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Choosing the Right Direct TV Satellite Receiver

The satellite receiver is the box that takes the digital signal the dish gets from satellites, decodes it, and sends it on to your TV. The most basic function of a satellite receiver is that of a tuner. Just like radio, this is the box that receives multiple signals and lets you choose the one you want to listen to or, in the case of a satellite receiver, watch. (If you have a single satellite receiver in your home you will need to be able to connect it to a phone line for at least the initial setup and may want to provide a full-time phone connection to receive Pay-Per-View programming. In a multi-room system, each satellite receiver in a system must have a full-time connection to the same phone line.)

Pretty much everything else you need to know about satellite receivers boils down to features; what do you want your satellite system to offer you? The abilities of these receivers can be broken down into three categories: Services, Sound, and Convenience.


You might think that regardless of the features a receiver has, at least they're all able to get the same programming. You would have been right until recently. These days, though, the kind of receiver you have can determine whether or not you will be able to receive certain "special" services. Please keep in mind that the receiver is only one part of a DIRECTV satellite system. In many cases, the services outlined below also require a 18-by-20-inch dish instead of the standard 18" dish.

Local Channels
Until late 1999, DIRECTV did not offer local programming to its subscribers. Fortunately for many DIRECTV customers, this is no longer a problem. Most people living in or near large cities can now receive local programming from DIRECTV as long as they have the proper equipment -- that's more than 50 markets! And the number of areas that receive local channels continues to grow. To find out if your current DIRECTV system is able to receive local programming where you live, visit the DIRECTV website.

High Definition TV
People have been talking about high definition TV for years, and it's finally here! There are two things you need to get HDTV in your home: 1) a high definition TV, and 2) a high definition TV signal. A DIRECTV satellite system can help you with No. 2. While local TV stations across the country are slowly upgrading their equipment, with the right receiver and dish DIRECTV satellites can beam high definition programming into your home today.

You will need: A satellite receiver that is capable of processing high definition signals and a wide 18-by-20-inch dish.

Para Todos
Because DIRECTV has not yet been available outside the United States, almost all the programming has been in English -- a real problem for the approximately 30 million Spanish-speaking residents of the United States. Spanish programming has been available through a few cable and satellite systems, but has been so expensive that it has been inaccessible to many. DIRECTV's solution to this problem is a programming package called Para Todos. Para Todos means "programming for everyone," and offers Spanish-language programming including news, movies, music, sports, children's and educational programming, and even pay-per-view events.

You will need: A Para Todos-capable receiver and a wide 18-by-20-inch dish.

DIRECTV has always offered digital sound that rivals CD, and that hasn't changed. What has changed is that now some programs are being broadcast with a 6-channel digital audio signal called Dolby Digital. A satellite receiver that can pass this signal on to a Dolby Digital audio receiver can draw you into a movie like no stereo sound ever could. The experience is so much like being in a theater, don't be surprised if you feel your feet start to stick to the floor.

You will need: A Dolby Digital compatible satellite receiver.

There is a group of convenience features that have nothing to do with the kind of programming you can receive; they're the nice-to-have features that make watching TV easier or more fun or make your satellite system more flexible. While it's almost a certainty that no receiver will ever have every feature mentioned here, we recommend you take a few moments to find out what's available so you can decide which features are most important to you.

Dual/Multiple audio output jacks: One set of audio outputs from the satellite receiver will go to the TV. If you would like to connect your satellite receiver to a stereo or surround sound system, we recommend getting a receiver with more than one set of audio output jacks.

TV Allowance: This feature lets you limit the amount of time spent in front of the TV. Especially if you have kids, this little feature can be a big help.

Picture-in-guide: Like picture-in-picture, this feature shows two things on the screen at once. While using the program guides, a little window in the corner will make sure you don't miss a moment of the show you're already watching.

On-screen caller ID: When the phone rings, this will actually display on your TV the name of the person who is calling. No kidding.

Universal Remote Control
You may never have given a great deal of thought to remote controls, but you should. These days there are some features that can really make your life a lot easier. (At least the part of your life that has to do with watching TV. Simply put, a Universal remote control will learn how to control multiple devices (TVs, VCRs, etc.) so you can use one remote instead three when all you want to do is turn on the TV!

Keep in mind a satellite system is just that -- a system. Getting a system that is able to receive the programming you want is often a function of both the dish and the receiver. Please make sure the dish you choose is able to receive the services you want and that the receiver you choose is able to use those signals properly.

When you get serious enough about buying a satellite receiver to want to check out the specific models we have here on line, you will be asked the following questions to help you narrow down your choices.

  • Will this be part of a stereo or surround sound system?

  • Would you like to receive Para Todos Spanish Language programming?

  • Which of the following features are you interested in having?

    • High Definition

    • Dolby Digital Surround Sound

While these few questions most likely won't narrow your choices down to THE receiver that's right for you, it can disqualify several models that will not fit your needs. In addition to the major features, keep an eye out for features that will increase your enjoyment of your satellite system.

Source: Circuit City


Copyright 2007