Is the Hopper 3 the world’s most powerful DVR? CableTV is going to find out.
The Verdict | Main Features | Hardware | Mini-Clients | User Interface | TV
What is a Hopper?
The Hopper 3 is a whole-home DVR system from DISH that allows recorded and live programming to be streamed or played back on up to seven TVs. Referred to by Wired as “the most ludicrously powered cable box ever,” the Hopper 3 has garnered a plethora of industry awards, including Best of CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2016. But is DISH’s Hopper 3 worth the hype? Let’s break down the details.
But first, find out if satellite TV service from DISH is a good fit for your household.
Hopper 3 vs. the Competition
|Provider||Simu. Recordings||Storage||Hours of HD/SD||Cost/month|
|Hopper 3||DISH||16||2 TB||500/2,000||$15.00/month|
|The Genie (HR-44)||DIRECTV||5||1 TB||200/800||$15.00/month|
|TiVo T6||RCN/DIRECTV||6||1 TB||150/1,000||$9.95/month|
|Quantum Multi-Room DVR||Verizon Fios||12||1 TB||200/800||$26.00/month|
Data effective as of 2/23/2017.
Hopper 3: The Verdict
It’s hard to argue that you don’t need a Hopper 3. The price is on point with the competition, so you get much more for much less. But if you’re not on board with having DISH as your satellite TV provider, that’s a deal breaker. You can’t use the Hopper 3 with any other cable TV provider. And DISH TV packages—while generally a great value with a high channel count—do come with some downsides. Things like fewer HD channels than the competition and the weather-related outages that occasionally come with satellite service can make DISH a less attractive TV provider.
Want to find out if TV service from DISH is a good fit for your household? Use our Zip Finder to pull up packages and reviews for providers like DISH available in your area.
- Record, play back, and stream in 4K HD
- Store more than 2 TB (2,000 GB) of data
- Record and store up to 500 hours of HD/2,000 hours of SD programming
- Record up to sixteen shows at once
- Stream live and recorded programming on up to seven TVs with the Joey
Want to know more about what features to look for in a DVR? See our DVR Buyers Guide.
Stats for the Hopper 3
Skim through the complete stats on the Hopper 3 below to decide if it’s the whole-home DVR system you’ve been searching for.
- Hopper 3: 11.4″ (width) x 16″ (depth) x 2″ (height)
- Joey: 7.5″ (width) x 6.2″ (depth) x 0.06″ (height)
- Coaxial digital
- Optical digital
- Component video
- Composite video
- 3 USB ports (front and back)
- 2 Ethernet ports
- eSATA port
- $15 per receiver
- $7 per Joey
Visit Amazon to see the Hopper 3’s current pricing, equipment specifications, customer reviews, and more.
Hardware for the Hopper 3
Are you thinking about getting a Hopper 3, but still not convinced it’s as great as the hype suggests? We’ll break down each part of this whole-home DVR system, including details about the equipment hardware, and compare it to competing products like the Genie. Our goal is to give you a sense of what’s superior and what’s pretty standard about the Hopper 3 so you can decide if all that powerful technology is worth the price tag.
The Box for the Hopper 3
The Hopper 3’s glossy black box has flatter sides than its predecessor, with two front LED-lit indicators and a red band accent that runs along the front of the box. A flip-down door hides basic controls and ports, but the best part of the Hopper 3 is what’s tucked away inside the unit: this updated DVR has one of the fastest processors available on the market, a Broadcom BCM7445 quad-core ARM. All that power enables the Hopper 3 to offer unprecedented storage capacity and the ability to power up to four streams in 4K HD.
DISH has long been an industry leader when it comes to advanced technology and equipment, and the Hopper 3 is no exception. In addition to a powerful processor, the Hopper 3 has more ports and outputs than any other DVR on the market. And, as you might expect, the sixteen tuners of the Hopper 3 run circles around the competition and eliminate any concerns about programming conflicts. The downside? You’ll need plenty of mini-clients, otherwise known as Joeys, to relay signal to other TVs in your home. Unfortunately, the Hopper 3 tops out at six Joeys, just short of other competitors’ DVRs that allow up to eight connected TVs.
