KVH TracVision HD7, new top dog?


Of course the big news about KVH’s new TracVision HD7 is that it can receive all three of DirecTV’s main satellites at once, which means that using multiple TVs/DVRs at once — or keeping up with Guide data coming down from sat 101 — are not the problems they can be with a one-satellite-at-a-time solution like the Intellian D4. But first check out the iPhone/iTouch app that communicates via WiFi to the HD7’s antenna control unit. Not only can it be used to switch the dome to one of the secondary satellites that carry some oddball channels, but also to download system updates at home, or wherever, for later one tap transfer to the ACU. There are alternate ways to accomplish these tasks, to be sure, but isn’t this a slick option?  Not that a HD7 user should need to mess with it much…

I can’t say that I completely understand how KVH is managing to bring in three satellites on two different frequencies at once, but they say the secret’s in those three white rods — the “unique tri-rod dielectric feed” — seen below just inside the subreflector. Whatever they’re doing, they claim it delivers full, just-like-home DirecTV HD while tracking as well as any stabilized antenna they’ve ever produced.  The downside is size and expense; the HD7 is a 26-inch high, 61 pound antenna which along with the ACU (and single connecting cable) costs $13,000.
   Those factors lead to this Intellian sales angle: If you really need to tune in more than one satellite at a time, buy two D4 systems, which can work together, will still be less expensive, may provide a more balanced antenna look, and will give you TV redundancy.  Then again KVH has this warning: DirectTV will eventually add two more satellites to the already tight 99/101/103 cluster and is afraid that stabilized dises less than 24″ may suffer interference.  Intellian responds that its 18″ D4 uses superior tracking/receiver technology which has already proven itself able to handle tightly spaced Asian TV satellites.  Yup, these companies are battling fiercely, and a smart consumer should probably give each a careful listen.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

7 Responses

  1. Jody says:

    When do these companies start not applying “premium” for marine… and go full tilt for the millions that want comforts of home but not pay the price.
    It is ridiculous – this day and age – that well, to have satellite tv on a RV or boat – it is literally tens of thousands to play. 13K and they recommend two units because they didn’t design it right to begin with.. Realize of course – pricing because you do not want masses just suckers to pay the premium.
    Here is the crutch – cell phone companies can deliver tv on demand and you just have to have a unlimited data plan. When do these “marine” marketing ploys get to the expectations of what willing consumers want and not what the few do not care because whats a few $$$ afford because they shill out whatever. Ever wonder why marine tech – is stale.
    The “marine” industry is one that is designed to profit because “customers do not know better”, and companies that cater to “marine” get away with it because they think consumers do not know any better. Time for a shift – because satellite anything is the same way you get your cable, long distance, and how you actually (nitty gritty) get your internet.
    13K for tv… where a land installation is free… somewhere – like in the RV market – hacks abound.. but should be not necessary. Time to make a stand against 1980’s marketing and available tech and get to where we are now… This is why Iridium etc – do not get the consumers they can make money off off in the masses and only subscribe to those shills that can afford 13K (26K for reliable)…
    Time to kinda let it be heard.
    Rv’ers – they do it differently.

  2. John says:

    Hey Jody, I also cringe at the prices of marine electronics and I’m certainly not about to justify the prices but you have got to look at a few factors. the scale of economies of marine products versus other consumer products is tiny. There simply is not enough boats to get anywhere near the multiples of millions of units for other industries (like home internet connections, home satellite TV etc). Also there’s a lot more that goes into designing and manufacturing a stabilized marine TV antenna than what goes into other mass produced products like RV TV antenna’s. Most RV TV antennas are not continuous tracking / stabilized systems like that of the marine systems.
    As for your comments on the cell phone companies that can deliver TV on demand so long as you have a data plan. Well again it’s got to do with the millions upon millions of users that sunscribe to these data plans. however move out of the limited coverage area where there is very little users and no coverage and you’ll quickly see why your cell phone data plan dioes not work…it’s not commercially viable.
    So, satellite communications and TV with their specialist hardware and expensive data plans covers areas that are not covered by the masses…and for that you pay a premium!

  3. Sandy Daugherty says:

    John is perfectly right, Jody, but I want to emphasize the problem. Garmin owns the largest market share in marine electronics, but may sell less than five thousand units of a mid-sized fixed mount chart plotter. Does that seem like a lot? Well, they spend five million doing the design and development, creating the tooling to produce the components, testing the prototypes, and doing the packaging, manuals, and customer service training. That adds a THOUSAND DOLLARS to the price of a unit, and they haven’t bought or built the pieces or put one together and deliver it yet! The cell phone maker may spend as much, but will sell a couple million phones, so that the development costs may be as low as TEN DOLLARS per unit. Then that build an automated production line for the really nitty gritty steps, and save three times that in wages, vacation time, and health insurance!
    That doesn’t mean it isn’t a real pain in the pocket book to buy the goodies we want on our boats. It just means we can’t claim that some big company is ripping us off. Ask Raymarine how much they are enjoying these extravagant profits!

