For a while now, DIRECTV has been recognized as THE technological leader in the TV industry. From advanced on-screen guides to award-winning iPhone apps, that reputation is certainly well-deserved. In their latest product launch -- the Genie whole-home DVR -- they're going squarely after DISH's popular Hopper with Joey system. Here, we'll introduce you to Genie's key features and compare it to Hopper.
1) Connect your entire home with ONE DVR
Thanks to Genie's new RVU-Enabled technology, one primary receiver turns every TV in your home into an HD DVR hub (where you can play, record, pause and delete programs). This is probably Genie's flagship feature and makes setup and usage incredibly easy, especially in homes with challenging layouts.
vs Hopper - as discussed in our Hopper review, DISH requires one central DVR and accessory Joeys for each additional TV. They sync up and communicate with each other but as with most networks, the more moving parts (DVRs), the more potential issues...and there have been a few reported with the Hopper. Advantage: Genie
Update: to maximize connectivity under high broadband (or multi-recording) conditions, a Genie mini (wireless or wired) now gets connected to every TV in your home network. New TVs with "DIRECTV Ready" built-in (most of the latest Sonys and Samsungs) still don't require a Genie mini for each additional TV, however.
2) Simultaneously Record ANY FIVE shows
Due largely to the RVU syncing, Genie lets you record up to 5 different shows at once, all in HD. That's one for each of the different TVs in your Genie network (again, only your primary TV actually has the main Genie box, the rest you control via remote). With 1 TB (terabyte) of hard drive space, you can store up to 200 hours of HD programming, 800 hours of SD.
vs Hopper - thanks to a plethora of tuners, the max number of concurrent recordings Hopper can support is a whopping 16; each additional TV requires a Joey. Advantage: Hopper
3) Automatically Record shows from ANY channel, anytime
When it comes to personal recording, Genie gives you more options. It automatically recommends new shows based on your viewing preferences, much like Netflix. Even better, it pre-records them so you can try them out immediately. If you want more of the show, simply have Genie record the entire series with one press of a button.
vs Hopper - with PrimeTime Advantage, DISH was the first to introduce this type of pre-recorded feature but it's restricted to the top four networks (NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS) and only works during primetime (8-11 pm). Advantage: Genie
4) If you show up late, "Start Over"
This is a minor but potentially very helpful feature. Basically, if you show up late to one of your shows and didn't record it, Genie lets you start from the beginning (thanks to its auto-recording). Never be in the dark after missing the first few minutes of a movie again!
vs Hopper - no other DVR lets you "Start Over" from any channel AND at any time of day. As mentioned above, PrimeTime Advantage only covers the top four networks. Advantage: Genie
5) Skip commercials 30 seconds at a time
Genie lets you skip commericals with one click of your remote; each time, you'll jump 30 seconds ahead. For what it's intended to do, it's not much more helpful than forwarding at 2-3X speed. Still, it can be convenient in certain situations.
vs Hopper - simply turn on the AutoHop feature and it'll automatically skip EVERY commercial for you. By a good amount, this is Hopper's biggest win over Genie. The only caveat is a legal one. Advertisers are taking DISH to court for entirely bypassing their commercials. It'll probably be tied up in litigation for a while so it's anyone's guess whether the feature sticks around. Enjoy it while you can. Advantage: Hopper
6) Interactive Program Guide
With every update to Genie's core hardware and software, its program guide has gotten incrementally better. The pre-Genie menu was already pretty good, but the Genie's channel sorting, 1-touch recording and intuitive menu system is, in our opinion, simply unrivaled. Overall, the Genie's user experience and interactivity takes a solid DVR system to the next level.
vs Hopper - DISH has made major strides with its program guide, including the full integration of Netflix into Hopper's menu...it still doesn't quite keep up with Genie, at least just yet. Advantage: Genie
Taking everything into account, the new Genie DVR considerably ups the ante in the high-end DVR race. Not only does it introduce or improve upon a handul of features, but it gets it done with better aesthetics, both off and on-screen. When you're adding technology, that's tough to pull off. Deal-wise, DIRECTV is looking to attract a whole new set of customers with the Genie and that's usually good news for potential subscribers. As of this writing, if you sign up for a qualifying package, DIRECTV will upgrade you to the Genie for FREE. Check out the top Genie offers or learn more below.