Dual Product Review: 32 Inch Element HD TV with Dish TV

Two days after signing up with Dish TV, the Element 32 inch HD TV made its way to the Border Fort. It would have been one day, but on Day One a 24 inch Element unit had been purchased, set up…and returned to Walmart the following morning.

It wasn’t the TV manufacturer’s fault. The smaller, older, 19 inch Emerson TV was being replaced because I didn’t realize its “problem,” that of a stretched HD image, was due entirely to my ignorance. When the 24 inch Element showed the same glitch, I chose to believe my wife’s experience at her mother in law apartment in Utah (where she lives part of the time at her daughter’s home). Pam had told me over the phone that when she set up her apartment, she first bought a “smaller” TV, probably a 24 incher–but that her nephew had advised her not to do that. He’d said it was necessary to buy a bigger TV to avoid the problem.

That family’s main television set is sized for teenagers, taking up enough room to substitute for an entire wall. Pam solved her problem by buying a 36 inch set, which did not stretch the image. But the smaller sets can be “fixed,” at least with Dish TV, because it’s a simple process (once you know what you’re doing) to grab the Dish receiver remote, hit Page Up, and stop when “HD NORMAL” shows…and that’s all there is to it. Weirdly enough, there are other settings that seem to make no sense at all. Why would anybody want “GRAY BAR” (which shrinks the TV picture on the sides and leaves vertical gray bars filling the empty space to the edges), “HD PARTIAL ZOOM,” or most especially, “HD STRETCH”…? Later, I would discover the “odd” channel on Dish that hadn’t gotten the message and would require repeating the “image normalization” process for that channel–resulting in a narrower image for that channel and only that channel–but that was a piece of cake.

Okay, that was out of the proper order. Let’s start with the box.

The box containing the “USA assembled” 32 inch Element brand HD TV.

There were several factors that influenced my decision to buy the Element brand TV instead of other brands stocked at Walmart, such as Vizio (which Pam has and loves), Sanyo (yeah, she’s got one of those, too, here at the Border Fort in her bedroom), Samsung, etc. First was the “Assembled in the USA” label. Sure, the parts were undoubtedly manufactured in other countries, but the South Carolina company got my attention. The picture on the 32 inch Element displayed on Walmart’s monster wall of TV sets…hey, not bad at all, right up there with the best and better than quite a few others. Then it turned out Walmart had this particular set on sale for $133, down from $150–and a mere four dollars more than the 24 inch set I’d just returned.

These newer “Smart TV” sets are a lot lighter than the previous generation, too. Which will be no surprise to anybody under thirty, no doubt, but the 19 inch Emerson, purchased in…hm, probably 2010…was at least twice the weight of the 32 inch Element. The new set, truthfully, felt way too light to be real, a mere eight pounds. Everything in the box was well protected and looked to be in good shape, so the first semi-scary thing to check out was the TV stand. It passed with flying colors: The stand is metal, not plastic like the stand for the smaller 24 inch set. Additionally, it has a little post that inserts into a recess hole in the mount on the TV itself, providing extra stability when the stand is screwed snugly to the set. But most importantly, the stand managed not to be too wide to fit on top of the crude wooden deck I’ve been using in the office since the Border Fort was built.

The sturdy metal TV stand fits on top of the wooden deck! Yay!

Attaching the stand to the TV set. Also visible are the under-TV control buttons (in case the remote can’t be found) and one of the speakers–which point down, not to the rear. A good thing, though facing forward would make more sense to me. (I know, they’re saving space.)

With the TV in position, facing my computer desk position (where I spend most of my office time), a bunch of Gorilla tape was added, locking the TV stand firmly to the wood.

Kid-proofing? Sort of. We have cats.

Element TV set in position with stand firmly taped to raw wood deck for tipping prevention. (Think potential rambunctious cat attack.)

Hooking up the HD TV was simplicity itself, with one exception. No, not the power cord; I did know enough to plug it in, okay? But this larger set (larger to me) has not one but three HDMI female connectors. Society is getting really wired these days! Weirdly, the two easily visible HDMI connectors were labeled HDMI 2 and HDMI 3. I wanted HDMI 1, but where was it? It took multiple sessions of staring fiercely at the manual illustration before I finally figured it out; HDMI 1 is farther inboard, tucked under, and pointing down instead of out. With that mini-mystery solved, it was simply a matter of grabbing the red-and-black HDMI cable (already connected to the Dish receiver) and plugging it into the HDMI 1 port.

The “hidden” HDMI 1 port with Dish TV HDMI cable connected.

The Element TV remote now comes into play–after, of course, putting in the heavy duty batteries that came in the box. At this point, no effort had been made to synchronize the Dish receiver remote with the Element TV…and that did turnout to be a minor challenge. Unable to properly comprehend the manual instructions (probably not the manual’s fault), I ended up calling Dish TV’s Tech Support number at 1-800-333-3474 and wow, were those folks ever helpful. I can’t say enough good about them. After walking me through every possible code to get the Dish TV remote properly synched–and failing–the tech on the phone said, “Okay, it looks like the Dish remote you have is not compatible with the Element TV. I’m going to mail you another remote that might work, because we have a lot of TVs on file that don’t get coded into the default remote.”

