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Review: DISH Tailgater

Posted by Dave On September - 25 - 2014

Dish Tailgate Featured

For years, tailgaters have upped the ante when it comes to bringing all the creature comforts of home to the tailgating parking lots. Satellite TV is just one of the modern day conveniences we can’t imagine living without while tailgating.

Unfortunately, setting up the satellite dish on a tripod, finding the correct angle and the azimuth, (what the hell is an Azimuth?) and locking in the strongest signal was such a pain. It took too long and frankly, detracted from you doing what you came to do; tailgate. We are tailgaters, not astronomers. Some tailgaters grew frustrated and would leave the satellite TV at home because it was too much of a hassle and took too long to set up. But, technology kept advancing and in 2009, we discovered the VuQube.

DISH Tailgater and VuQube side-by-side

DISH Tailgater and VuQube side-by-side

Thinking the VuQube was the answer to all of our prayers, we raved about it for years and even got one of our own. (We actually purchased a VuQube on our own and it was not sent to us as a sample to review.) We used it religiously while tailgating for years and always thought the small glitches and annoyances were just part of the overall experience.

The only complaints we had were the set-up time would take a little longer than what was advertised depending on our location. Pointing the dish and using the remote to find the strongest signal was time consuming and you would need to be watching the signal bars on your TV to see what was the strongest signal you could get. This sometimes would take 20 minutes because you would get a strong signal and not knowing if it was the strongest, would see if it could go even stronger, and would eventually lose it and have to try and reacquire it. Again, we just thought this was all par for the course if we wanted to have satellite TV at our tailgate, this was just something you dealt with.

DISH Tailgater portable satellite TV antena

DISH Tailgater portable satellite TV antenna

Last year, we heard about the DISH Tailgater and had heard rumors that it was easier to set up and was fully automatic. It looked exactly like the VuQube we had been using for years but we heard it was so much easier to set up.

You mean we no longer had to push buttons up/down and left/right to get the strongest signal? You’re telling me with the DISH Tailgater I just push a few buttons and I can walk away and the strongest TV signal will be found for me? If this is true, then sign me up.

After doing a little research and investigation on the DISH Tailgater, we discovered that it was essentially the same hardware, made my a company called King Controls in Minnesota, but had been improved upon drastically. Since the DISH Tailgater is made by the same company that made the VuQube, that is why it was about the same size and weight. You still powered the Tailgater by the single coax cable and did not require additional power. The main difference was in the set up.

(Disclaimer: We did receive a DISH Tailagater and receiver  for free. The fact these samples were provided to us free of charge in no way influenced our opinion of the product nor did it impact our ability to test and review the product fairly and objectively.)

DISH Tailgater on roof of van at Qualcomm Stadium prior to the San Diego Chargers game

DISH Tailgater on roof of van with Seattle Seahawk fans walking by

We thought no better place to test drive the DISH Tailgater than while out tailgating an NFL game. We chose the San Diego Chargers 2014 home opener vs. the defending Super Bowl champions, Seattle Seahawks to test it out. We did what we normally do in that we parked, set up our tailgate gear and started to tailgate. Of course you will need a power source (we use a generator) and set up the DISH Tailgater. We placed the tailgater on top of the TailgatingIdeas.com van to get a clear view of the southern sky. We ran the coax cable to our DISH Network receiver and connected it to our TV. We turned everything on and the first screen we saw was a test screen asking us what part of the United Stated we were located. We selected Southern California and the DISH Tailgater proceeded to run through three tests.

DISH Tailgater on roof of van at Qualcomm Stadium prior to the San Diego Chargers game

DISH Tailgater on roof of van at Qualcomm Stadium prior to the San Diego Chargers game

Keep in mind, once we started the test, we did not have to stand in front of the TV and monitor it to make sure the strongest signal was being pulled. We simply walked away, checked on the grill, grabbed another cold beer and went over and greeted the new people who just pulled in next to us. Within this time, the three tests were completed and I came back to a screen informing me that the DISH Tailgater and receiver were acquiring the satellite signal. After that was completed in a total of about 90 seconds, the next screen said it was downloading the program guide. After the program guide successfully downloaded in a matter of about two minutes, up pops our programming. I picked up the remote, selected the pregame show we wanted to watch before the first set of NFL games started and we were off and running.

