All this week, Observer columnist Langston Wertz Jr. is writing about popular technology rivalries and trying to help determine which is best for you. The week concludes today with a look at satellite vs. cable TV for home entertainment.
Monday: PS3 vs. Xbox 360
Tuesday: Macs vs. PC
Wednesday: DSL vs. cable internet
Thursday: Wireless or wired home networking
Satellite or cable TV for your home? This is one of the oldest technology arguments out there. If you do not own an HDTV and don’t plan on buying one, both services are about equal and will allow you to watch TV after the digital transition early next year.
But if HD is your bag, or if you think it might be soon, there are a few things you should know.
Cable advantages: “No contract, no equipment to buy” is the cable man’s mantra. Time Warner Cable has superior video-on-demand services and specialized local programming from CMS and News Channel 14 that you can’t get on a dish. There’s also a new feature called “Start Over’’ that will allow viewers to restart shows already in progress so they don’t miss a minute. You don’t need a clear line of sight to the southwest, like with satellite, to get service. And best of all, you can bundle cable, phone and Internet for a discounted price.
Satellite advantages: The picture looks better, especially on non-HD channels (though some cable companies are starting to convert to all digital, like satellite). The selection and variety of high-def content is currently much wider on satellite. The two major satellite providers, DirecTV and DISH, offer more than 100 HD channels, and both carry the NFL Network, which you can’t get on Time Warner. Overall picture quality, especially on non-HD channels, is better locally off the dish.
Knockout Blow: Time Warner’s equipment problems are frequently talked about on message boards, and I’ve experienced them myself. The HD-DVRs, particularly, can be troublesome. DISH and DirecTV equipment tends to run better, be more reliable and the HD choices those companies provide are hard to beat. For sports fans, DirecTV also has NFL Sunday Ticket, giving you access to out-of-market NFL games. Plus, both sat-casters are starting to offer 1080p high-definition movies on pay-per-view, mimicking the sound and advanced picture quality of Blu-Ray. Oh, and satellite prices are cheaper in the long run, too.
Winner: Satellite. Embrace your dish.