What's New, What's Not
From the outside, the
Hopper With Sling looks just like the old
box, with the exception of a new logo on the front panel and different color scheme
on the remote. These similarities extend to the insides of the Hopper as well, as
it packs the same sprawling 2 terabytes of storage space, three tuners, and the
ability to connect multiple Joeys, which are smaller satellite boxes that offer
multi-room viewing. The on-screen interface is the same too. Where things get different:
The Hopper With Sling sports a new Broadcom 7425 SOC with 2GB of RAM, more than
twice as much as the Broadcom 7420 chip in the original Hopper, and you now get
built-in Wi-Fi, but these are the only non-Sling upgrades you'll notice.
For a detailed look at the Hopper With Sling's basic, non-place-shifting features,
check out our full review of last year's model.
When you load a Web browser or download the iOS Dish Anywhere
app, the Hopper With Sling starts to really shine even when it's not
in the same room. This is where the DVR's built-in Sling
capabilities come in. Thanks to
Sling Media's technology, you can watch
Dish Network television from anywhere on your iPad,
device, or Web browser. The effect is the same as using a dedicated Slingbox
$298.00 at Buydig.com or the
Dish Network Sling adapter
with the company's previous DVRs, except it's integrated into the set-top box so
you don't have to set up infrared blasters or run cables among various devices.
It's all internal, and it's much easier to get working; if the Hopper With Sling
is connected to your local network and cable, you're ready to "sling"
media to your offsite computer or mobile devices.
While it uses the same SlingPlayer technology found
in Sling Media's apps, everything is handled through Dish Network's interfaces,
whether through the Dish Anywhere Web site or the Dish Anywhere iOS or Android apps.
This is particularly nice, because the Dish apps are free, unlike the SlingPlayer
apps. I loaded streaming television from the Hopper With Sling to my third-generation
Apple iPad $532.99 at Amazon, my Samsung Galaxy S III $249.99 at Amazon Wireless,
and to my Chrome Web browser on my computer with little issue. I even streamed television
from the Hopper in the Lab to my iPad at home.
The Dish Anywhere site and apps are a combination of SlingPlayer and a cable or
satellite provider's on-demand and programming guide apps. You can access the program
guide to see what's on, set shows to record, and tune to live television on any
channel. Program guide and remote DVR control has been a feature for many cable
and satellite services for a few years, but the live TV is a new integrated feature,
and it works great. I streamed live television from the Hopper With Sling to my
various devices with a slight drop in picture quality (depending on the connection;
the video stream is dependent on both the Hopper and the device or computer's connection
speeds). Because the Hopper With Sling has to change its tuner setting to the channel
you want to watch and then stream the video to your computer or mobile device, it
can take five to ten seconds to see the channel change, but it's functional. The
previous Hopper provided similar functionality, but it required the optional Sling
Adapter. The Hopper With Sling lets you place-shift live TV out of the box.
Transfer Your DVR Shows to Your iPad for Offline Viewing
Besides watching live TV remotely, you can transfer recordings from your DVR to
your iPad for watching offline through the free Hopper Transfers
app. The app tells the Hopper With Sling to convert the shows you designate
to a format you can watch on your iPad, and then copies them over. The convert/transfer
process can take a long time depending on the quality of your connection. It took
more than an hour to transfer a 30-minute episode of Scooby Doo in my tests, but
if you set up a queue of videos overnight to catch up on the next day, it's very
handy. The transferred video quality can vary, though, and it won't likely be as
good as the native recording on the DVR itself. Also, you can only transfer a recording
to your iPad once, presumably because of copy protection concerns. But despite these
flaws, it's still an excellent feature, and the best implementation we've seen.
TiVo, for example, requires a $130 add-on box,
TiVo Stream $129.99 at Crutchfield, to gain this functionality.
Dish Network Hopper With Sling takes
the excellent Hopper satellite set-top box and makes it even better by adding Sling
Media-powered place-shifting and DVR transfers to your iPad. It packs a staggering
array of features into a single box that comes free with a Dish Network subscription
package, and lets you watch satellite TV programming at home or anywhere you have
an Internet connection. It easily earns our enthusiastic recommendation.