NFL Football game shown in the parking lot off of a DISH Tailgater system

NFL Football game shown in the parking lot off of the DISH Tailgater

The picture quality was superb and we were able to watch all the programming we wanted from my DISH Network account. Not that we watched anything else other than the early NFL football games while tailgating but it was good to know we could if we had kids that wanted to watch cartoons or something other than football.

Once it was time to pack up and head inside for the game, break down and storage was a breeze. We simply disconnected the DISH Tailgater from the receiver, wound up all of our cords and cables, took the Tailgater off the roof and packed it securely inside the van. It truly was extremely simple and fast to set up and was just as fast and easy to stow away.

After thoroughly testing out the DISH Tailgater, it’s ease of set-up and excellent picture quality, we are going to label the DISH Tailgater “Tailgate Approved”.

The time you will save by not having to search for a satellite signal will be worth the price alone. How much is 20 minutes of your time while out in the tailgating parking lot? To me, my time while tailgating is priceless, so any piece of equipment that enhances that experience that takes little to no time to set up, I am a believer.

We plan on taking the DISH Tailgater to this Sunday’s San Diego Chargers game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars and for the remainder of the season. The DISH Tailgater will be a regular piece of our tailgating gear no matter where we park.

The DISH Tailgater is available through a wide array of retailers including, Camping World, Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Walmart, among others. For a complete list of retailers where you can find and purchase the DISH Tailgater, visit King Controls website HERE.

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Winegard Carryout – Portable Satellite Antenna Review

Posted by Foster On August - 9 - 2010

From Nine(ty) to Five

After a tough week at work the last thing you need is to be stressed out at your tailgate.  Our Texas A&M Tailgating crew has continued to improve each year by adding new items to the mix that help us enjoy the Aggies football season.

Through the years we’ve added at least one key piece of equipment—a grill, a generator or even a TV.  Typically, after the addition you wonder how you ever lived without the product before.

This year, after careful consideration, the big addition to our Texas-sized tailgate will be the Winegard Carryout – GM-1518.  The Winegard is a fully automatic, portable satellite TV antenna.

In previous years, I’ve spent approximately 90 minutes per tailgate setting up the antenna in order to watch other football games during pre and post game.

When doing this manually it’s more than threading a needle.   It’s more like threading the needle after finding it in the haystack.  On more occasions than I’d care to mention, I’ve ended up on the phone with the Dish Network help line working through some technical issue while friends and family enjoyed the tailgate.

Watching TV at tailgate is one of the best experience out there, but when it’s taking your blood pressure to new heights it’s time to look at new options.

In walks the Winegard Carryout.

What the Azimuth?

To set up the antenna on your own you need to establish a level location, set the dish perfectly to triangulate three key angles—one of them being the hard to acquire azimuth–and then lock on the satellite.  The weekly set-up that I went through for two years made Harrison Ford’s work in the Map Room during Raiders of the Lost Ark look like child’s play.

One of my well-intentioned, buddies–a CPA in fact–wanted the TV at the tailgate as much as I did and he tried to pitch in during satellite set up.  However, he lasted about three weeks on the satellite assignment and asked to be reassigned–he said promoted–to grilling duty.  While he loves the TV he said that the whole process was too precise and reminded him way too much of his day-to-day accounting work.

Additionally, during a typical setup 5 to 10 people would come by and ask how the system worked.  Texas A&M is a friendly place with a strong engineering school.  As a result lots of well-intended, logical questions came from good-hearted, helpful Aggies.  Truth be told though, it’s kind of stressful explaining what you’re doing when it’s not clear that you know what you’re doing.

After checking back and forth on pricing and compatibility with Dish Network (click here on an article comparing Dish Network vs. DIRECTV) I set my sites on the Winegard Carryout over the VuQube (the VuQube is reviewed here by Dave) as I sought the solution to our satellite TV setup problems.

Although, I typically had the TV working, this commercial isn’t THAT far removed from our previous experiences . . .

  • Tailgating Tip: Be sure to have at least one test run at home before you take any system to game day so you can familiarize yourself with the equipment and the entire set up process.

