Why is AT&T’s AIM meter so expensive?

Ah, the Advanced Installation Meter from AT&T. So elegant. So powerful. And yet, so expensive. Give or take, it’s about 2.5 times more expensive than a Genie 2 DVR. It’s easy to imagine that the Genie, with its 7 tuners, hard drive, and host of other technology, costs more to make than the AIM. So the AIM should be a lot less expensive, right?

Before you jump to conclusions, do at least know that the latest generation AIM now includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and wired Ethernet which has to prop up the price a little bit.

But yeah, it’s frustrating

It’s frustrating because the AIM is about as close as you can get to the perfect meter for DIRECTV. Not only is it weather-resistant, reasonably small and light, but it has all-day battery life PLUS a replaceable battery (because nothing lasts forever.) It will let you aim everything from a 20-year-old round dish to the latest and greatest Reverse Band dish. It has a guided mode that makes it super easy to aim a dish and get it right. Pretty much the only thing it doesn’t do is actually display a TV signal on the screen. (I’ll get to that below.)

The AIM, you see, isn’t just a simple satellite finder. It’s a custom-programmed DIRECTV receiver in a portable case. It can receive and tune DIRECTV signals exactly the same way a receiver can. When you have an AIM you have power in the palm of your hand. (OK maybe the palm of two hands, it’s not really that small.)

And the frustration mounts when you realize that it’s really the only satellite meter you can count on. We stopped selling our popular SatLookLite a while back. That meter was good but we engineered it for 2010-era technology. Going back and rebuilding it for the 2020s would have tripled the price, and then it would cost the same as an AIM. And, even I admit I’d rather have an AIM than a SatLookLite.

So what gives?

If you really want to know why AIM meters cost so much you have to realize who they are for. If every person with DIRECTV service needed an AIM meter then they would probably drop in price. But as is, they are only needed by a few thousand people every year. They’re issued to DIRECTV technicians but they are so reliable that don’t need to be replaced. So that same meter can work for many years. This is a relatively niche part and that means the cost of engineering is spread out over a smaller group of devices.

Another reason the meter is expensive is that unlike Genie 2s, which are made by mass-market manufacturer Technicolor, AIMs are made by Viavi, the leader in measuring devices. Most of their measuring devices actually sell for a lot more. Don’t believe me? Check out this meter which sells for over $50,000. Their devices are superbly well built and worth every dollar if you’re the sort of person who needs one.

And the other thing I should point out, is that an AIM is a lot more durable than a Genie 2. I doubt your average Genie 2 would survive a fall from more than a few feet. On the other hand — don’t tell anyone — I once dropped an AIM meter off a roof and it landed in the grass about 10 feet down. It was a little scuffed but worked perfectly. Personally I don’t think I would have faired so well if I’d fallen down 10 feet, even if I landed on the grass.

Yeah, the meter is worth it.

Trust me, if you aim a dish more than once every few months, you should treat yourself to one of these meters. I know they’re pricey but time is money, and with an AIM meter and some practice you can peak a satellite dish in 15 minutes.