Are those cheap satellite meters on Amazon any good?

Look folks, I don’t blame you for looking for a deal. If you’re looking to set up a satellite system, you’ve priced out meters at Solid Signal and elsewhere. I know they’re pricey. You’ve probably gone to Amazon and found that there are meters you can get for under $100 and thought, “what the hey?”

Here’s the story

If you’re looking for something that will simply detect the presence of a satellite, those meters might actually work. After all we have a simple satellite finder available if you want to buy it. The stuff you find on other sites is a lot fancier than that.

Those meters really aren’t designed for the US, though. Although they will find signals in the Ku band used by DIRECTV and DISH, they are looking for completely different kinds of signals. Generally they’ll be looking for the DVB-S signals used by most European countries.

But can you use them anyway?

I can’t vouch for every device you see there. But if all you’re looking to do is verify the presence of a signal, they’ll do… something. There are a few things you’ll probably want to know, though.

First thing is that these devices only tune Ku-band signals. That’s not enough for DIRECTV, which also uses the Ka band. It also isn’t guaranteed to work for DISH. They use the Ku band but encode it in a way that might not work with those satellite finders.

The other issue is figuring out what satellite you’re looking at. The area at the center of the country is pretty congested, actually. There are a lot of operators between 95 and 105 degrees west. If you’re aiming a dish, you have to know that you’re aiming at the right place. Even as you get outside that range, it can be confusing. For example, both DIRECTV Puerto Rico and DISH have operated at the 110 location and both used the Ku band.

So who uses those meters?

I have to tell you I’m not sure why they are listed for sale in the US other than they are trying to suck people into buying them. Those meters are generally used by people in Europe and other areas with free satellite service. In those areas, people buy satellite equipment at their local home store or hardware store. They usually only need to point at one satellite, and they use these inexpensive meters to do it.

Remember that in most countries, broadcasting is a service provided by the government. Many countries went to satellite instead of putting up transmitters every 40 or 50 miles. The satellite service there is paid for by your taxes, which tend to be higher in countries like that.

Is it worth it?

I would say, no. If you’re aiming a dish only every so often, use the built-in satellite meters on your receiver, as well as your phone’s compass app. That should be all you need for a quick and dirty aim. If you need to be more serious than that, it’s better to shop for signal meters at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.