The First Test Run

After taking my Honda A2000 generator out of storage for its first work of the year and dusting off all the equipment, I went through the necessary steps of reactivating the Dish Network service, connecting the Winegard, and connecting the TV.  As mentioned, it had previously taken me up to 90 minutes to get the satellite locked each week.

This time though it took me 90 minutes to get everything out of off-season ice and up and running.  Full functionality was achieved including time spent checking the spark plug for, the oil level of and the gas level for the generator.

Accessory note: I purchased a 110v AC/DC converter for the Winegard on eBay so that I could run the unit off of my generator.  The Winegard Carryout comes standard with a 12v cigarette lighter connector for use in most vehicles.

The Second Time

Now that I had the system working, I came back a few weeks later to see just how fast I could get everything going again.

I put the DishNetwork receiver, the Winegard Carryout, the Honda generator, the Samsung TV and all the wires on the ground in front of me without any completed connections.  Then I started the timer on my iPhone and went to work.  In less than 5 minutes the generator was purring, the wires were connected and the the satellite antenna was locked on.  What a huge difference!

It took another 4 minutes for Dish Network to download the programming.  All told it took me 9 minutes and 41 seconds to start surfing channels with my remote control.

What’s Next?

So the product and I are ready for tailgating in Aggieland.   There’s a difference though between the backyard and the tailgate parking lot and I have, admittedly, a few more hurdles to clear.

First, I have to figure out how to elevate the Winegard.  They sell a two foot tripod; however, since we’re in a high traffic tailgating area that’s a little removed (approximately 20 yards) from where we park, we could have intermittent transmission difficulties due to random people walking by.

For most parking lot tailgating from the back of a truck or SUV, it would be easy enough to put the Winegard Carryout on top of your vehicle without any issues; however, that’s not the case for us.  In a parking lot situation though, I can’t imagine a better scenario than plugging the 12v adapter into your car, placing the antenna on the roof and watching the games.  Almost too easy.

Also, they say the warranty is voided if I paint the dome, but I know that a custom maroon shell will play really well in College Station.  Moreover, they sell a black dome as an accessory so I’m thinking there is a way around this.

If anyone has ideas or potential solutions on these topics please feel free to respond below.

Customer Service

The customer support line consists of one guy on call on Saturdays.  No one works on Sundays, which could be a downer for NFL fans, but this guy—Kevin—has to be as lonely as the Maytag repair man.  When we talked he appeared to genuinely be pleased to be speaking with me.

He noted that he mostly helps first time users work through connection issues with either Dish Network or DIRECTV.  As anyone who has researched this category knows, each company has its own demons, but Winegard really doesn’t appear to be the kind of product that needs to have too much in the way of troubleshooters because the product, simply enough, works.

Product Specs

Details about the product can be found on Winegard’s company website by clicking here.

Detailed specs are also listed here for reference:

  • Automatically find satellites – no remote or controls needed
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Easy grip handle for effortless carrying and security
  • Standard programming: Dish Network, Bell TV and DIRECTV
  • HD programming: Dish Network and Bell TV
  • Supports up to 2 receivers
  • Dimensions: 15.6” dome height, 20” diameter
  • Unit Weight: 13.5 Pounds

Bottom line

So with an MSRP of $899 is it worth the purchase price?  Note: a search on Google displays retailers selling the product for as low as $659.99 .

If you are looking for a game changing experience the answer is yes.  If you have a grill and a generator or you just love watching football on game day this IS the absolute next step.

Satellite TV Tailgater wanna-be’s would be well served to start with this product, too.  You might save a few dollars by buying dish equipment or you could take the satellite off your house, but in most cases the pain involved in any of those scenarios just doesn’t make sense.  Sure, I learned the hard way, but why not learn from my mistakes?

The real benefit to the product is how easy they’ve made a very, if not THE most, difficult part of tailgate setup.  You may have some buddies that mean well, but when they are in the hot September sun and have the choice of grabbing an adult beverage from the cooler or helping you triangulate the TV there really isn’t much of a choice is there?

Thanks to the Winegard Carryout I’ll increase my available tailgating time by more than 10 hours this season and reduce the stress level at the tailgate.  Priceless.

This product is a game changer and is on the fast track to being a must have.

