Originally Posted by Maximus_Bellum
I got lucky this past week and had Dish HD, Directv HD and Time Warner HD all hooked up at the same time to compare which is better in my neck of the woods... Here's a link to my findings
HD Cable vs. Dish Network vs. DIRECTV
The comparison is based on Time Warner Digital Cable with HD channel package (TW), Dish Network's HD (DN) package which included VOOM and DIRECTV's HD (D*) offering. Some of the cable providers may be providing better more sophisticated packages based on Fiber Optics to the door. TW does not provide this in my area.
Dish Network (DN) HD DVR/PVR 921 and HD 811
DIRECTV (D*) HD10 & HD20 DVR
Time Warner (TW) HD Scientific Atlanta
For a few days this past week I had all three up and working long enough to do some true comparisons. All three vendors off some sort of special discount rate for 1st time customers. All three can be argued into giving you a HD DVR as part of the initial package at no cost. It does require haggling and often times requires a discussion with the disconnect department who ultimately can make changes and offer deals that the sales people can not. It is not unrealistic to anticipate that you could move from one vendor to the other over the course of 12-18 months and thereby reduce your home entertainment costs annually by 500+ a year.
On the surface, most would consider the number of HD channels as the definitive answer to this discussion. I would disagree with that - Content of those HD channels and the quality of that content are the real questions.
I have had Dish for about 24 months and before that I had TW Cable HD. I recently switched to DIRECTV. In addition, for a few days had access to all three services (I still have TW for Cable Modem and had them set me up temporarily with their latest HD box.)
The easy first question; which is the worst? That is TW. They are still upconverting analog signals to 1080i and therefore still have a lot of pixelization and static that is digitized into the broadcast. End result is the quality still suffers and head to head 480i broadcast of Sci-Fi Network, TW was the hands down worst. Across the board, Showtime HD, etc was the same. So given the quality issue and the fact that they are by far the most expensive of the three services, they easily are the first vendor voted off the island.
DN uses two small dishes (16 inches across) to accommodate their regular line up and to get the VOOM channels. D* on the other hand uses a much larger 23 inch single dish to get both SD and HD programming. Both are going to MPEG4 standard and all new customers and more importantly all new channels will be distributed in MPEG4. So existing customers must upgrade to an MPEG4 receiver, which neither will do for free, unless you're a new customer (even this will take finesse to accomplish.) Both offer upgrades to existing customers for a leased unit for about $199.00
All of my dishes were professionally installed and have clear line of site to the satellites they use.
So if you've never used either then you have a good chance of negotiating a good deal for yourself and save yourself several hundred dollars a year. If you with one, then your best bet may be to switch to the other and reap your one year of savings.
In a head to head comparison between H10 and 811, I found the DIRECTV H10 produced a significantly better picture in all cases. Whether I was looking at a 480i or 1080i image, consistently it was brighter, more detailed with the H10 for exactly the same shows. It was even more obvious when compared to the 921. I was quite surprised to find this out. Colors seemed to be more washed out on the 811 than on the H10. While the H10 does have the advantage of doing MPEG4 and 811 is only MPEG2, this doesn't matter for 90% of the programming since only HD Universal and a very few others are using that codec at this time. Most everything today is still transmitted MPEG2. Again using Sci-Fi network as the base (480i) images where much clearer and brighter coming from DIRECTV. For those of you who are Sci-Fi fans such as myself, you get an added benefit of going Satellite; Universal HD replays several Sci-Fi programs in HD such as Battlestar Galactica.
Content is important and Dish Network has far more HD channels than DIRECTV. Now, lets talk about what that gets you. Most of the channels come from an acquisition DN made of VOOM. These include channels like RAVE, RUSH, Kung Fu HD, Monsters HD, Destination HD, and several others. Unless you're into some fairly esoteric stuff or dig Haunt Culture fashion shows, these channels are totally useless. Seriously, take the time and look at the programming these channels offer. Granted this is very subjective - your mileage may vary, however I found that all the meaningful content was on channels like TNT HD, Universal HD, World Cinema and Discovery HD. Everything else was pretty fringe content. Which isn't bad, but was fairly undependable when it came to quality programming. World Cinema is an exception and as far as I know Dish is the only one providing it. It is Internal Movies in HD - this I found to have high quality programming consistently. So if your tastes tend to be fairly mainstream, your going to find that there is no difference between the two vendors. Yes one has more channels in HD, but that doesn't matter if you don't watch them. There is much discussion on this topic for 2007 since both networks are slated to add additional satellites for HD programming.
In conclusion, DIRECTV provides a significantly (noticeable) better image over Dish Network. However Dish has more channels. If I were new to both, I would go to Dish for the added channels, IF I found the programming to be something I would watch. If the channels I watch were the same mix as DIRECTV's then unquestionably I would go DIRECTV for their quality of image. If I were a Cable customer I would change to a Satellite service if for no other reason than quality of product and cheaper price.