A salesman’s dream, an installer’s nightmare, and a customer’s confusion. We will demystify television mirroring for you in this article by comparing the practice when utilized by the three major players.
Mirroring is the act of causing two (or more) TVs to have the same picture by splitting a decoded video signal which is intended to be shown on only one TV. Usually mirroring is done to avoid additional up front fees or recurring monthly fees for receivers. For all practical purposes, all mirroring is done by using a regular coaxial splitter. It is possible, but very expensive to split other types of video signals, in particular an HDMI signal. Since mirroring is often done to save money, the most common method of mirroring (and the method describe in this article) is the coax method. As such one major disadvantage mirroring across all providers is that no high definition signals can be mirrored using coax. If you are wondering if it is some how illegal, or otherwise frowned upon by the television service providers, it’s not. Mirroring is 100% legal, and no service provider would ever suggest for a moment you can’t mirror to as many TVs as you want. Some sales reps or customer service agents may be ignorant on the topic, and as such mis-inform you, but after reading this article, you’ll know better.
Cable television mirroring, is not simply splitting the cable line coming in and sending it to multiple TVs in the house. That is traditional cable distribution. Cable mirroring would be sending the line in to a cable decoder set top box, then taking the output from that box and splitting it, sending it to multiple TVs. I don’t think this is done very often, as traditional cable distribution is usually much easier to perform. There may be some advantages, for example, some channels are encrypted and need a set top box to be decoded.
Dish Network mirroring is by far the easiest and has the most advantages with very few of the disadvantages of mirror. The advantages include: RF remotes come with each dual tuner receiver (so customers can easily change mirrored TV stations from anywhere in the home); signals which can be diplexed into existing coax lines for easy distribution; coaxial outputs on all ViP receivers. The disadvantage, is of course, two or more mirrored TVs still have to have the same picture as all the others on the same mirror. It’s so easy to perform that installers can often do it without extra cost. Though they should, in our opinion, always charge for mirroring, as it is most certainly non-standard and does take additional time as well as greatly adding to the liability for the installer. Customers who are used to Dish Network mirroring will be very displeased if they switch providers and expect to have the same mirroring functions available to them. Note: Dish Network’s new Hopper / Joey systems are a whole different story, and are as difficult to mirror as DirecTV.
DirecTV mirroring is horrible. Which is not to say DirecTV is horrible. For starters, none of the high definition receivers being installed for most new customers have the requisite coaxial output ports. To even begin to mirror, the customer must purchase a separate piece of hardware, a composite to coax modulator (usually called an RF modulator) for around $20-$30. Then, this coax signal cannot be diplexed into the existing coaxial cable coming to a given location (at least, not using the newer SWiM technology). A whole new line must be ran. It can be run directly to the TV to be mirrored, but it is better (in the long term) to run the line to the main coaxial junction box. DirecTV does not include mirroring in it’s professional standard installation, and the technicians do not get compensated for the extra labor. This means the customer must pay (either directly or indirectly) for the mirror with up front fees which start at $45 minimum, not including any wall fishing. After all that is done, and the mirror is operational, the user will find that they are unable to change the channel by the mirrored TV because nearly all DirecTV remotes are IR (infra red), not RF (radio frequency). You need a direct line of sight to the receiver in order to change the channels. To get around this limitation, the customer would then need to purchase either an RF remote for around $20 (if their receiver is compatible), or an IR to UHF converter for $50+. All told, for one mirror, you are looking at $85 minimum per mirror, usually more. It’s almost always cheaper, easier, and gives you more control and functionality to just buy an additional receiver unless for some reason you absolutely don’t want to pay the additional $6-$7 a month.
So, in closing, if a DirecTV sales rep informs you that you can operate two or more TVs using only one box, just like Dish Network, please understand they are horribly misinformed at best. While it is possible, it is expensive and difficult, and still limits how the TVs can be used. Just get the proper number of receivers, one for each TV you wish to have service on.