To be fair though, we’ll reserve final judgment on the product during back-to-back tailgates in College Station, Texas during the Texas A&M Aggies season opener vs. Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 4th and then again on Sept. 11th when the good guys take on Louisiana Tech.  Check back for details.

For more articles written by Foster “Jim” Flint click here.

Even though the Americans got bounced out the World Cup and there are more Vuvuzelas than tailgaters in the parking lot, America seems to be very much interested in soccer. Another reason to keep your interest high is Marisol Gonzalez. She’s was crowned Miss Mexico Universe 2003 and has appeared in a few Mexican soap operas. But her tribute to the game of soccer makes her the Mid-Week Eye Candy for this week. Links to follow:

Marisol Gonzalez

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VuQubes Available via TailgatingIdeas.com For Limited Time

Posted by Dave On October - 9 - 2009

vuQube portable satelite systemEarlier this week we received word from the distributor of the VuQube that they would discontinue offering them for sale. That means they have just a handful left in their warehouse and when they are gone, they’re gone. Because these portable satellite systems could sell out at any time, please do not be upset if you order one only to find out we can not fulfill your order.

If you are unfamiliar with the VuQube, check out the video to find out how easy it is to set up and watch your favorite shows while tailgating.

I have a VuQube and I can honestly say I love it. Set-up is quite simple and the remote control helps you locate a satellite in about five minutes. Now I never have to miss the early NFL games when tailgating. Neither will you if you get a VuQube. But you need to act fast because these could sell out at any minute. Don’t come crying to us if you wait to long and they sell out.

Note: This promotion has expired.

VuQube Brings Satellite TV To Any Tailgate Party

Posted by Dave On May - 1 - 2009

vuQube portable satelite systemIf you are a longtime reader of this website you may recall my post Satellite TV and the Tailgate Party from back in September of 2007. It’s basically a step-by-step guide on how to set up and watch satellite TV while tailgating. I recently discovered a product called the VuQube that now makes that post almost obsolete. The VuQube is so small, portable and easy to set up that there should be no reason to ever miss the other games while you are waiting for yours to start. Check out this 68 second video to get an idea of what VuQube is all about.

The main benefit of the VuQube is the simple set up of the satellite dish contained within. It eliminates the need to carry a level, tripod, dish and signal meter. The VuQube remote control does it all with a 50-ft to 100-ft range that allows for simple one person set-up. The VuQube can reduce signal acquisition times to 5 – 10 minutes compared to traditional satellite dish systems. And the kicker is that it is compatible with your DirecTV, Dish Network, Bell Expressvu components and receives free-to-air satellite providers as well. Just grab your VuQube, your signal receiver/DVR, flat screen, a steady electrical source (like a Honda generator) and you are watching ESPN or College Gameday in no time flat.

Here’s a great instructional video on how easy it is to set-up and begin watching satellite TV using the VuQube while tailgating.

The major benefits of the VuQube include:

  • Ultra-portable and lightweight with a built in ergonomic handle
  • Simple one person set-up
  • Dynamic dish leveling allows the VuQube to be set on uneven surfaces
  • No assembly or tear down
  • Remote control dish positioning to acquire signal
  • Self-leveling, self-contained and weather-resistant
  • Eliminates need to carry a level, tripod, dish & signal meter
  • “Fastfind” RF remote with 50-ft to 100-ft range allows for simple 1-person set up & can reduce signal acquisition times to 5 – 10 min compared to traditional satellite dish system
  • Resistant to signal loss due to high winds or rain
  • Compatible with DirecTV, Dish Network, Bell Expressvu & free-to-air satellite providers

Get your VuQube Flex Portable Satellite System from Camping World and experience satellite TV without boundaries.

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About Me

TailgatingIdeas.com is a tailgating blog dedicated to bringing you the latest and most intriguing tailgating ideas out there. Whether it is the latest tailgating gear reviews, a great new recipe or a funny list to make you smile, our goal is to inform and entertain the avid and the casual tailgater alike.

Started in August 2007 by tailgating enthusiast Dave Lamm, TailgatingIdeas.com has evolved into an advocate for tailgaters rights and is not afraid to touch on controversial issues confronting those who frequent the tailgating parking lots.

To learn more about TailgatingIdeas.com and our team of writers, reviewers, cartoonists and contributors, please visit the About Us page.

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