If you’re relaying programming to other rooms in your home, you’re going to need some help. And in this case, good things come in small packages. Meet the 4K Joey, DISH’s mini-client unit that serves up signal to other TVs in your home. Each Hopper 3 DVR can handle up to six Joeys, and DISH’s newest version is 4K capable. These slim gadgets are supported by Bluetooth and can be mounted on the wall in order to keep a low profile. The only drawback to these little beauties is the steep price tag, which hovers in the $150-per-Joey range—ouch! But you can keep it simple and rent each Joey with your DISH TV subscription for just $7 per month.
The Remote for the Hopper 3
When DISH rolled out the Hopper 3, it also updated the remote. And while tech blogs gushed over the DVR, reviews on the remote were less enthusiastic. This updated version of the remote is smaller, dominated by a square box with a keypad that takes up most of the top on the handheld device. OTTO Technology powers this voice remote that allows you to control the menu via spoken commands. This remote, like the previous model, is connected by a radio signal, so line of sight isn’t necessary.
There are some new features that are generating buzz, like the find-your-remote function that allows it to signal its location from the bowels of your couch. And, as many electronics opted to do this year, DISH’s Hopper 3 plans to incorporate Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant, in future models. DISH estimates Alexa will come online and enable integrated voice commands with Echo Dot as early as this spring.
User Interface for the Hopper 3
We’ve highlighted the hardware, so let’s move on to the software. What is the user interface for the Hopper 3 and what can you expect from your viewing experience?
In short, you’ll be impressed. In addition to enabling you to watch 100% of your live and recorded TV from any device, anywhere, the Hopper 3 also provides seamless integration with your favorite apps, along with some of the most-coveted and cutting-edge features on the market.
The Guide for the Hopper 3
The guide is the hub of DISH’s interface, and with the Hopper 3, you’ll notice some very specific changes. The blue screens have been updated to reflect brand coloring, with an emphasis on black and white menus with red accents that are easier to read. The guide incorporates nested menus that allow you to view and search easily according to genre, show, and actors, pulling information not just from the current programming guide, but also from your recordings. Parental controls are easier to set, integrating ratings from Common Sense Media to help you make informed viewing decisions regarding issues like violence, sex, language, and educational value.
The Hopper 3’s updated menu also integrates popular streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora, allowing viewers to quickly search for 4K Ultra HD programming across a wide variety of sources. Previous reviews of the Hopper 3 indicated there were some delays in using the guide as the processor struggled to serve up so much content, but the new equipment with updated specs seems to have eliminated those delays.
Recordings and Storage for the Hopper 3
With over 2 TB (2,000 GB) of storage, DISH’s Hopper 3 is sure to keep any entertainment junkie happy. You can stuff your library to bursting with over 500 hours of HD or 2,000 hours of SD programming and still have room for more with a USB 3.0 port that allows connection to external storage. And, seriously, sixteen shows at once? If you still have a scheduling conflict at that point, you’re simply trying too hard. These storage and recording capacity specs are nearly double the competition, blowing away the rest of the industry and setting a clear precedent for innovation.
But here’s the real question: do you really need all of these recording and storage capabilities? Probably not. But if you have a 4K HD TV, it’s a good investment that will put you in a better position for the future of TV, which will surely need exactly what the Hopper 3 is packing.
Watching TV with the Hopper 3
Stunning storage specs aside, what really matters is the view. Just how good is watching TV with the Hopper 3? In a word, fantastic. DISH was the first to pilot the “auto-hop,” which allows your DVR to automatically skip through commercials. This feature has revolutionized recorded TV, and DISH sweetens the deal with the ability to play back recorded programming and live TV on any device, anywhere. Throw in the four-channel-multi-view function referred to as the “sports bar,” and you’ve got a recipe for some of the best entertainment options out there.
For more reviews of other DVRs and TV equipment, visit CableTV’s equipment review section.
Want to upgrade to the Hopper 3 or explore the benefits of DISH? Use our provider tool to determine which packages are available in your area.