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Dish Network DP625

Dish Network DP625

At first glance, it's hard to distinguish the Dish Player-DVR 625 from its near twin, the DVR 522. In fact, they're essentially identical, except that the 625 offers a name-based recording feature and a video-on-demand option not found on its older counterpart. And while both DVRs are available for free for new Dish Network subscribers, there is, as always, a catch: You'll need to commit to two years of service or a one-year commitment plus a $20 lease upgrade fee. For the duration of your commitment, you'll also need to remain subscribed to the America's Top 60, DISH Latino, or Great Wall TV programming packages, each of which cost at least $27 per month. In addition, there is a $5 monthly fee for DVR use unless you sign up for the most expensive packages.

Upside: As long as you are aware of all the charges and commitments, getting a fully functional DVR for "free" is a pretty good deal. In addition to its ability to store as much as 100 hours of TV programming, the DVR 625 has two tuners, which means you'll be able to record a program on one channel while simultaneously watching a different live TV channel. Furthermore, the DVR 625 has additional multiroom capabilities that take advantage of the dual tuners: it's possible for separate viewing and recording on two TVs. This capability is enhanced with by the inclusion of a second RF remote control, which can travel through walls and other obstructions. Someone watching a TV connected in another room can change the channels and access recordings from the DVR 625 using the RF remote, while a viewer in the primary room can watch a different channel or recording unencumbered, using the primary remote. (Dish claims the secondary remote can be used as far as 200 feet away from the DVR 625 when unobstructed, but consider that a best-case scenario.) The DVR 625 also features an EPG with as many as nine days of TV listings, as well as a name-based recording feature that lets you record your favorite shows regardless of network schedule changes. While Dish's onscreen interface isn't up to TiVo standards, it's much better than the TV Guide On-Screen version that ships with many DVD recorders. Finally, the DVR 625 also includes pseudo video-on-demand (VOD) functionality. While satellite technology doesn't have the bandwidth or bidirectional control to enable true VOD capability, the DVR 625 gets around this by predownloading movies to a separate hard drive so that you can then watch them whenever you want--for a fee, of course.

Downside: Dish Network's workaround for video-on-demand is clever, but we would have liked there the option to use that hard drive for additional DVR space if you aren't as interested in the VOD functionality. Furthermore, there is currently no Tivo To Go-like portability option nor any home-networking functionality comparable to that found on Series2 TiVos. Finally, the DVR 625 can't record or receive HD programming; you'll need the DVR 942 for that.

Outlook: Any new Dish Network subscriber who's not interested in HD service should take advantage of the Dish Player-DVR 625. No, it's not a real TiVo, but the single-box design, the dual-tuner feature, and the ability to connect to a secondary TV more than make up for it.

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