Layer 3 Streaming DVR vs. Hopper 3 (1 Viewer)

jackdemcak

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Layer 3 is offers a no obligation 21 day free trial of their streaming internet-connected DVR. They offer over 250 HD only channels, a full time 4K channel (NASA TV), and promise to deliver "white glove customer service". I took them up on their offer. I ran their DVR in parallel with my Hopper 3. This is what I learned.

Layer 3’s new subscriber incentive pricing would result in a savings of about $450 during the first year of service compared with my current Dish subscription. Service for year 2 and beyond, assuming neither Dish nor Layer 3 change their advertised price schedule, Layer 3 would be a few dollars a month cheaper than Dish. The Layer 3 service contract does not require a long term commitment. The user can terminate service at any time.

At my normal viewing position of 12 feet from a 65 inch LG OLED TV, I can not see any difference in 1080p picture quality between the Layer 3 DVR and the Hopper 3. Layer 3's 4K picture quality is exceptional.

I do not know what minimum bandwidth Layer 3 requires for HD and UHD streaming support. I have a 25 Mbps internet line which provided uninterrupted, high quality streaming.

After two weeks using the Layer 3 DVR, both my wife and I agree that the current Layer 3 software is too feature poor and buggy to be acceptable. Regardless of the savings it offers, the Layer 3 DVR cannot compete with the Dish Hopper 3’s functionality and reliability.

What follows are some of the issues I found that need to be addressed before I would consider the Layer 3 DVR as a possible replacement for the Dish Hopper 3.

There is neither a user manual in print nor on line. There is no on-screen help. No channel is dedicated to showing Layer 3 DVR tutorials or user tips. Some people may enjoy the challenge of working out the system’s operation through trial and error, but I am an not one of them.

My main interest in looking at Layer 3 was support for 4K streaming. Layer 3 has a full time 4K channel. It seemed a good bet that Layer 3 will be in the forefront of satellite and cable providers when they start adding 4K content to their programming. I was very disappointed when NBC’s recent 4K coverage of the English Premier League was not available on Layer 3. I was told that Layer 3 has not yet worked out all the details with providers to enable 4K streaming. I was asked to be patient - - - 4K is coming, but they did not give me a definitive delivery date.

During the first week of use I found a serious bug that locked the system up and also corrupted several recorded programs. Layer 3 customer service told me that their tech reps were booked for that day but a tech rep could be at my home first thing the next day. The tech rep arrived on time at 8:30 am. He replaced the faulty DVR with a new unit. In doing so, he found an intermittent fault in my router and guided me through a red button (not a simple power off/on cycle) router reset. This was an impressive demonstration of high quality customer service. A week later the new DVR locked up when I was fast forwarding a recorded program. The recording was corrupted and unwatchable.

I am convinced that the Layer 3 user interface was designed for channel surfers who mostly watch live TV. There is no evidence that much consideration was given to users who are not interested in watching live TV and only watch recorded programs. This shows in Layer 3’s clumsy implementation of its program search and record procedures and lack of external hard drive support.

There are two ways to find a future program to record --- use either the Program Guide or the Search function. Both methods are frustratingly tedious. The Program Guide is a window showing a 1 and a half hour time span and is sized to show 10 entries. There is no forward or backward skip by a day. Even though the Layer 3 DVR provides 6 program categories named ALL, FOR ME, NEWS, SPORTS, KIDS, MOVIES, and LIFESTYLE to limit the number of channels displayed in the Program Guide window, the channel you want is not easy to find when it is hidden among the dozens of other channels that happen to fall into the same category. If the Layer 3 developers had looked at the Dish Hopper 3 they would have realized how powerful and necessary the Hopper 3's Favorite Channels feature is to allow users to quickly search the channels they are interested in.

Using the Search method with its tiny alpha/numeric key pad is equally frustrating. Keying in search text is hampered by slow response from the time of the click to when the character appears in the search text string. Moving the cursor around in the key pad is not very responsive. There are occasional long pauses when the system appears to go to sleep, but eventually wakes up. The system can sometimes lock up when the key pad is clicked too quickly. The lock up is cleared by pressing the remote's Home key. The user can then reenter the Schedule mode. Mercifully, the previously keyed in text is retained during this soft reset.

