Product Review (October 2011)

DISH Network - Tailgater™
Portable HDTV System

By Kevin Nakano

Dish Tailgater Portable HDTV SystemDISH Network continues to innovate and has recently introduced the new Tailgater system to their lineup. The Tailgater Portable HDTV System allows DISH Network customers to take their TV outside, whether it's for tailgate parties, camping, RVing and even backyard BBQs. The Tailgater is designed to take the pain out of pointing the dish and lets you spend more time enjoying the content.

Dish Tailgater Portable HDTV SystemTailgater Design
The 10-pound Tailgater unit houses a circular dish mounted on a 2-axis gimbal, allowing the system to automatically acquire signals from the DISH Network satellites when placed on a flat surface. The enclosure has an outer lip that prevent rain from entering in. Small drain holes on the bottom of the housing allows moisture to exit should any build up inside. The technology contained in this protective shell is very impressive, combining a complete satellite dish with LNB, along with azimuth and elevation controls. Signal strength is automatically dialed in as the unit senses the satellite signal level as it scans the two axes. When you look at the technology contained in this product, the cost of the Tailgater is very reasonable.

The Tailgater system cost $499 (including the ViP211k receiver), but if you are an existing DISH Network customer and already have an HD Solo Receiver in your home (Model ViP 211k), you may purchase the Tailgater Portable Antenna a la carte for only $350. If you happen to use the system only a few months out of the year while on trips, there is no need to pay for it all year long. DISH offers a Pay-as-you-go plan that will save you money. In addition, if you happen to already be a DISH customer, there is no need to add a second account for the tailgater and you can enjoy the same programming while on the road as you do at home. However, some channels, including international programming and RTN, may not be available. Local channels and Regional Sports Network(s) are subject to availability based on your geographical location. Bluefield (WV), Lake Charles (LA), Columbia (MS), Springfield (MA), and Providence (RI) markets will not be able to receive SD or HD local channels through a Tailgater solution.

Dish Tailgater Portable HDTV SystemSetup
The Tailgater unit needs to be placed on a flat surface with an unobstructed view of the southern sky. Users need to make sure that there are no trees or buildings obstructing the signal. Only a single connection to the Tailgater unit is required since power is carried on the same cable as the satellite signal. This greatly simplifies the installation process. We connected the ViP211k receiver using the 50-foot RG6 cable provided with the unit. The receiver requires 120VAC power. However, as an alternative the ViP211k can run from a 12V power inverter or generator. For security, the Tailgater has a security bracket located at the bottom of the carry handle. This allows the unit to be secured to a fixed object using a padlock and security cable (not included).

Dish Tailgater Setup
Dish Tailgater Setup
Dish Tailgater Setup
Dish Tailgater Setup
Dish Tailgater Setup

Setup Procedure
Once the Tailgater is connected to the ViP211k and powered on, the receiver will prompt the user for a location. The user simply chooses the state from the list provided and then initiates a scan. The location tells the receiver where to search for the satellite signal in the southern sky. The acquisition of the signal is automatic and there is no need for the user to adjust anything once the location is entered. The servo mechanism in the Tailgater unit will begin to activate as it searches for a signal. It is quite amazing technology in that it finds the signal automatically based on the signal strength as it scans.

Once a good signal is received, the Tailgater will then collect information and in the case of a first time installation, will prompt the user to activate the receiver by calling DISH network's customer support.

We called the number on the screen and provided the information requested. The customer service person then remotely activated our receiver and the screen indicated that the authorization was in progress.

After a few minutes, the ViP211k was activated and then it began to download the latest program guide information. After a few minutes it was complete.

The installation was easy and there were no issues getting a good signal from the Tailgater unit.

Dish Tailgater Power ConsumptionPower Consumption
The ViP211k requires 120VAC power. However, as an alternative the ViP211k can run from a 12V power inverter. If you plan to use the Tailgater system for more than a few hours at a time, it is recommended that you start and run your vehicle for a few minutes every hour to keep the battery charged. Car batteries are not designed for deep cycling, which can which can reduce the battery life. We used a P3 P4320 Kill-A-Watt Power Strip to record the peak power consumption during the boot-up and acquisition of the satellite signal. We were surprised to see only 28 Watts. This does not include the power required for the monitor, so the total power will be dependent on the display being used with this system.

Tailgater SizeTailgater Size
The size of the Tailgater is actually quite manageable and the attached handle on the side allows it to be carried easily with one hand. At the current time, the Tailgater is only compatible with the ViP211k model receiver, a single-TV receiver that supports both HD and SD programming. DVR functionality can be added by simply attaching an external USB hard drive and paying a one-time service fee of $40. This will give users the ability to record and pause live TV and playback any previously recorded program, including high definition content. Picture quality is amazing and the ViP211k is a great match for the Tailgater.

Vip 211k RemoteThe ViP211k remote is a newer design that includes some of the same technology from DISH Network's earlier DVR remotes in terms of layout and functionality, but has several new features. You will notice the new Blu-ray color buttons (red, green, yellow, and blue) to access special blu-ray features. In fact, this remote looks identical (except for the color) to the one that comes with the ViP922. The new ViP211k remote uses two-way RF technology to improve the control of the receiver without requiring a direct line-of-sight found on traditional IR remotes. One feature we like is the ability to read the battery level in the remote. Users can see just how much battery life is left on the remote by using the information screen. A nice feature of this remote is the low-battery warning that will be displayed when the batteries need replacing.

