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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Buying Satellite TV Receiver

When shopping for a satellite TV receiver, remember that you are buying an entire system. A satellite system consists of a satellite receiver box that connects to your TV, an outdoor satellite antenna and a remote control. A subscription to a satellite provider is necessary to obtain access to the signal, and your choices are currently limited to DISH Network and DirecTV.

Standard satellite programming uses an 18-inch round satellite dish, while high-definition reception requires an oval dish measuring 18x20 inches. The satellite dish is usually included as part of the package when you sign on for service. To receive a signal, the dish must be installed with a clear southern exposure, without obstruction by trees or buildings.

Keep in mind that because satellite TV is broadcast in the digital domain (currently MPEG2), there is no fuzzy reception. In other words, you either receive a clear satellite signal or no signal at all. Heavy wind and rain, and especially lightning, can cause the signal to be temporarily lost, but reception problems are much less prevalent than satellite detractors (such as cable TV providers) would have you believe.

Both DISH Network and DirecTV offer local programming via satellite, but this option is not currently available in all areas of the United States. If this is the case in your area, you can use a rooftop antenna to receive over-the-air local broadcasts, while the satellite handles national channels.

Satellite receivers come with either standard or HD tuners. A standard receiver decodes the digital broadcast signal and presents it to your TV in analog format, along with an electronic program guide (EPG) that lists the available channels and programming. An HD receiver is designed for high-definition satellite signals, and it presents them to your HDTV or HD-ready TV in their native widescreen digital format at 720 or 1,080i. Not all channels broadcast in high-definition, however, so an HD receiver will also handle non-HD programming.

One option that has exploded in popularity is the combination receiver/digital video recorder (DVR). This format combines a DVR and satellite receiver into a single component, which saves valuable space in your home theater setup. While it doesn't have all of the functionality of a TiVo or other advanced system, an integrated DVR still allows you to pause, rewind and fast-forward live TV.

Because the DVR works together with your satellite service's EPG, setting the DVR to record future shows is quick and painless. This is also a smart move money-wise, as DISH Network and DirecTV offer DVR receivers for significantly less than you would pay for a stand-alone DVR from TiVo or ReplayTV.

Additional features include parental controls to block adult programming, favorites lists, picture-in-picture viewing and interactive features. Satellite systems require a phone link for downloading periodic updates, and you can set your receiver to display Caller ID information on your TV screen. Some satellite receivers are designed to work with multiple TVs, so you will only need one receiver box to provide programming to TVs in several rooms.

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