When the Layer 3 DVR deletes a recording, it is gone forever. There is no Trash from which you can retrieve a program that was deleted by accident.

There are no skip forward/backward buttons on the (non-illuminated) remote. Fast Forward and Rewind must be used to move through a recording. I always over- or under-shoot while skipping a commercial and then have to go through several iterations of FF and REW nudges to continue watching beyond the commercial. This is maddening when one is used to the Dish Hopper 3’s 10 second back and 30 second forward remote buttons.

The Layer 3 DVR does not provide a start early time for a program recording. A recording’s end time can be extended for a maximum of 10 minutes. The Layer 3 DVR’s method for determining a program's end time contains a fatal error. Insufficient time was scheduled to accommodate possible overtime for the recently aired Community Shield Cup soccer match. The recording ended before the winner was determined. Fortunately, I also recorded this match on the Dish Hopper 3. The Hopper 3 got it right and the entire game including its overtime was recorded.

Layer 3 does not offer the BeIn sports channel. As a fan of European football I find this unacceptable. The Smithsonian channel is also missing.

There is a curious thing about the Layer 3’s 4K NASA channel. The material displayed on screen is not what the Program Guide describes. The programming material appears to be on a loop that repeats itself every few hours. I suspect that the NASA TV programming is not being streamed from NASA TV’s normal feed but from a 4K blue ray disk supplied by NASA. This may explain why Layer 3's 4K picture quality is exceptional.

I discussed all of the above issues at length with several Layer 3 tech support people. They all agreed that my points were valid and they would inform the developers to make fixes or add functions. I was told that a new system update was coming soon that would address some of these issues. They could not tell me what issues were being addressed nor when the update will be released.
 
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Bruce

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My main interest in looking at Layer 3 was support for 4K streaming. Layer 3 has a full time 4K channel. It seemed a good bet that Layer 3 will be in the forefront of satellite and cable providers when they start adding 4K content to their programming.

I don't know why anyone would look at any provider for 4K or future 4K, until broadcasters start offering UHD programming it is a moot point and there is not even a rumor of a broadcaster about to offer a 4K version of their channels.
 
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JSheridan

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I don't know why anyone would look at any provider for 4K or future 4K, until broadcasters start offering UHD programming it is a moot point and there is not even a rumor of a broadcaster about to offer a 4K version of their channels.

Bruce, you do remember the beginnings of HD right? The fish bowl channel and the endless loops on most everything else. No channels offered HD versions at the time but a lot of different and interesting HD things surfaced until HD channel versions started. I suspect it will be the same with 4K.
 

MikeD-C05

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I remember early part of last decade , we had CBS in hd and Discovery Hd and one other channel I can't remember now. You could pay like $7.99 a month for those three hd channels.
 
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DWS44

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As much as I personally like 4K and would like to see more of it, I think the biggest difference in 4K when compared to the move from SD to HD, is that the move from SD to HD was so dramatic that even the less tech-oriented saw a wow factor, even on smaller TVs. The changing aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 brought even more to the table during that transition. On the flipside, HD to 4K, while especially nice on larger TVs, it isn't that dramatic of a change to draw in the masses, I don't think...and let's be honest...HDR/WCG is purely the domain of videophiles...not something the masses are likely to even notice, let alone seek out.
 

MikeD-C05

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As much as I personally like 4K and would like to see more of it, I think the biggest difference in 4K when compared to the move from SD to HD, is that the move from SD to HD was so dramatic that even the less tech-oriented saw a wow factor, even on smaller TVs. The changing aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 brought even more to the table during that transition. On the flipside, HD to 4K, while especially nice on larger TVs, it isn't that dramatic of a change to draw in the masses, I don't think...and let's be honest...HDR/WCG is purely the domain of videophiles...not something the masses are likely to even notice, let alone seek out.
I think you are right. 4K seems to have been another gimmick to sell new TV . 8k will be too. The human eye can't really see that much difference in the picture between HD or 4K unless you have a screen larger than 55" and up. HDR is not standard yet and as such the colors can be very bright and almost garish. Like watching Dick Tracy movie with all the bright colors. Which is nice for a movie about a comic character , but you don't want to see all that when you are watching a drama or reality tv , the news ,etc.
 

comfortably_numb

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Considering all the channels on Dish that are STILL in SD, I would much rather see providers going "all HD" rather than shuffle their bandwidth to make room for 4K.

