Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Minneapolis, MN USA
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There is really no technical reason one should be better than another. In actuality, available bandwidth is the key to a quality picture. The compression algorithms (ie MPEG2 or MPEG4) also make a difference. Both of the satellite providers, Dish and DirecTV are moving toward MPEG4 and that has a positive impact on PQ. In my experience, the comparison standard should be how close a provider comes to the PQ available on Blu-ray or HD-DVD.
So far, particularly on a large screen, HD via cable or satellite is a very distant runner up in PQ (as well as audio) to HD disks.
One thing is certain: what is true today will not be true tomorrow. One problem you have with satellite providers is that you must sign a contract with them--at least a year--to get service. But they tend to be less expensive over the long term compared with most cable providers.
You didn't mention FIOS (fiber optic from Verizon). Right now, I think they are king of the hill compared with standard digital cable and satellite. But the availability is quite low--at least for now.
I think you will be able to make a better comparison once DirecTV's new bird, DirecTV 10, and Echostar's new satellite, about to be launched, are operational. These new satellites will make much more bandwidth available both for new HD content, and for improved bitrates as well. I do think that in the long run, either satellite provider will offer more consistent and better PQ than the majority of cable providers.
So you really have to ask your question with more specificity: Which cable provider, and which satellite provider, and which market are you located in. And whatever conclusions are drawn, realize that technology is moving rapidly, and what is true today will not be true tomorrow--literally.
Ignore them, m'dear: They're beneath your dignity.