It seems as if everything these days costs another “couple hundred bucks”. Computer equipment, televisions, car parts, furniture… you name it, and it probably costs “a couple hundred bucks”. The same can be applied to satellite TV, and it’s an unfortunate (but all too real) reality: sure, you can get the base receiver (the 311), but why not upgrade to the DVR models?
Well, no, that’s not a good idea. At least, not for most people. We liked the idea of having satellite TV for $55 a month without having to spend an additional $200 up front for a DVR, so we decided to do what no one else would do and simply stick with the 311. After much debate, worry, frustrations, and joy, we’ve posted the review of the DISH Network 311.
The receiver itself is a mighty impressive piece of hardware when you consider what was available for purchase as little as two years ago. Satellite TV is currently undergoing the same renaissance that computing underwent a few years ago, where the technologies are changing quite dramatically and the hardware is having a heck of a time keeping up.
For the most part, the 311 is a very acceptable machine. There are some areas that could use improvement, but considering its bargain basement price we’re willing to overlook a few small imperfections. Gone is the external smart card, though the slot remains in the event that you need to use one in the future. The smart card is internal on the 311, leaving you one less item to lose.
The black finish will fit nicely into any décor, and we were glad to see that it didn’t scratch up the moment that we touched it- many electronics that are finished in black tend to scratch easily, deterring you from actually using or handling them. The 311 handled just fine, and throughout the course of our testing it didn’t scratch once.
The 311 is the base model receiver that you can choose to use when you sign up with DISH Network. It allows one television to watch any package that you order (except for high definition programming). It’s quite simple and easy to use, and where other receivers tend to make things a tad bit complicated or over the top, the 311 gets straight to the point. We find that to be a refreshing change from the industry standard, which seems to focus on making simple tasks, such as finding a specific program, much more complex and intricate than they need to be.
As you might expect, the 311 is capable of performing all of the standard tasks: users can access their program guide via a button on the remote, scan through that guide using the convenient page-scrolling feature, turn closed-captioning on or off, and generally operate the receiver as those who have used satellite television before have to expect.
On the more technical side, the 311 is surprisingly capable for a base model. It features inputs for the satellite connection as well as local area antenna broadcasts, so if you can receive clear reception for your local channels you can enjoy them. A single set of RCA cables will connect the receiver to your television or audio/visual amplifier, and an internal 2400 baud modem will allow you to order pay-per-view.
The overall quality of the audio and video that streams from the 311 is good, and though it doesn’t pack the same clarity that high definition streams do, it is well above the average cable or antenna connection. You won’t be blown away by the vivid colors or eerily realistic sound quality, but you will be impressed with the clear sound and relatively crisp video. Without going to high definition this is probably the best picture that you’re going to get.
Performance and Overall Impression
You would be surprised how frustrating satellite receivers can be. Our last DVR model would freeze constantly, and though it was later found to be a manufacturers defect (and was promptly replaced), these things shouldn’t involve weeks or months of finagling and configuring. It’s a satellite receiver, it should just work.
The 311 meets its obligations for faithful performance without complaint or excessive baggage. In fact, in the entire time that we’ve used it, it’s only ever been restarted once, and that was because of a power outage that was beyond our control.
So, since I need to actually rate this thing, I’m going to give it a: pretty darn good. It lacks the advanced features of HD or DVR receivers, but for the price it’s a steal.
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