Now with search
When this review was originally published, we knocked the DishPVR 501 for its lack of a search function. That has changed now, thanks to a software download that adds the ability to search the upcoming program listings. The number sign on the keypad doubles as a search button, which brings up a virtual keyboard that lets you enter terms. The function can find program titles, actor names, and other information, displaying the results in chronological order. From the results page, you can set the DVR to record that upcoming program. Unlike TiVo the DishPVR doesn't let you create specialized searches for actors or directors, nor does it allow you to record every broadcast of a particular show.
Pause to reflect
All of the most common DVR functions, such as Pause, Fast-Forward, Reverse, and the 30-Second-Forward and 10-Second-Backward jumps, work as expected. During Pause, the system overlays a graphic on the screen, displaying the amount of paused time. Setting timers and scheduling recordings--either manually, as you would with a VCR, or by selecting a show from the program guide--are also a breeze. Another slick feature is the ability to watch a previously recorded show while recording a new one. However, this box has only one tuner, so you can't watch one live show while recording another, and it doesn't have a built-in picture-in-picture feature as does UltimateTV.
If you're just now choosing a satellite service and want a combination satellite receiver/DVR, the DishPVR 501 won't sway you over to Dish Network. DVRs with the TiVo or UltimateTV service that are compatible with the DirecTV service have more bells and whistles and more attractive user interfaces. Current Dish Network subscribers who want to move beyond their basic setup might want to consider the DishPVR 501. And although it has fewer frills, at least there's no monthly service fee for the DVR function like the one you'd pay with the UltimateTV subscription service.