Dish's Hopper just took a massive leap. The whole-home DVR solution, which launched at CES last year and began shipping to consumers this past spring, now has built-in Sling functionality -- think of it as a supercharged version of the "SlingLoaded" DVR we first saw in early 2009. The new Broadcom 7125 chipset under the hood enables full Sling capability, with all the benefits of DVR integration, letting you view live TV from any of your subscribed channels, along with each and every program saved to the 2-terabyte hard drive -- there are no content or location restrictions, meaning the box will feed HD video to a compatible device anywhere in the world. Dish subscribers who don't plan to take advantage of Sling will see speed boosts as well, thanks to a new 1.3GHz clock speed and 2 gigs of RAM, with a faster bus speed to boot.
All this power translates to a much smoother experience device-wide. During our hands-on and side-by-side demo with the previous-generation Hopper, menu navigation felt much speedier, with apps launching more quickly and no hiccups during guide scrolling. Like other Sling products, you're limited to one connected device at a time, so don't plan on handing your login to friends and family members on the other end of the world (unless they're willing to play nicely, of course). You'll also have on-demand content through the Dish Anywhere app, and because this is standard video streamed from the web, the simultaneous device limitation jumps to five. Externally, this latest Hopper looks identical to its predecessor, and offers all of the original features, with the added benefit of Sling, boosted performance and built-in WiFi. It's set to ship this month and will ultimately be free for new customers, though an upgrade path for owners of the now-retired original Hopper has yet to be detailed.