DIRECTV HD vs Dish Network Turbo HD

DIRECTV HD vs. DISH Network Turbo HD is the question on many minds in 2009.   As prices continue to fall on plasma and HDTV’s, more homeowners are looking to hook up to the best HD content, whether that be with the local cable TV company,  DIRECTV or Dish Network.  In this article, we will compare Dish Network Turbo HD against the high definition service offered by  DIRECTV, hopefully helping you compare the options available today.

Today both DIRECTV and Dish Network claim to offer more than 100 high definition channels.  While this is technically true, both companies pad their numbers by using pay per view, regional sports networks, and even on-demand channels to reach their numbers.  The marketing of satellite TV, as well as cable television is big business, and all of the players involved certainly stretch the truth in order to put their best foot forward.  While this may just be playing the game in their eyes, the customers suffers as they have to wade through all of the information from DIRECTVand DISH Network in order to really find out how many HD channels they will actually receive as a subscriber.

Another factor when comparing Dish Network Turbo HD to DIRECTV is the number of premium channels that are also counted by both companies.  If you subscribe to all of the premiums such as HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax, you will of course receive them in HD if they are carried in that format.  But the fact is not many people subscribe to all of the premium movie channels, as they are quite costly.  Most subscribers take one or two premium movie channels, or none at all if they just want basic cable-like service.

So what is the bottom line when you subscribe to DIRECTV HD or DISH Network Turbo HD?  Generally you will get between 40 and 60 national HD channels.  Most areas now also have local HD coverage, but you will have to check directly with either Dish TV or DIRECTV to find out if they have local HD in your area.   Both companies are quickly expanding their local HD reach with new satellites, so it won’t be too much longer until almost everyone will have local HD access.

Now when considering Dish Network Turbo HDvs. DIRECTV HD, you should always keep in mind your local cable TV company, whether it be Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox cable or some other provider.   In some areas, telecom companies now offer HD channels and their own version of cable, such as AT&T U-Verse HD or Verizon Fios HD.    Generally speaking, Dish Network and DIRECTV offer more HD when it comes to channel count than cable TV providers.

This is because the delivery method involved with satellite TV allows for quicker delivery of HD channels than that of cable or telecom networks that rely on last mile technology.  With a provider like Comcast HD for example, the company must have the proper network structure in place before they can add a significant number of HD channels.  With DIRECTV HD, its simply a matter of having the satellite capacity available, then they can deliver the signal to every subscriber across America once the signal is turned on.

Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter cableand others continue to struggle when it comes to HD content.  If you live in a big metropolitan area, you may be able to get close to the number of channels offered by satellite TV from your cable company.  But if you are in a rural area,  Dish Network Turbo and DIRECTV HD are definitely head and shoulders above cable when comparing the number of HD channels.

Cable companies have been fighting back using their on-demand platforms.  These menus allow customers to start a program at any time.  Often these are in high definition, so the cable company may make a claim that they have a certain number of HD choices.  Comcast for example claims that they have 1,000 or more HD choices, so you have to comparison shop, such as lining up Comcast vs. DIRECTV when trying to figure out exactly what you want.

One way satellite TV companies compete against on-demand is with their DVR capabilities.  Of course Dish Network and DIRECTV both offer their own DVR systems for subscribers.  Generally, you can get a Dish Network ViP722 DVR or a DIRECTV DVR for free when you sign up for new service, but if you want more than one, be ready to make an investment.  DVR service usually runs about $6 per DVR box, but that beats cable TV companies that usually charge anywhere from $10-15 a month for DVR service.  Newer HD DVR models can record all of your favorite high definition content for playback later.

Now there is one significant factor to consider when comparing DIRECTV HD vs. DISH Network Turbo HD.  That factor is pricing, as Dish Network has rolled out a special group of packages that are 100% HD.

