You've voted on your favorites before—and many of you voted for one of these five—but we decided to test all five for ourselves and see what they can do. Each device has its own niche and advantages, but they all aim to serve your movies and TV shows to you without the need for a cable subscription or library of discs. Here's a quick rundown of what each box supports:
As you might expect from its namesake satellite TV service, DirecTV Now is one of the most traditional offerings here. Its base $40 package has more worthwhile channels than any of the others, and you can get pretty much any channel (except NFL Red Zone, absent from many competitors too) as you step up. A recent redesign brought with it a DVR and enhanced on-demand options. During our DirecTV Now review, the Roku app didn't work as we expected -- we couldn't pause live TV, for example -- but in its defense, the service does offer the very cable-like ability to channel surf by swiping left and right. It also offers deals on streaming devices and benefits for AT&T Wireless customers, including discounts and being able to stream on your phone without using mobile data.
Ultimately, your final decision will completely depend on your needs, what services you subscribe to, and how much of a hassle you're willing to deal with. I'm still married to my home-built XBMC box, but I'd have to say the Roku was easily my favorite of the pre-built options. It's insanely cheap, has tons of streaming services, and with the addition of Plex, can even do some basic playing of network files. The Boxee Box was also pretty nice if you're willing to sit and configure it, while the Apple TV and WD TV Live provided great plug-and-play solutions. The Google TV is a bit more of a wild card for those that have specific needs, but provides a lot of configurability and niche apps that the others don't have (or, alternatively, makes a great feature-filled Plex box). Check out the home pages for each device to see more about what they offer and where you can buy your own.
United States – The US Department of Justice compelled RT to file paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the United States in September 2017. Previously, the United States Secretary of State John Kerry had referred to RT as a state-sponsored "propaganda bullhorn" and he continued by saying, "Russia Today [sic] network has deployed to promote president Putin's fantasy about what is playing out on the ground. They almost spend full-time devoted to this effort, to propagandize, and to distort what is happening or not happening in Ukraine." RT responded that they wanted "an official response from the U.S. Department of State substantiating Mr. Kerry's claims." Richard Stengel from the U.S. Department of State responded. Stengel stated in his response, "RT is a distortion machine, not a news organization," concluding that "the network and its editors should not pretend that RT is anything other than another player in Russia's global disinformation campaign against the people of Ukraine and their supporters". However, Stengel supports RT's right to broadcast in the United States.
Satellite TV packages from DISH® let you order the services you love, like TV and Internet, in one convenient stop. TV with DISH offers over 330 channels, while satellite and High-Speed Internet from DISH partners give you the speed and data you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest trends and commentary. With DISH Network, one call gets you the entertainment you want at a price you can afford.
The options above are ones I have personally found online. What if none of those providers service your location? Luckily, I have partnered with an internet sales solution team that will find available internet in your area. Simply call toll free (855) 432-3254, provide your zip code at the prompt and a sales representative will provide you with available internet offers in your area.
“We have Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and the T1 from Xfinity (with their best package) plus internet and sports packages. We would definitely cut cable as there is enough with Netflix, Amazon and Vudu ... BUT my husband HAS to have the football and baseball packages and local channels. That’s the only thing keeping us from cutting completely as we only pay about $30 a month combined for streaming compared to almost $300 a month for cable.” ― Anna Day
There are not any additional steps as you just press the “cast” button on the app you want to show on your TV. This also works with the Google Chrome browser after installing a simple plugin. There are no frills with this one, but it does exactly what we need for cutting cable TV at a great price. If you are comfortable using your phone as your main content delivery mechanism than Chromecast is a good choice. Otherwise, I would look to Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV.
The second type of app allows you full access to all of its offerings with a cable subscription, but lets you watch some full-episodes without a cable login. These are fairly rare, but do exist. Currently, this category includes the Comedy Central app, where you can currently watch full episodes of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or Nathan For You a day after they air.
Within each cable system's headend facility, meanwhile, the Amiga 2000-powered Prevue Guide software overlaid the bottom half of the satellite feed's video frame with its own, locally generated listings grid. It also continuously chose which of the two simultaneously available promos in the top half of the satellite feed's picture to let local cable subscribers see, patching its audio through to them while visually blocking out the other promo (usually with text promoting the program's next airtime and cable channel). During periods where both of the satellite feed's simultaneous promos were for cable networks not carried by a local cable system, the local Prevue Guide software blocked out both, filling the entire top half of the screen with a local text or graphical advertisement instead (either an ad for a local or national business, or a promotion for a channel that the cable provider carried – displaying that channel's logo and supplementary information on the opposing sides in the upper half). The satellite feed's national scheduling grid was never meant to be seen by cable subscribers. On occasion, however, when a cable system's local Prevue Guide software crashed into Amiga Guru Meditation mode, subscribers would be exposed to the satellite feed's full video frame, letting them see not only the two disparate promos simultaneously running in its upper half, but perhaps more confusingly, the satellite transponder-oriented national listings grid in its lower half.
