Let's get the facts out first. Dish Network is now selling a "new" DTV converter box, called the TR-40 CRA, which will sell for $40 and is exactly the same as the currently released . And that's not just our editorial spin--we've confirmed with Dish Network that the hardware and feature set is exactly the same, and Dish Network lays it out clearly on its DTVPal Web site. Even more confusingly, you can still order both models from the same online order form--effectively giving you the option of whether you'd like to pay more for the same product.
If that's not confusing enough, the history of the DTVPal and TR-40 is even more headache-inducing. Let's take a quick trip down memory lane to see how we described the situation in our DTVPal review back in June:
The Dish Network DTVPal is one of the boxes that shoppers can buy with the coupon, and we've been heavily anticipating its release since it was announced at CES 2008. Since then, however, there's been a lot of confusion. The converter box was first announced as the EchoStar TR-40 with a $40 price tag, then it was renamed to the Dish Network DTVPal, and now the latest news is that the Dish Network DTVPal and the EchoStar TR-40 are actually different products--yikes. The final story is that the Dish Network DTVPal is slated to be available at DTVPal.com on June 19, with an MSRP between $40 and $60. The TR-40 will come out at a later date at a price to be determined. If we had to guess, based on Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen's "Charlie Chat," the DTVPal will cost about $60 and the TR-40 will cost $40.
While it's easy to spin this as a win for consumers--new buyers are getting all the functionality of the DTVPal for $40 now--we can't help but feeling like Dish stuck it to early adopters of the DTVPal. Dish always promised to release a DTV converter box for $40, so why didn't they just originally price the DTVPal at $40? We always thought the cheaper TR-40 would include less functionality--to offset its low cost--but it seems that the DTVPal was just an opportunity to make a little extra profit on those who bought early.
If you're in the market to buy a DTV converter box, we have a full review of the DTVPal and it's actually one of the better boxes we've tested--although anyone buying now should get the cheaper TR-40. And if our review made you go out and buy a DTVPal already, all we can say is we're sorry.