Okay, that made total sense. Element is not a huge name yet. At least, I hadn’t run across it before. But if the new remote doesn’t help, it’s still no big deal. The TV remote is necessary for turning the TV on or off, and also for changing volume, but the Dish remote handles everything else.

Element TV and Dish receiver remote control units.

Before addressing the remote control issue, however, the TV was turned on and the TV remote was used to follow the Setup Wizard instructions as they appeared on the screen.

The first Startup Wizard screen. Home Mode is correct; Retail is for store display and (apparently) uses more power.

On the second Startup Wizard screen, settings are left at Cable and Auto, then Auto Scan is selected and started.

While running Auto Scan, the TV locks onto all of the Dish TV channels. “Found” channel reading stays at zero.

Once Auto Scan has finished running, a TV program will come onto the screen and the beast is in business…mostly. There are still two steps left to consider, the first being to set the Dish receiver to match the type of TV. The old Emerson was a 1080i type, which was changed to 720p to match the new Element. Both TV screens were built with 16 x 9 aspect ratios, so that setting did not change.

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In the Menu, select HDTV Setup to make sure the settings match the type of TV in use.

This critical HD Setup screen allows the user to set the Dish receiver to match the type of TV in play. My old TV had been a 1080i type. Both TVs were proportioned the same, so the 16 x 9 did not change.

That only left the remote synchronization, which was addressed earlier on this page (out of order).

So, what kind of picture does the new Element produce, here in the office at the Border Fort? In a word: OUTSTANDING. All we can show the reader are a few screen shots taken at 1/20th of a second shutter speed (very slow, so any real action blurs), using my Canon PowerShot camera.

Basketball action shot, taken to prove to myself that I had the HD NORMAL setting done correctly. In HD STRETCH mode, the round basketball looks drastically oval.

PBR (Professional Bull Riding) action shot–that must have been a still shot on the screen when this photo was taken.

Wait a second. This 19 year old cowboy is currently leading the standings. I was in the middle of my rodeo career at that age (though not leading the standings by a long shot). Surely I could not have possibly ever looked that YOUNG?!

Okay, so that last one is less about TV reception and more about my shock when I took a close look at the bull rider’s photo. Age shock!

Ha! See that airborne blur in the upper left part of the screen? That’s the bull rider flying through the atmosphere after the bull has launched him.
Okay, so now I’m just having fun.

Let’s sum things up. I cancelled the Border Fort’s DirecTV account in December of 2016 after nearly seven years of increasing dissatisfaction with the company’s deteriorating programming, increasing cost, and less than stellar customer support. At least, that’s how I saw it, and for a couple of months, I was perfectly happy with no TV service whatsoever.

Then, in February of 2017, a really attractive Dish TV promotional flyer hit our mailbox and got my attention. My wife liked the idea of me signing up for their service; not only would it provide her with TV programs during her two weeks here in March, but she’d “been hearing good things” about Dish TV recently. Eleven years ago, we’d had the service briefly at a rental home in Colorado, and Pam had hated it. In the meantime, it seemed they’d made great strides.

And wow, had they. So far, I like everything about Dish TV, to wit:

1. Customer support, ranging from sales to tech support, is outstanding. On one fine Saturday, I called Dish TV five different times and received solid answers to my questions every single time. By the end of the day, I understood Dish TV top to bottom, inside out, at least for the package I selected. Tech support is equally helpful and never had me on hold for very long, either.

2. Pricing is significantly less than DirecTV for the package I chose.

3. Programming is far better than DirecTV.

4. The local installer for DishTV who did the Border Fort installation is an absolute wizard. He quickly pointed out that in Pam’s room, her combination setup did not need the after market switching box she’d been using to go between TV and Blu-Ray CD player (with all sound emitting through a set of Bose speakers). He did a wee bit of magical rerouting and simplified the setup considerably.

5. DirecTV has gone to a master box for one TV in a house, with every other box in the house being slaved to the master box. In other words, for the TV in my office to work at all, Pam’s DirecTV receiver would have to be left on full time, which in a word…sucked. Living off grid as we do, we have the habit of turning off anything electrical we don’t need at any given moment, conserving power to help the solar power generator stay on top of things. I had to hang on to an older box for my office when Pam decided to upgrade…that was the beginning of the end for DirecTV in my book. Dish TV, on the other hand, does not do that. Each TV receiver is completely independent, as is should be. Beyond that, when I told Dish that I did not want their fancy Hopper receiver, which records up to 16 programs simultaneously–did not want any recording capability at all–they had no problem at all with that. In fact, they had simple receivers available, no harm no foul. Yay!

6. The Element TV mates up perfectly with the Dish TV receiver, with the minor exception of the remote synchronization issue, and the new 32 inch HD picture is SO GOOD that I’ve gone back to watching quite a bit of TV while writing on the computer. In fact, sometimes a program will be so engrossing that I’ll quit typing and, you know, just watch for a while.

The combination really should be rated at 25 Stars, multiplying the 5 Star rating for the Dish TV service by the 5 Star rating for the incredible-for-the-money Element 32 inch HD TV.