2019 DISH Playmaker & Tailgater Reviews – RV TV Antennas

Having an RV can often mean having a hard time finding a good alternative for your TV subscription. While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu can help, they only offer a limited selection of on-demand shows, which isn’t really a decent alternative for all the channels you leave behind in your home.

Satellite TV has gotten much better in the last few years, with many satellite antennas and providers improving their technology and services. DISH is a very popular option for those who are often on the move, and they have partnered with some of the best satellite antenna manufacturers to bring affordable DISH exclusive models to their RV-loving subscribers.

The DISH Playmaker by Winegard and DISH Tailgater by KING are two very popular models to choose from. Here’s what each of them brings to the table.

1.   DISH Playmaker: Lightweight and Portable

Overview

The DISH Playmaker family or satellite antennas are made by Winegard, one of the most reputable manufacturers of satellite antennas in the world. You can choose between two DISH exclusive models:

  • DISH Playmaker Portable Satellite Antenna that supports single-channel viewing
  • DISH Playmaker Dual Portable Satellite Antenna that supports dual-channel viewing

Both models are super easy to install, support DISH HD programming and pay-as-you-go services, and have a fully automatic setup so that you can start watching your favourite channels in minutes.

Specifications and Design

The DISH Playmaker is a dome-shaped, fully portable, and lightweight satellite antenna that is easy to install, carry around, and relocate.

  • It weighs only 7 pounds, with dimensions of 16 inches in diameter and 13 inches in height.
  • It is extremely durable thanks to military-grade aluminium alloy reflector that also improves signal strength by up to 20% when compared to previous models.
  • The single-channel model is available in white; and for the dual-channel model, you can choose between two colour variations: black or white.
  • The plastic dome covering the satellite has UV protection, keeping all the inner components safe from sun damage and adverse weather conditions.

Key Features

The DISH Playmaker is intended for use on your RV or for tailgating. You can either mount it onto the roof of your RV, have it directly on the ground, or use it with a compatible tripod to keep it off the ground to get a better signal.

  • The DISH Playmaker works with any DISH subscription you have at home. All you have to do is add the receiver to your account and you will have access to all your channels wherever you go.
  • If you don’t have a DISH plans at home, you can choose the pay-as-you-go option instead. Meaning you only pay for the months that you use it on the monthly subscription. There are no binding contracts for this option, and no hidden activation, deactivation, or reactivation fees.
  • The key point to note here is that the Playmaker supports DISH programming only, and can’t be used for other providers.
  • It’s also only intended for stationary use so you won’t be able to maintain a signal while you’re on the road.
  • There’s little to no maintenance required for this model. Just make sure to periodically wipe the dome with a cloth and warm water to keep it clean off dust and other dirt.

Pricing and Bundles

The DISH Playmaker is available from $249 for the single channel model, or $299 for the dual channel model.

Both models come with a 25-feet coaxial cable and a hardware bag that includes a handle, two screws, and four tripod adapters. The dual-channel model is available as part of a bundle with the Wally HD satellite receiver starting around $300.

Additional Gear

You will get better reception once you lift the antenna off the ground, but additional gear, like tripods or roof mounts, will have to be purchased separately. Compatible gear includes the TR-1518 Tripod Mount and the RK-4000 Roof Mount Kit, both of which are robust and made to withstand harsh conditions.

Note: If you wish to use an alternate cable for DISH Playmaker, use RG6 cables no longer than 50 feet, or you will degrade the signal strength and performance.

Compatible Satellites and Receivers

Both DISH Playmaker antenna models will work with the western arc of DISH satellites. You can receive all channels located on satellites 110°, 119°, and 129° and overall, the coverage is fairly good across the whole of the US.

In order to receive the signal on your DISH Playmaker antenna models, you will need to purchase a compatible receiver. Compatible receivers include DISH Solo HD receivers. Currently, those are all Wally receivers, as well as DISH 211z, 211k, 211, and 411 receivers.

Setup

The setup process for both models is easy and straightforward, and you can install and connect the antenna without professional help in as little as 15 minutes.

  1. Once you unpack the DISH Playmaker, locate the handle and install it. The handle goes to the front of the dome, where you can locate the holes for it under the base. Once you have, slide the handle in place, and make sure not to overtighten the two screws.
  2. Find a suitable location for the DISH Playmaker antenna. You should have a clear view of the southern sky, free from any obstructions. Avoid areas with too many trees, buildings, or vehicles, as all of them will block the satellite signal from reaching your antenna. The surface you choose should be sturdy and stable.
  3. Connect the coax cable to the DISH Playmaker and from there to the “Sat In” receiver port. If you are using the dual-channel model, connect the primary port first (labelled MAIN) on the antenna. This port should always be connected to the receiver because it also powers all the electronics through it.
  4. Finally, connect the receiver to a power supply and finish the receiver setup by selecting the state you are in and pressing “scan.” Once the antenna has located the satellites, you can watch any channel you want!

Note that you will have to repeat the last step of the setup every time you move to a new location. Luckily, setup takes only a few minutes. Once you reach your destination and want to watch TV, simply choose the state you are in and hit the “scan” option to find satellites.

