|Dish Network Dish Player 942 HD Satellite Receiver/PVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Thursday, 01 December 2005|
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With the Dish Player 942 set up and ready to go, I picked a few of my favorite high-definition movies with the onscreen guide that is updated to go as far ahead in time as two weeks and set them to record. It’s a fairly simple interface that, although still not as slick as TiVo, is a marked improvement over the pale light washed-out blue onscreen graphics of the 921. The first show I recorded was the classic Mafia epic “Goodfellas,” recorded from HBO HD. There are DVD players that will up-scale standard 480p content, but this pails in comparison to an excellent transfer of a movie to HD that is broadcast on Showtime HD, HBO HD or even HD-Net’s 1080i HD-Net Movie channel. TNT’s movies are seemingly broadcast in a strange aspect ratio that doesn’t quite fit the screen right, regardless of what picture format the Dish Player or TV is set on, but that is another story.
On “Goodfellas,” in the scene where Henry Hill as a young kid is breaking the back windows of a bunch of cars stored in a parking lot to throw gasoline in them and light them on fire, the recorded version of the movie looked just as good played back on the 942 as when I watched it live. This tells me that either all live content that is being watched through the 942 is already going through a buffer or that it is recorded at such a high bit rate that it plays back with only the most minimal of signal loss. When Henry Hill sets fire to the cars and runs towards the screen with an exploding inferno in the background, the 942 did not show any signs of tiling and only the most minimal amount of dot crawl along the bright edges of the flames from the explosion. At the end of this scene, the screen pauses with the silhouette of young Henry Hill diving from the fire as Ray Liotta, who plays the older Henry, talks in voiceover about what its like to be a gangster. With this picture locked on the screen, I was able to really look for flaws in the image and was hard-pressed to find fault with anything.
Dish Network has purchased the satellites that were originally launched for the Voom network and have made these channels an option for subscribers who have the high-definition package. For only $5 more a month, I was able to expand my total number of available channels. I did a search for live music and found a high-def performance by the pop/jazz fusion group Chicago. Live music is great for HD programming, as the lighting can be very controlled and the extra definition in the picture allows you, if you are so inclined, to better study every little intricate detail of what the musicians are doing. On this recording, the 1080i broadcast of Chicago performing live was so spectacular I could watch the fingering patterns of the trumpet players when the camera would cut to the horn section during the classic song “25 Or 6 to 4.” Being a drummer myself, I realized that, with the slow-motion feature on the Dish Player 942, I could frame by frame or slow-mo a scene and learn the drum patterns to any of the songs on this hour-plus-long show. The only time the picture faltered was in very dark scenes with low lighting when the house lights would dim. My own TV set is to blame here, as low black levels are still one of the flaws of older projection TV sets.
The Dish Player 942 has the ability to record shows that are broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and can be played back via the Tos-Link output or over the HDMI cable if your receiver has the ability to decode a digital audio signal that it sent to its HDMI input. The Dish 921, with only a DVI output, would not allow for this. In my system, I opted to use an analog stereo output going from the 942 to the TV and then a Tos-Link connection into my Integra receiver for decoding the Dolby Digital and I could control the TV and receiver audio levels separately. On the Chicago recording, the sound from the 942 was technically perfect, with absolutely no dropouts or glitches of any kind. Sonically, the tonal quality was not overly bright but not dull in any way. It was as if it was not putting any kind of sound signature on the music and was just letting the sound get to the speakers as the mixing engineers wanted it to do.
Sporting events drive the sales of many HDTVs, so as it’s football season, I recorded a game on ESPN’s spectacular-looking Sunday night game. The classic NFC rivalry that pitted the Pittsburg Steelers vs. the Cleveland Browns turned out to be a pretty darn good game and what took it over the top was the smooth, crisp-looking broadcast from ESPN. I took a cue from the officials and used the pause and slow-mo features on the Dish 942 to see how much detail there was on screen from the faces of the fans to the laces on the ball and the torn-up turf. I don’t know what magic ESPN does with these broadcasts, but they a superior to the FOX, CBS and especially the borderline dreadful Monday Night Football HD Broadcasts on ABC.
During this game, I found one little quirk in the remote control that I did not like at first but have now grown to enjoy. When pressing play after pausing, the action moves back about one second before resuming. This was annoying at first, as I was watching a play late in the second quarter where the Steelers almost scored on a goal line rushing play. I wanted to freeze-frame the game, then play back the action to see if it was actually a touchdown or not. I found ultimately that I could pause the action right at the moment I wanted to see, then toggle between play and pause several times, and I could basically loop a two-second piece of the action without having to stop and rewind it repeatedly. The point was all moot as Jerome “The Bus” Bettis plowed through the line on the next play for a one-yard touchdown, but with the combination of the high-definition broadcast and the playback logic built into the 942, I was able to be my own officiating crew.