for you, but cable does good internet. I once had satellite internet and it was a poor service. We have DSL now but it isn't as fast as our Comcast (cable) internet was.
posted by anadem at 6:21 PM on January 28, 2013

We just switched from Comcast to Direct TV. The price difference is jaw-dropping. We pay $85ish, maybe $90 with all taxes for DSL, TV, and a landline. Comcast was charging us $185 for less - we only had 1 HD box, no DVR - we got a Genie with 1tb of storage, both tvs are in HD, etc. I only switched when we went in-person to the local Comcast office to see if we could get our bill down by dropping services and the rep was just fucking TERRIBLE, and a local friend told us they'd never had any issues with Direct TV even with bad storms.

It's. So. Much. Cheaper.

Internet's slower, but not enough to be really noticeable. We had DSL at our small business already, and I was streaming all kinds of stuff there without issue, so I knew it'd be fine for home use as well. Landline we only have because we have small kids and 911/reverse 911 is useful and it's just a part of the package. We are smitten with the dish, but haven't yet dealtg with any heavy storms. Fine during snow and wind and clouds, anyway. Not one interruption in 3 weeks.
posted by kpht at 6:29 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am an unabashed supporter of cable. It just has so much more bandwidth available than satellite, and IMHO, a much better picture quality. Any time I've watched satellite at someone's house, the "hd" signal was full of compression artifacts and other ugliness. Because they can call something HD if it has the resolution, but never mind how badly compressed it is. Now that cable has pretty much shed all of its analog offerings, the digital stuff looks so much better. (In olden times, there would be multiple conversions between digital and analog, and this made a lot of channels really ugly. Not anymore.) Also, cable is not allowed to recompress any of the over the air channels. They must pass it unmolested. Satellite does not have that restriction. If you can even get all your local channels to begin with.

I don't know what the current state of the art is, but in times past, you'd need complicated dishes with things like dual LNBs and possibly even multiple dishes to hit all the right satellites. And there is (was?) an issue with being able to watch certain channels on different TVs. If the satellite was tuned one way, you could only get channels available on that "band".

(And god help you if you choose u-verse and want to watch/record more than 2 or 3 HD channels at once. That was the worst picture quality I've ever seen...)

Now, that all said, Comcast has some terrible customer support. I've had their internet and cable for about 15 years, and in that time I've had probably 5 interactions with them. 2 of them were suicide inducing bureaucratic nightmares, and the rest were run of the mill calling a few times until someone who knows what they are doing answers the phone.

But the reliability of the service has been overall unbelievably good. For me. If you live in an area where the maintenance crews aren't as good, your experience will differ.
posted by gjc at 7:23 PM on January 28, 2013

We chose DISH over a local cable provider that was ridiculously expensive for a limited number of channels. We also looked at DirecTV (which we had in the past and loved) but chose DISH over both cable and DirecTV, as the savings over both were significant. Very satisfied with the picture quality (both HD and Standard Def), reception (no tiling or drops) and customer service. We have had no outages, even in heavy rain storms and have consistent satellite signal strength. We did not opt for their DVR service, but their technology looks fairly impressive. You did not ask about DirecTV, but its monopoly on the NFL Sunday Ticket package is a deal-clincher for some. Other than that, it came down to the price of their channel packages.

If you are satisfied with the DISH channel offerings vs. your cable system, I would not hesitate to go with DISH. We did and are quite happy with our choice. It's wonderful when a money-saving choice also delivers great quality and service.
posted by flyingrock at 5:44 AM on January 29, 2013

While dish can definitely go out/be interrupted in heavy weather, cable isn't pristine and rock-steady 24/7 either. It's not unusual to see pixelation and artifacting breaking across the picture. And, at least on Comcast, their HD service (which you must pay extra for) is down-sampled from broadcast HD. And their standard-def stream is even further down-sampled. The color dithering in the standard-def Comcast image is atrocious.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 AM on January 29, 2013

If you are a sports person, it REALLY sucks to have folks over and have dish go out during a big game during some rain.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:24 AM on January 29, 2013

I use Dish for TV, cable for Internet.

I used to use cable for both, but it priced out better this way, and I get a better deal on the multiple receivers (hopper and joey setup). Dependability works out the same. I've not had a T-storm issue lately, so it seems to come up when somebody runs into a power line. When I lived in a snow zone I had to clear the antenna now and then.

Internet on Dish isn't happening where I live, and anyhow, according to the Dish website, even if it were, the upload/download speed is not as good as cable.

Tech support for both is great, so no difference in that respect.
posted by mule98J at 11:11 AM on January 29, 2013

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