Apple’s most recent version of its streaming box, the Apple TV 4K, added the long-awaited support for 4K UHD resolution and 4K content. The Apple TV 4K uses an intuitive touchpad remote, which is designed to operate more like an iPhone, and it can even be used as a gaming remote. The system is also faster than previous models, and the inclusion of 4K makes it a viable alternative to the other options on this list for Apple users.
There are two basic ways to stream on your TV: you can use an external streaming device or you can simply use a smart TV. In practice, these two things are really just the same. Either way, a little computer is streaming the content and telling your TV what to put on. Whether you opt for the all-in-one solution (the smart TV) or the plug-and-play one (the external streaming device) is really up to you.
Unfortunately, beyond that, its streaming abilities are limited. The Apple TV was really built around iTunes, which means you need to buy and download your content from the iTunes store. On one hand, iTunes' selection is amazing. You have tons of movies and TV shows at your fingertips, to rent or to buy. On the other hand, it can get expensive quickly. HD movies cost $15-20, while a full season of a TV show ranges from $40-50 on average. Watch more than a few movies or shows, and the iTunes store becomes much more expensive than $10 a month for Netflix or Hulu Plus. Sure, you "own" those movies, but they all have heavy DRM and are only watchable on Apple devices...so let's be honest, you don't really own them.
so many comments that I do not know if they mentioned these, first up netflix available on internet streamers or your pc, second vudu, a lot of new movies they are available as soon as they hit the dvd, and third amazon prime, they let you watch a lot of old movies and shows for free and they have pretty good options for new movies too, also they are cheaper and you can buy a complete show by season with all the episodes, try doing that with cable,satellite or dvds. my two dollars.
The WD TV Live isn't as popular as the other devices on this list, but it's actually a pretty good device, especially for users that have a lot of ripped or downloaded movies already (and it supports quite a few formats). WD TV Live comes in two flavors: a small, cheap, Wi-Fi-enabled box designed for streaming, and a more expensive, Ethernet-enabled box with a 1TB drive for all your local movies. The small box can play files off a USB drive, and the big box can still stream, but they're clearly aimed at two different types of users.
However, please note that I'm not advocating doing ALL of these! If you did, you'd wind up spending more than you were paying for cable. That would be dumb. We currently subscribe to Sling TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We are switching over to DIRECTV NOW starting next month because we have one AT&T phone and can use the data from that phone to watch for free.
Many rely on their cable provider for home phone service. Like most of their services, it can be replaced with a much cheaper internet based service. For those who need a little more than a cell phone after they ditch their cable TV subscription, I recommend PhonePower (formerly BroadVoice.) They are an affordable and reliable phone service provider that uses your existing internet connection.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay only $69.99 to watch any team they like, but must make do with replays.)
1. The good old fashioned antenna. Of course, this all depends on what kind of signal you can get inside your house. In my place here in CO, I can use an HDTV antenna and the channels come in beautifully. But I have lived in other houses where I couldn’t even get snow to show up on the TV (New Mexico, I am looking at you). Antennas mounted on roofs tend to be a lot better at pulling in those free signals, but remember that as of 2009 you need a special digital converter box, as the analog signals will no longer be broadcast (in most communities).
Local major network affiliates have their own transmitters, so it's likely that your area gets channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC free over the air – and that's not to mention other common over-the-air channels like PBS and Univision. How many channels are available and how big of an antenna you'll need to pick them up will vary by region, but getting the answers to these questions is pretty simple. Check out our free over-the-air TV explainer and our complete guide to choosing an antenna and getting free HDTV over the air for more important information. There's a reason that this is the classic solution to the problem of how to watch local channels without cable or satellite.
Sling TV offers two base channel monthly packages: Sling Orange ($25) and Sling Blue ($25). Sling Orange offers popular channels like ESPN, but is limited to a single stream — meaning subscribers can only view on one device at a time. Sling Blue offers many of the same channels as Orange along with a whole lot more, but is also missing some key channels, ESPN among them. On the flip side, Sling Blue offers NFL RedZone as part of the Sports Extra add-on package, a must-have channel for NFL fans. Viewers can sign up for both packages and get a discount, bringing the total to $40 per month.
Watching professional sports without cable is a tougher nut to crack and, depending on the event, you may have no choice but to head to your local sports bar. Even with cable, however, there's no guarantee you'll be able to access your favorite team's game. Fortunately, professional sports associations are getting in on the online action and streaming some or all of their televised games via paid subscriber network.