Performance

Overall, the Playmaker has improved signal strength and can maintain a stable connection. Most users are very satisfied with this model, and note that the only time they experience signal strength issues is during particularly bad weather, or if they don’t have a clear view of the sky.

Some users have mentioned that they had issues with initial setup and that it took longer. Often, they had to call the DISH support centre several times to help with the setup, and in many cases, the issues were linked to outdated software. Once the software was up to date, the issues were resolved so that’s always something to keep in mind.

2.   DISH Tailgater: The Fully Automatic Option

Overview

The Dish Tailgater family features five models of DISH portable satellite antennas made by KING, one of the leading manufacturers of satellite antennas in the US. The Tailgater family includes the following models:

  • Tailgater 1
  • Tailgater 2
  • Tailgater 3
  • Tailgater 4
  • Tailgater Pro

The DISH Tailgater 4 and Pro are the newest models and the ones we’ll be focusing on in this review.

Specifications and Design

The DISH Tailgater 4 is a fully automatic satellite antenna that supports SD and HD DISH programming. It can be used on the ground or mounted on the roof, and it’s intended for stationary use only. It is based on the KING Tailgater model as an economic alternative for those RVers who don’t need more than a single provider and are happy to connect one TV only.

  • It weighs 8 pounds and measures 13.5 inches in height, 18.75 inches in width, and 17 inches in length.
  • The Tailgater 4 model is only available in white, while the Tailgater 4 Pro model has a black base and features a new sleek design thanks to the clear dome cover.
  • It can withstand extreme weather conditions thanks to the weather-resistant cover and materials.
  • The Pro version supports multiple TV viewing, but you will require a separate receiver for the second TV.

Features

DISH Tailgater 4 and Tailgater PRO are portable antenna systems intended for tailgating and RV use, and can be used directly on the ground, with a tripod, or mounted onto your RV.

  • Both models are intended to work with DISH programming only (SD and HD).
  • They support your current home DISH subscriptions.
  • You can also use the DISH pay-as-you-go service for ease of viewing without having to commit to a contract.
  • Fully automatic: Both models will acquire signals from all supported satellites automatically, and can also automatically switch between them based on your program selection.
  • They are built for stationary use only. For in-motion options, you will have to find other models.
  • No separate power source is needed – all power requirements go through the receiver.

Pricing and Bundles

You can get the DISH Tailgater 4 for just $299, which is a real bargain price. The package includes the antenna, a 35-feet RG6 coaxial cable that already has pre-installed connectors, as well as a manual and guide. The antenna has a 2-year warranty covered directly by the manufacturer KING that’s activated the day you purchase it.

Note that this model only supports single-channel viewing, meaning you will only be able to connect one TV and watch just one program at a time. 

The DISH Tailgater 4 Pro model starts at $349, making it an affordable option for those who want to have multiple TV viewing options. You will, however, need two receivers for multiple channel viewing, and should be aware that your multiple viewings will still be limited to a single satellite. This package includes the antenna, a 50-feet RG6 coaxial cable, and a manual and user guide.

You don’t get additional gear with the antenna; any types of mounts or tripods will have to be purchased separately. The Quick Release Roof Mount Kit (MB700) is a favourite of many, as it allows quick relocation when needed for frequent travellers. The tripod (TR1000) and Portable Antenna Window Mount (MB500) are other popular purchases for these models.

Compatible Satellites and Receivers

Both models cover all western and eastern arc DISH satellites. This includes satellites 119°, 110°, and 129°. When you connect any model to a Wally receiver, you will have access to 119°, 110°, and 61.5.

DISH Tailgater 4 and Pro are compatible with the following HD solo receivers: Wally, 211z, 211k, 211, and 411. Those located in the northeast of the US will need to purchase a Wally receiver to have full coverage.

Setup

The setup process takes less than 10 minutes from unpacking to watching TV, and you can do it without any professional assistance.

  1. First, unpack your DISH Tailgater. Make sure to check everything is there.
  2. Next, connect the RG6 coaxial cable to the primary port on the antenna. That port will have a MAIN label on it.
  3. Find a good, clear spot for the antenna. Making sure there are no obstructions and you have clear skies.
  4. Now you can connect the other side of the cable. Connect it directly to the receiver and its SATELLITE IN port, or you can connect it via your RV setup by using the electronic cabinet.
  5. Next, connect the receiver to the TV, and connect both with a power supply. Note that the receiver needs 110V AC power source to work properly.
  6. Finally, you should see the Setup Screen on your TV display. From here, just follow the instructions on the screen and the antenna will be ready to go.

Performance

The Tailgater is highly praised in the RV community for its durability and overall ease of installation. The only issue that is mentioned with this model is the performance during bad weather when it’s really difficult to get or maintain a good signal. But this is something common with any model due to the way they work.

Final Verdict

DISH offers a good selection of RV satellite TV antennas with their Playmaker and Tailgater Satellite Antenna families. Both Playmaker and Tailgater are easy to set up, can be relocated in seconds, and have good signal strength and coverage in all areas. While the Playmaker is a great option at a bargain price, the Tailgater is definitely better suited for power users because of its multichannel support and fully automated setup.

Partnering with some of the best satellite manufacturers has really improved what DISH can offer to their customers, and helps them bring the highest quality technology to RV lovers around the US.