DISH announced a series of substantial upgrades to its Hopper and Joey set-top boxes during the CES consumer electronics show earlier this month. The upgrades span both hardware and software, including a variety of new features and improved technical specifications.
One of the biggest upgrades is the addition of the 4K Ultra HD Joey to DISH’s lineup of devices. The new Joey, a first for pay-TV providers, will allow customers with 4K televisions to fully integrate their satellite TV service for the ultimate HD viewing experience.
Ultra HD displays provide a significantly sharper picture than the current high-definition standard, delivering up to four-times as many pixels as a 1080p display. Customers should be wary, however. 4K television does not inherently mean better quality. A number of other factors, including the size of your TV and the distance you’re sitting from it, influence how sharp the picture actually appears.
For tech-savvy customers or movie aficionados, the upgrade should be fairly enticing. The average television viewer likely won’t benefit from the better image quality until 4K becomes more readily available.
More Multimedia Features
DISH also announced several new features that will improve both the quality and functionality of its set-top boxes, including the addition of streaming options for music, images and videos.
First, a new mobile app, expected in summer 2015, will give DISH customers the opportunity to stream their favorite music through their Hopper or Joey device. Whether it’s from their personal libraries or online streaming services like Pandora and TuneIn, users can play their music throughout multiple rooms or designate specific “zones” for a more personal experience.
According to DISH’s Vivek Khemka, the new feature will allow customers to take advantage of the high-quality sound bars their TVs already offer, meaning they’ll get a better sound quality at no additional cost.
Music lovers will be able to stream thousands of music videos right from their Hopper thanks to a new partnership with Vevo. The free Vevo app is expected to be released in early 2015. Customers will also be able to use Lyve to stream photos and videos through their televisions.
With the new streaming options – like the ability to stream music videos from YouTube directly to your TV – DISH hopes to offer a unified media product that will keep people from fleeing to online-only services.
Improved User Experience
To cap off the upgrades, DISH also plans to release a new user interface and remote to make accessing content more convenient.
The new “Carbon” user interface features a sleeker, flat design and promises to be more accessible for users. One of its biggest features will be the addition of a home screen, which will offer viewers programming suggestions based on a number of factors, including past viewing history and the time of day.
Two new remotes will also accompany the UI upgrade.
By default, new Hoppers and the 4K Joey will ship with the Hopper Voice remote. The phone-size remote features just 17 buttons plus an advanced voice control system and touchpad for easier navigation.
Customers who don’t want or need touch and voice control can purchase a standard remote, which removes the extra functionality but keeps the simplified 17-button design. The remote is another first for the pay-TV industry. Voice controls have become standard for many other devices, but satellite and cable companies had been slow to incorporate touch and voice controls.
For DISH, the design is another step toward making its system as user-friendly as possible in a bid to keep cable cutters from switching to the on-demand allure of Internet television options.