|Dish Network Vip722 High-Definition DVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Friday, 01 February 2008|
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Every time I hear about a new high-def DVR from Dish Network, I get excited. “Will this be the one that finally has dual-zone HD output via HDMI?" I ask myself. I have been successfully using Dish Network’s line of non-high-def and high-def dual output DVRs for years. The one feature I have been waiting for is dual HDMI support, so I could run two HDTVs independently and simultaneously. I currently have a mirrored version of the picture on my big screen also going to the smaller kitchen LCD, but ideally I want to be able to have two different high-def shows on simultaneously.
Dish Network has been a real innovator in the DVR market for several years, as they were the first company to feature units with multi-room capabilities. This not only saves the consumer on monthly DVR fees, but also frees up valuable space in the equipment rack. For example, if you had two bedrooms and you wanted both to have satellite, but you didn’t want to put DVRs in both rooms, they can share a single box. One bedroom would get an infrared remote and you would need to point the remote right at the box to change channels. The user in the other bedroom would simply have a single cable running into the TV from the DVR and would be able to access the second output of the DVR and control it with an RF (radio frequency) remote that passes through walls, sometimes from as far away as two stories.
The latest high-def DVR from Dish Network is the Vip722, an upgrade over the Vip622. Unfortunately, the Vip722 is still is not the dream box I have been waiting for. Both the Vip622 and Vip722 are MPEG-4 boxes that allow Dish Network users to access the HD channels that were formerly part of the VOOM network. Dish Network acquired these satellites and channels, but unless you have an MPEG-4 receiver (and the proper subscription), you cannot access these channels. It features HD output via HDMI or component video on zone one, but zone two still just has a standard-def output via composite video.
Cosmetically, the only real difference between the Vip722 and its predecessor is the fact that the new box is black instead of silver. All the inputs on the back and buttons on the front are identical between the two models. The 722 is a simple rectangular box with rounded corners and two doors on the front that can be popped open with a simple press on the door to unlock them. The door on the right is the more important one, as it gives you access to many of the system controls and comes in very handy during those frantic moments when the remote is lost behind some godforsaken couch cushion and you really need to set up your DVR to record something in a hurry.
On the rear of the unit, moving from right to left, there is a phone cord connection to download the programming guide automatically, an Ethernet port for updates via the Internet, and a USB 2.0 slot for a killer new feature, which I will talk about more shortly. To the left of the USB port is zone one, with an HDMI capable high-def output, an S-video output, a TOS-link digital audio output, component video outputs and a standard-def coaxial audio/video output. Just to the left of zone 1 is the disappointing zone 2 video output. This features only a standard-def composite audio/video output. The remaining inputs/outputs on the box are the coaxial plugs for the satellite and antennae connections.
Hard drive space is the only difference internally between the 622 and the 722. With the 722, users can record up to 55 hours of high-definition programming or 350 hours of standard definition. This is an improvement up from 40 hours of HD or 250 hours of standard-def programming with the 622. This means the device takes about six times more space to record high-def programming. If you were to record six hours of standard-def programming, you would have 54 hours of HD record time available or 344 hours of standard-def recording ability.
Even with the larger hard drive, you’d be surprised how quickly a DVR can fill up, especially if you record several days’ worth of a golf tournament, which can sometimes have as much as eight hours a day of coverage during major tournaments like the U.S. Open. If you find yourself frequently running out of space, Dish Network has a killer application that can be purchased for a one-time $39.95 fee and installed on either the Vip622 or the Vip722. This application gives the user the ability to hook up a USB 2.0-equipped external hard drive, up to 750 gigs, to the DVR for storing movies or shows. You’ll need a dedicated drive, as the Dish Network proprietary software for this application will wipe out any other data on the disc and will format it for this application. You can move it between DVRs that have the same software, but you won’t be able to hook the drive up to your PC or Mac and access the files that way. Of course, if you are a computer wiz and can set up custom partitions, I'm sure it's possible to do what I just described. However, if you’re an average user, you’ll want to just get an external hard drive that you can use for your DVR if you want to have extra storage space.
Transferring shows from the DVR’s internal hard drive over to the external drive is surprisingly simple with the USB 2.0 cable, which is faster than Firewire. The process of dumping a handful of HD movies wasn’t as painfully slow as I thought it would be, and you can use the DVR to watch TV while this is happening. The response time of the DVR slows a little while this copying process is happening, but it doesn’t grind the machine to a halt. Playing back shows that are on the external hard drive is simple and, aside from having to push a few extra menu buttons to call up the external hard drive’s play list, it’s a pretty seamless process.