|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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For almost a year, I have enjoyed having the ability to record and play back high-definition programming from Dish Network on my Dish Player 921 satellite receiver/PVR combination machine. It has been a true workhorse, recording my favorite shows without fail, having virtually no downtime and other than the occasional lock-up that usually just requires a simple re-boot (these PVRs are essentially computers in an AV-like metal box), it has been a nearly flawless performer. It has powered my main home theater and has given me hundreds if not thousands of hours of HDTV viewing bliss, but something was seemingly missing. I recently cooked up the idea of adding a second television to my living room/kitchen area downstairs, but I didn’t want to have to install a second dedicated satellite receiver and PVR to control this TV. Enter the Dish Player 942 dual mode HDTV satellite receiver/PVR.
Dish Network last year released an ingenious product for standard-def TVs, the 522-satellite receiver, which allowed two different TVs to utilize the same PVR. With the $699 Dish Player 942, the engineers at Dish Network have now taken the concept of the 522 and made a high-definition version that allows one television to receive an HDTV signal and another one to receiver a standard-definition signal. No more fighting about what to watch, as one person can be in the living room watching a movie or sporting event in HD and another person can be watching the same show or something else in standard definition via the secondary output on the back of the 942. Two separate color-coded remotes labeled 1 and 2 at the bottom are included that offer separate control of the 942. The remote that controls the HD half of the 942 is infrared and the remote for the SD-only portion of the receiver uses a RF connection to a small antenna, making it possible for the other TV to be located on the other side of the house.
My Dish 942 was professionally installed by a Dish Network representative and I recommend that you have any Dish Network product installed this way, especially these new-generation dual mode boxes, as they require extra runs of coax cable between them the satellite switches and the TV sets. Long gone are the days of simply running a single cable from one LNB connecter on your satellite into the receiver. Why are all of these cables needed, you ask? With more and more satellites floating in outer space, the newer dishes, such as the killer new Dish Network Dish 1000, are able to receive multiple satellite signals that are then fed to a multi-switch. Instead of reading a lengthy treatise about satellite wiring, just know that with the Dish 942 and the special switch that it requires, along with an over the air antenna, will give users the ability to either watch or record five completely separate programs simultaneously. No longer will you have any excuses for missing your favorite shows, even if they are all on at the same time. Even if your home does not have an open crawlspace for running these extra cable runs, the installer will be able to discreetly run cables along floorboards or under the edges of your carpet.
The 942 is only three-and-a-half inches tall, 16 inches wide, 13 inches deep and weighs 11 pounds, making it a much smaller piece of gear than the Dish Player 921 it replaced in my system. On the front of the unit, a series of colored lights indicate what mode the receiver is in and tells you if programs are being recorded on the two different sections. Individual power lights for each zone are shown on the front panel and undoubtedly people who are using zone two in a separate room will frequently forget to turn of their half of the receiver, since they likely don’t have the box in the room with them while they are watching TV with it. However, the indicator lights will remind you when it’s left on.
The styling of the 942 is very understated and, other than the rows of different color lights, this muted gray/silver box does not call attention to itself in a rack. The front panels are smooth and have very squared-off lines. The right third of the 942 has a panel that flips down when pressed that allows access to the main controls, as well as a USB port for connecting items like Dish Network’s portable Pocket Dish. As long as you don’t misplace your remote controls, you’ll rarely need to ever even flip this panel down. The left side panel covers a slot for a smart card that is currently unused. However, Dish Network will have the ability to assign cards for users, likely for the purpose of someday controlling the streaming of exclusive HDTV content that is not recordable (if I had to take a guess).
An internal 250-gig hard drive allows you to record up to 180 hours of standard-definition programming or 25 hours of high-def. Keep in mind that you don’t get 25 hours of HD and 180 hours of SD. If you had 12-and-a-half hours of HD programs saved, you would have approximately 90 hours left for SD programming or another 12-and-a-half hours left for HD. You can save your standard def programs and dump them off to a DVD burner or VHS tape. However, you will not be able to output a recordable signal with HD content via the HDMI connector to record onto a D-VHS tape, so if you want to archive an HD show or movie, it will take up valuable space on your hard drive. I keep one or two HD shows for wowing my friends when they visit, but I like to keep the hard drive free. Protecting a show with the onscreen menus is simple and, when a show is protected, a gold lock icon comes up next to it and it will not get erased. If the hard drive is otherwise full, it will record over non-protected events, but the locked ones will stay put.
The back of the 942 features two very distinct output sections and there is no question as to which is the HD output section and which is the SD output plugs. Zone 1 outputs the HD signal and has options for either analog HD via component video HDMI digital AV output. If you have a set with a digital input, I highly recommend using the latter. The supported video output resolutions for TV Zone 1 are 480p, 720p and 1080i. 480i content is up-converted to 480p and my particular TV set can accept all of these formats. I found the best setting for the output on TV1 to be the 720p setting.
Where the older 921 had a DVI output, the Dish Player 942 now has a more modern HDMI output. This streamlined my system, as I no longer required a DVI to HDMI adapter to send the signal into the HDMI switching input card on the Integra DTR-10.5 receiver. I have not had any HDMI handshake issues with either the DVI output on the Dish Network 921 or the Dish Network 942, but as a consumer, I’d take a look at what kind of inputs you have on your receiver, AV preamp and TV, so you can have the right cables at the ready. If you are doing a simple straight into your digital input connection, the 942 comes with a decent quality HDMI cable. However, you might want to look into higher-end options if you are going for ultimate performance.