Since RF remotes work over fairly long distances, they can sometimes cause interference with one another. For this reason, DISH provides the ability to change the remote address through the menu to improve performance. This can be especially important if you have more than one RF remote in the house or if a nearby neighbor has a similar remote. We never encountered any issues with the RF remote during the course of the review and always had good reception.

IR Receiver for learning codesThe Tailgater remote has no backlighting, except for the four selectable (Sat, TV, DVD, and Aux) device buttons on the top. Each of the three additional buttons can be programmed to operate (via IR) other components in the system. We were hoping that the new OPPO BDP-95 command set could be programmed using the code listed in the manual. Unfortunately, this appears to be an earlier version of the OPPO IR code set and we were not able to use many of the features on this newer Blu-ray player. However, this new DISH remote design has a learning feature with an IR receiver built into the top left side (see photo). It is now possible to have the remote learn codes from other IR remotes making it virtually future-proof.

We have always liked DISH remote designs and they continue to be one of the best out there in terms of layout and functionality. The new ViP211k is no different and you will likely agree that this remote is easy to learn and use.

ViP211k ConnectionsConnectivity
The connections to the ViP®211k support both analog and digital connections that include all generations of displays. We recommend using the HDMI connection if possible to maximize performance. Analog component (Y/Pb/Pr), s-video and composite video is supported along with digital HDMI. Other interfaces include ethernet, USB, toslink digital audio (stereo or 5.1), and a phone connection.

The ViP®211k includes an ATSC tuner for digital broadcasts fully supporting high quality HDTV. For those with a terrestrial antenna, it is possible to receive local broadcasts using the built-in digital tuner. You can even use the DVR feature to record and playback these programs.

Dish ViP211k - Over The AirLocal Channels
While DISH does provide the option of receiving local channels as part of their satellite service, there can be regional limitations depending upon where you are at any given time. As an alternate way of getting local content, customers can scan the area using a terrestrial antenna. We did just that and picked up 139 channels in the Los Angeles area. At first, we thought that the receiver only detected 14 channels as indicated on the scan summary. However, we soon realized that the actual number was well over 100 channels. For some reason the channel counter appears to have a bug. I guess they never thought that the local scan would result in so many channels.

OTA PerformancePerformance
The Tailgater requires an acquisition period of about 5-10 minutes once powered on. The great part is the antenna can be placed on a flat surface without the need to point it. However, it does require a clear view of the southern skies to operate reliably. Any obstructions and you may experience dropouts. Once the system completes the boot process, it is ready to provide video content. Video quality was excellent and it looked just as good as if you were right at home watching television. The system take little power so a small backup generator should provide adequate power for the system.

The Tailgater is an impressive product not just because it greatly simplifies the installation process when you go to a new location, but also because of the underlining technology within the antenna mechanism. It essentially has an auto-tracking system that is a state-of-the-art technology, which few consumers will ever know about or appreciate. The good news is you do not need to know about the advanced technology within the Tailgater, but instead can just benefit from it. For those who take road trips in their RV, I cannot think of a better product that would make their lives easier when stopping at various locations across the country. Within minutes, you will be able to watch your favorite programs without the hassle of pointing a dish.

The Tailgater leverages heavily on the powerful ViP211k satellite receiver making the whole package a real winner. The low power consumption of this receiver makes it an ideal choice for this application and yet it still remains very powerful and can work as a DVR and receive local terrestrial broadcasts. As an engineer, this is one of the coolest products I have reviewed in a while and DISH has done an excellent job by providing customers with a reliable and easy to use system.

- Kevin Nakano

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

Review - At a Glance

DISH Network - Tailgater System

Tailgater - Model VQ2500

HD Solo Receiver - Model ViPĀ® 211k


  • Supports both HD and SD programming
  • Display resolutions: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
  • Portable and lightweight with built-in ergonomic handle
  • Compact to fit any space
  • Weather-resistant cover
  • Integrated security bracket

Tailgater - Model VQ2500


  • Dimensions: 17.5" H x 16" W x 16" D
  • Weight: 10 lbs.
  • Color: White
  • Packaging Dimensions:
    20 7/8" H x 18 3/16" W x 18 3/16" D

Package Contents

  • Tailgater antenna
  • 50 feet RG6 coax cable
  • User's Guide
  • Quick Reference Guide

HD Solo Receiver - Model ViPĀ® 211k


  • Dimensions: 1.9" x 13.2" x 10.7"
  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Color: Black
  • Packaging Dimensions:
    16" x 13.375" x 4.5"

Package Contents

  • ViP 211k HD receiver
  • Infrared (IR) remote control with 4 AAA batteries
  • HDMI cable
  • RCA composite audio/video cable
  • RG-59 coax cable
  • User's Guide
  • Remote Control Quick
    Reference Guide
  • Warranty Information

Tailgater User's Guide

Tailgater Quick Reference Guide

Company Information
Echostar Satellite L.L.C.
DISH Network
9601 S. Meridian Blvd.
Englewood, CO 80112


MSRP: Tailgater System (Tailgater + ViP 211k HD receiver): $499
MSRP: Tailgater a la carte (Tailgater Only): $350

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