The Hopper 3 Is the Most Ludicrously Powerful Cable Box Ever
Is bonkers a word I’m allowed to use in a WIRED story? I hope so. Because the Hopper 3, the new DVR/cable box that Dish just announced at CES, is bonkers. The Hopper unveil is a sort of annual CES event, a chance for Dish to show off the latest in TV recording and commercial skipping technology.
Past Hoppers were cool, but the Hopper 3 is on another level entirely. The black, rectangular box has 16 tuners, meaning you can record 16 shows at once. (TiVo’s Roamio can only handle six.) You can play four simultaneous channels on a single screen (so long as you’re on a 4K TV and have enough pixels to pull it off), in what Dish calls “Sports Bar Mode.” The Hopper 3 is seven times more powerful than Hopper 2, Dish says, and is by far the most powerful set-top box on the market. It has two terabytes of internal storage, uses USB 3.0 to expand the storage even further, and has a new remote with voice search. You can pair it with up to six of Dish’s Joey streamers, meaning your one cable box can power seven TVs simultaneously. This thing is ridiculous.
Dish is also making a series of content moves to try and give people more to watch on all those tuners. The HopperGo is basically a Wi-Fi capable portable hard drive with space for 100 hours of recorded shows and movies, which you can take anywhere and use to stream to other devices. Or, you can watch Netflix, which is integrated into the Hopper 3 and even its universal search. YouTube is coming later this year to do the same thing.
Service starts at $15 per month for Hopper 3, and the HopperGo costs $99.
Sling TV is a big part of Dish’s content plans for the future, especially when we get to a world where no one uses crazy DVRs and just watches everything on demand. Sling is gearing up to launch a redesign of its service, one that aims to make it easier to discover all the things on the platform. You’ll be able to sort by category, search more easily, and dig through the on-demand archives as easily as you’d flip between the two dozen or so channels Sling offers. Dish is trying in all places to blur the line between what’s on now and what’s on demand; it doesn’t matter anyway. Just watch what you want to watch.
The Hopper, which originally made noise for its ability to automatically skip over commercials in your DVR’d shows, has now become the Megatron of set-top boxes. It’s almost silly, all the things it can do. Eventually, no one will need its many features; on-demand is making your DVR an anachronism. But if you’re still watching linear TV and paying the cable company, this is the highest-tech thing you’re going to find.