What if your satellite equipment doesn’t look like it does in the picture?

I was talking recently about this topic with one of our team members and it seemed to me to be a great idea for an article.

At Solid Signal, we’re one of the few places you can buy the exact same parts that satellite installers use. That’s important if you’re a DIYer. You don’t want to risk problems with your satellite TV system. But, how can you know for sure that you’re getting the right thing?

Occasionally, one of our customers will call to complain that what they see on our site isn’t an exact match for what they’ve received. I get it. That would worry me too. But, once you know how DIRECTV does things, it makes a little more sense.

The little hidden secret

I’m going to tell you something that most people don’t know. DIRECTV does not manufacture… anything. They don’t have their own factories, they don’t have their own assembly lines. However, they contract with some of the most influential tech manufacturers in the world to make things to their specifications. And there are very specific rules as to how those things have to be manufactured.

By making sure all manufacturers follow the rules, customers get a consistent experience. But, if you’re not familiar with the rules, it could leave you thinking you have counterfeit equipment when you don’t.

Receivers, DVRs, and clients

All of the black boxes that are in your home providing DIRECTV service are very tightly controlled in how they are manufactured. No matter who makes your DIRECTV box, it has to look and act the same. The only allowable differences are in the back panel.

For example, take a look at this H24-100:

and now, this H24-200:

The differences are slight, but they are there. Things are in a different place because the mainboards are different. But, the front of both receivers are identical and even the cases are interchangeable. That’s all done to give you a consistent experience.

Customer premises equipment

Customer premises equipment, or CPE, is the term for everything in your DIRECTV system that isn’t a receiver or cable. For example, the dish, the splitters, that sort of thing. Here, DIRECTV gives manufacturers a lot more flexibility. Their parts can look different as long as they do the same thing. Here’s an example:

Both of these splitters are DIRECTV-approved and both have the same part-number: MSPLIT4-R1. The last two digits are the manufacturer code. In this case, Prime Electronics made the top one and Zinwell made the bottom one. They function the same even though the cases are different and there are no interchangeable parts except the weather boots.

DIRECTV contracts with several different companies to get their CPE, and they ensure that everyone is providing the same quality level. You may get something that looks a little different from the picture you see on the site, but that doesn’t mean it’s different in a meaningful way.

When there is a difference

In some cases, there’s a new generation of CPE that adds new functions. For years, DIRECTV used this polarity locker made by Prime Electronics to provide power to dishes in a commercial setting:

and recently they have switched to a new one made by Unitron:

They both perform the same basic function and you can switch one out for the other if need be. The new one doesn’t have weather boots as DIRECTV no longer recommends that this equipment be outside unless it’s in an enclosure. But otherwise they work the same. The new part adds the ability to be powered by the multiswitch, but that’s an option not a requirement.

If you’re not sure…

call us at 888-233-7563. We’ll help you be sure you got the right part. But I can tell you that everything that we sell for DIRECTV systems is DIRECTV-approved, and while some of it does look slightly different from what’s pictured, it’s always the right choice.


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.