With regards to Layer 3, it's innovative, but it's basically just another IP service with a DVR box. And from what I've read, it uses a LOT of data, so if your ISP has a cap, it's a no-go.

Here's an interesting article on it: 3 reasons Layer3 TV will fail, but may succeed anyway!
 
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Bruce

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Bruce, you do remember the beginnings of HD right? The fish bowl channel and the endless loops on most everything else. No channels offered HD versions at the time but a lot of different and interesting HD things surfaced until HD channel versions started. I suspect it will be the same with 4K.

Actually this time is quite different in the first few years of 4K because there is tons of programming, it just is not on a traditional TV Service.

Netflix alone has 88 different TV Series (122 seasons in total) in 4K-

Netflix - instantwatcher - Search

and 110 different movies/specials-
Netflix - instantwatcher - Search
plus all the content on Amazon and the ability to rent and buy 4K content on Vudu.
 

JSheridan

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Don't forget that there are huge areas of the country where 4K from the internet is not an option. Either the connection is too slow or the data is limited.
 
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comfortably_numb

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Don't forget that there are huge areas of the country where 4K from the internet is not an option. Either the connection is too slow or the data is limited.

Yeah, like where I live. Our DSL top speed is 20 mbps with no sign of that increasing any time soon. Only other option is hotspot via Verizon, and you will get your account disconnected by streaming too much on that. I'll be using satellite for TV well into the distant future, unless broadband companies make a significant investment in rural areas (doubtful).

Ah the plight of the people in "flyover land." All this IP-stuff is great if you live in a big city. The rest of us get forgotten.
 

comfortably_numb

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The majority of the population can, from the FCC Site-

10 percent of all Americans (34 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.

2016 Broadband Progress Report

Once again, I'm in that 10% or 1% or whichever statistic you want to throw us rural folk into. It's frustrating. Sure, I could move to a big city, but I don't want to. So I'm not complaining, satellite is fine, but please understand that 10% is a HUGE area of the country. It's rural areas all across the nation. And we spend money too! ;)
 

JSheridan

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Yeah, like where I live. Our DSL top speed is 20 mbps with no sign of that increasing any time soon. Only other option is hotspot via Verizon, and you will get your account disconnected by streaming too much on that. I'll be using satellite for TV well into the distant future, unless broadband companies make a significant investment in rural areas (doubtful).

Ah the plight of the people in "flyover land." All this IP-stuff is great if you live in a big city. The rest of us get forgotten.

You're lucky. The top speed for our 'Business Class' DSL is 8 down and .8 up. :)
 
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Bruce

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So I'm not complaining, satellite is fine, but please understand that 10% is a HUGE area of the country. It's rural areas all across the nation. And we spend money too! ;)

While it is a huge area of the country, not that many people live in it compared to urban areas.
 

JSheridan

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The majority of the population can, from the FCC Site-

10 percent of all Americans (34 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.

2016 Broadband Progress Report

Exede satellite internet now offers 25/3 service and is available in most parts of the country. It's limited data so forget about streaming. I wonder if the FCC is counting them in their 'report'.
 
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glynnp

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Once again, I'm in that 10% or 1% or whichever statistic you want to throw us rural folk into. It's frustrating. Sure, I could move to a big city, but I don't want to. So I'm not complaining, satellite is fine, but please understand that 10% is a HUGE area of the country. It's rural areas all across the nation. And we spend money too! ;)

Recently, our neighbor paid Comcast $16K to have cable brought up to the house. My cost would be more than
that. Phone line DSL is 1.5 mbps. Internet is wireless through Verizon 4G LTE at 10-40 mbps depending on cell
tower load at any given second.

We're OK with that because it's the life we chose.

It's always amusing to watch people sit around and casually speak of us as a statistic. They probably freak out if they lose power for more than 5 minutes.

Hopper3 is the Big Boss Man of DVRs !
 

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