Is the DIRECTV round dish completely obsolete?

You know this dish. It’s the original. The granddaddy of them all. The round dish was introduced to American customers in 1994 as part of the original DIRECTV system. It’s still used in other parts of the world, although DIRECTV and DISH have introduced specialized, multi-satellite dishes that most people use.

But, if you wanted to, could you use it in a pinch? Could you keep one in the garage as a spare, in case something happened to your normal dish?


The answer is, it depends on your equipment and what you want to watch. The round dish’s technology will allow it to receive some DIRECTV signals, but not all of them. It may not end up being the best bet for you, or working at all.

Genie systems

By now, most DIRECTV customers have a Genie system. It was introduced in late 2011 and it’s the most common installation today. You may have the tower-like Genie 2, or you may have the older HR44/HR54 which looks something like this:

If you’re not sure if you have a Genie system, press the MENU button on your remote while you’re watching live TV. If the menu looks like this:

That’s a Genie. If it looks like this:

It’s not a Genie.

Genie systems can’t use the round dish

This is one of those changes that is supposed to make it easier for everyone, but it makes it harder for some people. Genies used to support the round dish and there’s no reason in the hardware that they can’t. But the option to choose one has been taken from the software. So, it’s not possible for the Genie to actually use a round dish because, well, it doesn’t know what a round dish is.

Older systems

Older systems can definitely use the round dish without any problem. You will need to manually set the system to the round dish, though.

There’s a whole document which will walk you through this process, but if you’re familiar with the process, you just go into MENU, Settings & Help, Settings, Satellite, Repeat Satellite Setup.

You’ll need to manually change your dish type to 01: 18″ Round or something similar to that. Depending on your receiver the words may be slightly different but it should be easy to figure out which one they mean.

Can you use a round dish with a SWM?

Yes you can, but not with the new SWM-30. If you have a SWM-8 or SWM-16 you can use a round dish with it. Here’s a diagram that will explain it better than I can put it into words:


Yes, the document is a little old but it still works, I promise.

Is this the best option for you?

I am going to suggest that it isn’t. The programming you can get from the round dish is going to be very limited. There are just a tiny handful of HD channels and bunch of SD channels. Depending on how you have your guide set up, you may not see anything at all (Here’s a tutorial to possibly fix that.)

Because your channel selection is going to be limited, and because you’re going to have to make so many tweaks to your system, I’m not recommending this method unless you really need it long term. Instead, I’d suggest using the free DIRECTV app for phones and tablets. Using the app you can get over 100 channels right on your device. If you have a streaming box attached to your TV you can cast or airplay and the experience is very similar to watching regular satellite TV. It’s generally better than watching standard definition.

So yeah, it’s not obsolete but…

While the round dish isn’t obsolete — technically it works — I don’t think it’s the best experience. There are a lot better options.

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.