Google TV is, quite literally, the Android of streaming boxes. It's available on a number of different devices from different manufacturers, in different price ranges, and with different remotes. As such, we can't talk too much about the hardware here (though the VIZIO Co-Star, shown at the right, is a great looking model available for preorder now). The software, however, is very reminiscent of an Android tablet...because that's exactly what it is. You have a wall of icons representing your media, live TV, apps like Netflix and Amazon, and others. You can download Google TV-optimized Android apps from the Google Play store and put them on your home screen.
We've covered the first in depth already, but our discussions of that all-important second thing are spread across hundreds of posts. Our how-to pieces, of course, offer some great answers to the question of how to watch TV without cable. But, when it comes right down to it, our reviews and many of our news pieces are focused on how to watch TV without cable, too. So are lots of our email newsletters and many of the external links we include in our Friday Round-Ups. That adds up to a lot of posts to answer one seemingly simple question, and all of that information can seem a bit overwhelming.
When talking to people who are interested in cutting the cord, the issue that continually crops up is how to find affordable internet access. Many ask how to obtain internet access without a cable TV bundle. While market competition between internet service providers in the U.S. is extremely low, you can still find deals on high-speed internet only plans without a TV bundle.
I cut the cord TODAY! I purchased a $25 indoor antenna thru Amazon. Where I live, I cannot get Dish, DirecTV, or even Cell Service. I couldn’t wait to rid myself of TWC! So, I’m shocked that with this antenna I’m receiving 15 channels. Of the 15, two are for kids and eight are basically old, brought-back series I once loved but no longer hold my attention or interest. So, I’m left with 5 channels that are sorta-kinda decent. It’s not great, but it’s okay. Considering that I am saving $732 a year, I can live with that and thank God I still have the internet so I can watch live news and probably get some other live shows that I’ll miss watching on TV. I will see how that goes. I just WISH I had one decent World News channel, like CNN, MSN or Fox, and one decent renovations channel as well as one forensics/true crime channel. Then my TV watching world would be perfect!
The commercials are still there—and repetitive to the extreme. Each break may show the same commercials over and over, sometimes the same ad back-to-back, as if they couldn't find any sponsors who believe in streaming. Or perhaps it's to torture you into using regular cable and a DVR (if you get a DVR from Spectrum, the app can be used to program it.)
So – with OTA antenna, major networks and sports on those networks are handled. We are missing “other content” that can usually be found through 1 of the 3 most popular paid services. Each of these services run about $90/yr … that was less than 3 months of CATV costs here, so we are still much, much, much less. Plus, with these paid services, there aren’t any commercials, so an hour show is about 40 minutes, saving time.
Amazon Prime Video -- The "other" major streaming service, which is included as part of a $99 annual Prime Membership or $9 a month. The interface isn't as user-friendly as Netflix, but the service often offers shows not on Netflix, including originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amazon Prime also has the ability to add channels (HBO, Starz and more), making it a potential one-stop shop.
Although HBO and Showtime are perhaps better-known these days for original programming, they still show recent theatrical releases, and they make them available through their subscription services. Starz is also excellent for anyone seeking current blockbusters. Consider tacking on a subscription to one, two or all three of these to an Amazon Prime Video account. Video-on-demand rentals are also an option, facilitated by multiple retailers. And if you’re interested in owning digital copies of your movies, the service Movies Anywhere is a helpful way to manage and view your library.
Television manufacturers have been moving toward “smart TVs” that connect to the internet and provide access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and the like. The selection of apps on these sets vary depending on licensing agreements made between the manufacturers and the O.T.T. services. (O.T.T. is short for “over the top,” a term applied to any streaming media provider to which a consumer can subscribe directly.) Also, not all of them will let you plug in and get a seamless, cable-like TV experience without any other hardware. The technology and interfaces are certain to improve in the years ahead, but for now, for the best results, you’re better off just investing in a set-top box.
ClearStream's final entry is the 4MAX, which is an improvement on the 4V when it comes to range and general setup. Quality-wise, this offers what you'd expect from the previous ClearStream antennas with a 70- mile range and 4K capability. That said, the 4MAX is able to bump up the range a bit in the right conditions. And it does use a more streamlined design over the 4V, making the overall setup much easier and saving a bit of space.