Full comparison - read this
I've had both digital cable (Cox and Adelphia) and DirecTV for years each (and had BOTH for over a month), so here's my unbiased comparison - feature by feature:
My last cable bill was $76/mo (not counting internet) for about 110 channels w/HBO. DTV bill is currently $48/mo for about 160 channels w/HBO (inc the $5 for the extra receiver). I don't think there's any question that DTV is a better value, and prices don't go up NEARLY as often as cable.
I have many more channels on sat that I did w/ Digital cable. While cable has slightly better OnDemand, DVRs pretty much render that useless. DTV has MUCH better international programming. As far as sports are concerned, three words: NFL Sunday Ticket.
(and MLS games for soccer fans)
*Picture Quality (std def): SATELLITE
Like I said, I had BOTH hooked up to the same Sony Grand WEGA 57'' HTDV at once, so I could compare signal quality side by side. DTV wins this HANDS DOWN. I was actually shocked by the difference. Digital cable can be downright aweful on some channels.
*HDTV: TIE (CABLE gets slight edge)
Both have quite a bit of HD content these days. DTV once again gets points for NFL Sunday Ticket HD (if you like football), but cable usually has integrated local channels in HD, where you need a separate antenna to get that w/DTV.
*Ease of Install: CABLE
There's no question it's still much easier to call up the cable co and have your cable ''switched on'' than having the dish installed and configured. Though this is just a one time event, it's a bit of a hassle w/ DTV.
*Hardware: SATELLITE for SD,DVR - CABLE for HD
For HD, this is a hard question to answer. With DTV, you buy the hardware up front (~$250 for a receiver, ~$650 for a DVR) then it's yours forever. W/ cable, you rent it month to month ($10-15/mo). For short term, cable would win here. However, for standard def, hardware is free with DTV (except for teh $50 DVR) and all cable DVR hardware is a pathetic immitation of TIVO - so DTV wins the SD section.
I keep seeing these people complain about DTV going out during storms. my guess is they don't actually HAVE satellite, just what they've heard. In two years, I've had my DTV go out exactly 3 times, and by 'go out' I mean 1-5 seconds, then maybe 30 seconds of pixelation - all told less than one minute of interference. With my last cable co (Adelphia) we had I think 3 outages in a year and a half, but one of those lasted ALL DAY (12 hrs) - not necessarily weather related, but still ridiculous.
*Customer Service: SATELLITE (DTV)
If you haven't experienced DTV customer service, they are the absolute model to which all service companies should aspire! It's simply incredible.
I'm not counting internet access here. They are separate animals and unrelated to this thread - you can have cable modem with or without cable tv (I have DTV and cable modem right now, cheaper than I had Dig Cable w/ cable modem before). I live in an area where I could choose either, and based mainly on price, picture quality and content available, cable really doesn't stand a chance against satellite to me. I was reluctant to make the switch, but now that I have, I kick myself for waiting so long!
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