What’s the best size dish for marine?

You’ve arrived, my friend. You’re doing well for yourself, and you’ve chosen to enjoy the finer things. You’re about to outfit a luxury yacht and you’re doing your research. Satellite television is a must, because as much as you enjoy life on the water, you just don’t want to miss your favorite shows when you settle into the cabin at night. Or maybe, you’re thinking of hosting the swankiest tailgate party on the seven seas. No matter why you’re doing it, you’re not alone. Satellite television on RVs and yachts is one of the fastest growing parts of the luxury economy.

Marine satellite’s a little different

You can’t just take a regular satellite dish designed for a home or business and plop it on top of a boat. Satellite dishes take careful aiming, and one slight move from the boat will erase half an hour of hard work. So, marine satellite dishes use a combination of computers, gyroscopes, and other technologies to re-aim themselves constantly. Marine dishes are smart enough to detect the slightest difference in signal strength and move the dish to keep things working as they should.

That’s why marine satellite dishes look like big white gumdrops. If you look inside one:

You’ll see that there’s a rather traditional looking dish inside, and that it’s able to spin around its axis, rotate, and tilt by itself inside that enclosure. It may not look like it’s moving from the outside, but it’s almost always in motion inside.

Size matters

Marine satellite dishes come in different sizes. The smallest are about two feet wide, while the biggest are about 7 feet wide. The bigger the dish, the more it’s capable of. Larger dishes can carry electronics to pull in signals from multiple satellites at once. And, as the dishes get bigger, they are capable of pulling in more signals. Since satellite TV is designed to provide signal on land, you’ll need an ever bigger dish in order to pull in signals from further and further offshore. Eventually the curvature of the earth makes it impossible to pull in any signal at all.

The right size dish for you

The best advice is to get the biggest dish that your craft can handle. But, there’s more to it than that. Obviously as these dishes get bigger they also get heavier and that’s a big concern for a smaller boat. But then, the smallest dishes may not have the capabilities you want.

For most yachts and cabin cruisers, there are two different choices that make sense. The 30cm dish, like Intellian’s i3, can see signals from one satellite location at once. In the case of DIRECTV service, it also means that you are limited to standard definition only and may not get all channels. With DISH service, you can get high definition, but may not be able to tune to any channel you want if you have more than one receiver. So, it’s to your advantage to use a little bigger dish if you can.

For DIRECTV users, the Intellian s6HD is a perfect choice. It can tune signals from all three of DIRECTV’s primary satellites, giving you an experience that’s very similar to what you’ll get when you’re at home. The dish itself is 60cm, meaning that the plastic enclosure is about 2.5 feet in diameter. That’s big but it’s not too bad on a medium sized boat.

Get the service you deserve

While you’re planning out your upgrade, take the time to build a team of experts. You’ll be glad you did. Of course you’ll have riggers and outfitters for other parts of the boat. You’ll want a satellite TV expert, too. Luckily, it’s easy to find one. Signal Connect does more marine activations than anyone else in the world! Call us at 888-233-7563 during East Coast hours. You’ll reach an expert in our Novi, Michigan corporate offices who understands marine better than anyone else. We’ll connect you with an expert who will be there for you 24/7, making sure that everything’s done right. You deserve white glove service, and you’ll get it when you work with Signal Connect.

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.