In the past with either Dish Network or DIRECTV you would subscribe first to a base package, then add on your HD package if you even wanted it.  This option is still the route most customers take, adding DIRECTV HD access costs $9.99 per month, and with DISH Network, its about the same, costing $10 per month.  Now when you add HD access with Dish TV or DIRECTV this way, the number of channels you will get is dependent on which base package you subscribe to.  For example, if you get the entry level package from DIRECTV, which is the Choice package you will receive less HD then if you subscribe to the DIRECTV Premier package.  Basically, whichever channels that are included in SD will also be delivered in HD for that particular package.

Unfortunately for satellite TV subscribers, not every HD channel that is out there is accessible with the basic HD tier.  Both DIRECTV and DISH Network have created mini-packages including some of the better HD channels, and then offered them as premium HD tier packages.  DIRECTV has the HD Extra Pack, which includes these channels:


Universal HD

HDNet Movies

Smithsonian HD


Dish Network has their own premium pack of HD channels under the title Turbo HD Platinum, which runs an extra $10 per month.  These channels are included:

HD Net Movies
Smithsonian HD
World Fishing Network
NHL Network
Universal HD

Now as mentioned earlier, Dish Network also offers the option of subscribing to just the HD content.  Dish Network Turbo HD comes in several different flavors so to speak.  The entry level price point is the Dish Network Turbo HD Bronze package, for $24.99 a month.  Of course this doesn’t have local channels or a DVR, so add another $11-12 per month for those features, but it is still a great package for someone who doesn’t need a lot of TV channels for less than $40 a month.

From there, Dish Network offers the Turbo HD Silver and the Turbo HD Gold packages for those who need more channels.  Overall, the Turbo HD packages from Dish are a good way to get the best content, as long as you aren’t interested in all of the shopping and religious channels that round out most cable TV packages.

DIRECTV does not currently offer an HD only package, so you have to first subscribe to a base package, then add on the HD access from there.  So if you are interested in HD only, DISH Network Turbo HD is the way to go.

Another consideration is the content, or the actual channels when you compare Dish Network Turbo HD against DIRECTV HD.  As a general rule, you will find most of the major channels on both Dish Network and DIRECTV.   ESPN, CNN, TNT and TBS in HD can be found on both satellite TV providers, as are many other major channels.   What is interesting is when you look for other channels that may be of interest.  Satellite TV companies are always involved in various disputes with content providers, so you may not find the HD version of some channels on DIRECTV or DISH Network.  For example, Dish Network does not have the Fox News Channel in HD.  DIRECTV does not currently carry the Travel Channel in HD, while Dish Network does.  If there is a particular channel you must have in HD, be sure to check things out before you sign up for a satellite TV subscription.

One final thing to consider for sports fans is the large advantage that DIRECTV has over Dish Network when it comes to certain sports programming.  A recent example of this is the recently launched MLB Channel HD.  DIRECTV is a partial owner in the MLB Channel, thus they began broadcasting the network on January 1, 2009.   DIRECTV also carries the MLB Extra Innings package, though this bundle costs around $200 per year extra.   Cable TV companies like Comcast and Verizon Fios also are carrying the MLB channel, but it is nowhere to be found on Dish Network.
This follows a typical pattern with DISH Network and DIRECTV.  There is a decided split between the two when it comes to dealing with premium sports programming.   DIRECTV offers the NFL Sunday Ticket in HD, as well as the NASCAR Hotpass in HD as well, while you cannot even get these packages through Dish Network.  In addition, DIRECTV has begun offing mini-packages covering the Masters and Grand Slam tennis tournaments at no additional cost to their subscribers.

Overall, if sports programming is high on your priority list, DIRECTV HD trumps DISH Network Turbo HD.