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well said, John and Sandy. I think Jody woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and maybe stepped on his/her reading glasses. I hope I was clear that the two dome idea only applies to the Intellian D4, and only if you want access to more than one satellite at the same time.
    It’s a bit ironic that Jody’s general rant, which implies that competitive marine electronics companies don’t compete on price, is being aimed at KVH and Intellian. I think we all know that these companies are competing fiercely, on any front possible. In fact, I’m wondering in retrospect if my title seems painfully glib. After all KVH is the long time top dog of marine satellite TV, and a scary number of competitors have come and gone during their reign (I guess they couldn’t handle the undeserved profits ;-). Intellian seems to have mounted the biggest challenge to date, in terms of both technology and marketing, but the title would be more accurate as: “KVH TracVision HD7, new DirecTV HD top dog?”
    All that said, I’m maybe a little like Jody in that I can’t picture the day when I could afford to have either of these HD TV systems on my boat. Nor do I want host the gear or use the power. But I do like to watch HD TV sometimes. I’m pondering the possibilities, but it’s probably DVDs and the most power efficient TV/monitor I can find. Streaming video over a cell connection sounds appealing but may not be sustainable. Witness AT&T’s network getting clogged by all-you-eat iPhone plans.

  5. David says:

    Personally, I’m with Jody. I think companies that have the financial strength, technical and manufacturing expertise, top notch R&D staff and facilities that develop 1st class, innovative products for a niche market should price them in such a way that they lose money,stagnate because they are unable to invest capital, and wither and die in much the same fashion as so many other companies have done so that a few whiners and cheapskates that aren’t willing to “pay to eat” get a handout. What a ridiculous concept for a company to be able to price their products as they see fit. Perhaps a better plan would be for the government to take over, allocate things to people according to their need, price things according to individuals ability to pay. Oh well…never mind.

  6. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I’m (barely) in the retail marine business, but like all sailors I’m so tight I squeek when I even think about buying more stuff. Unfortunately, I get to play with the shiny new toys, and need to study the features and benefits to explain them to customers, so I want everything, and squeek all day.
    Panbo has occassionally touched on equipping smaller boats, but it would really be interesting to discuss a biggest-bang-for-the-buck set up. What features are most desirable? How can they integrated? Can a mix and match set of goodies provide the bullet-proof reliability of a proprietary system?
    Oh! Hey! we could have a forum topic on this! Click on the forum button up there at the top right of the screen!

  7. Night_Sailor says:

    There are a limited number of people who want this sort of capability. I am not one of those at present, but I anticipate being one in the future. Most of my sailing adventures have been a welcome break from the media assault on my senses. However, many times I’ve returned home after weeks at sea and totally missed much of the news. So while I can take it or leave it for a few weeks, I would not want to for a long period of time.
    Purchase a system like this is like buying solar panels and a good charge controller. A one time expense, which yields a long term capability, and one that is versatile in location, more so than most.
    My plans include living aboard full time for a number of years. I won’t have a housing expense, my cars will be in storage or sold, yet I will still be interested in the news and entertainment.
    Furthermore, I plan to supplement my income through chartering my yacht. A satellite system would be paid for in one charter, and be a worthy addition for my own use as well. A second charter would cover my insurance and other expenses for a year. Ok, say I paid for dock space instead and mounted a fixed mount antenna on a piling. The dock space for two years would be the same price, and I’d rather not be tied to a dock, but instead anchored somewhere private and beautiful…
    Is this system costly? Yes. Is it worth it? Perhaps not. Would I buy one. Certainly! Likewise I’ll have a suite of other expensive electronics including an Iridium Sat Phone, which will be cheaper than roaming in many places where I don’t care to purchase a local SIM card and pre-paid top-up.
    Look at the cost from another perspective. What if you have no other major expenses? Living on an anchor and moving north and south with the weather means you can live very cheaply. Paying more upfront for capabilities like this–one time, and having only a few utility bills–phone and Sat TV, I’d be happy to pay a premium for a rock solid satellite TV system that could support multiple TV’s one in each stateroom.
    For someone like me, who plans to live-aboard more or less non stop for 5-10 years, on a sailing catamaran covered with solar panels and a pair of wind generators, my only expenses will be food, fuel, and insurance.

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