  1. thanks for the review. I have dish Network turbo hd and really like it, but i would rather have Direct TV. they have NFL ticket and also the Nascar package, but I heard that is discontinued this year. What I really want is an HD only package from Direct TV, then I could get a cheaper rate and the sports i want

  2. I’ve had both directtv hd and dish hd, and I can honestly say I cant tell a bit of difference between the two. Both were absolutely crystal clear and had excellent picture quality. My friend though has comcast, and there were all kinds of compression issues a couple years ago. I think its much better now as far as comcast hd, but still inferior to satellite tv

  3. It doesnt matter which one of these companies you go with, just go with satellite! I’ve been sorely disappointed with the number if HD channels available to me via my cable company, Time Warner. I checked into satellite, Direct Tv and dish and what they have for HD. There’s a few differences here and there, certain ones are on Directtv that arent on dish network, and vice versa. But overall you cant go wrong. I went with Dish Network, a little cheaper overall, but a friend of mine has Direct tv hd. Both look great, cant tell a bit of difference. And both look better than my old service with TWC.

  4. I think when comparing Direct TV vs Dish Network you shouldnt worry about price. They basically cost the same. Just stay away from cable. Those guys will rob you blind.

  5. It looks like Turbo HD isnt an option anymore, I tried to sign up for it yesterday, but couldnt find it anywhere on the Dish Network website. It doesnt surprise me, as it was such a low priced package. Im sure Dish TV thought people would sign up for it then move to a higher priced option.

    Oh well, as long as I have to pay full price, I’ll probably go with Direct TV. Its a little more, but I want the option to get Sunday Ticket next year

  6. Article is slightly misleading. Verizon is the only telecom network that doesn’t rely on last-mile technology as they offer Fiber all the way to the house. FiOS also provides the best picture quality IMO with the satellite providers right behind Verizon.

  7. dish network is better than direct tv cause it has the most hd channels close to the year 2010, has lower price packaging than direct tv, and installation the same day of the deal. I think Direct tv has a cooler name though.

  8. I don’t like any of the systems. They push the true about programing and prices. What they have to watch is over priced.

  9. Direct TV sucks! False advertising and horrible customer service. They screwed us out of $6 so this will be the 1st of 100 poor reviews I will post. We switched to Fios for a monthly savings of $100. ten times better quality and service. Switch now and be so much happier!

  10. The bottom line with Dish or Direct TV will be the customer service. From experience I can tell you Direct TV has the worst customer service I have ever had to deal with. Most of the agents are both deaf and dumb because they have to clue what the problem is and the will argue with you until hell freezes over even though you are right. It got so bad I dropped Direct and took the early cancellation penality. With Dish everything is smooth sailing and I have never had a customer service problem.

    Dish is just as good with the sports channels unless you are a sports addict and like to change channels every five minutes to watch it all. In Michigan I get all of the major sports teams in pro and college. I could care less what is going on in Georgia or Minnesota…Go with Dish.

  11. First they install the wrong dish on my house (SWM 3 instead of a SWM5) and it will take a week to replace the dish. It will take me 2 half days off of work to get it right and DIRECTV doesn’t seem to care about the problem. I spoke with 3 different representatives (Michael, Alice and Carlos) and received 3 different answers to my problem when I couldn’t receive local stations. Even the Manager (Danielle) wasn’t helpful. They knew they had me over the barrel and would have had to pay $450 to cancel the contract after 2 days. I would just be happy with a less quality picture with cable and have good customer service instead of the other way around. They are a big company and don’t care about it’s customers. Stay away and look for another dish provider.

  12. lHonestly,if I could get any kind of sat.package that had no sports programming at all,I would be the first in line to sign up! I am getting ready to switch to Dish net work .I have been fairly happy with Direct tv but Dish has better options for mobile applications.My main gripe with both net works is the fact that they will never call and offer you the latest upgrades.Seems the only way you can get the latest updated equipment is to change providers every couple of years.

  13. Will anyone invent a way to just order the channels you want? I am with dish, but I have to pay for the premium package so I can watch what I want to watch. I only watch a dozen or so channels but they are spread over all the different packages. So more or less I have 300 channels of crap that I don’t watch and have to pay thru the nose to watch the channels I want to watch. I am sure you can program a receiver to only except certain signals for the channels you only want. I am just tired of getting screwed by companies, it seems like all the time now. Gas, electric, food…….

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