We included our custom-built XBMC media center—not everyone's taste, but a geekier option we love—for a bit of extra comparison (Note: since the writing of this article, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have gotten much more difficult in XBMC. See this post for more information). Obviously, you can't boil down five devices into just a small chart, though. So, we played with each of these five devices over the course of a few weeks, and here are our thoughts on each one: what it does well, what it lacks, and who it's good for.
No, really. For the cool price of zero dollars a month, Pluto TV will provide you access to select content from more than 40 live channels, including CNBC, MSNBC, Sky News, movie channels, and live sports, plus 15 music-streaming channels. Newest additions include Pluto TV Sitcoms, offering a selection of aging comedies like 3rd Rock from the Sun and The Lucy Show, and Spanish language channel Pluto TV Cine. Users will also enjoy a library of on-demand content.
In my case having cable TV is the bargain over high speed internet. I called and asked for what they call “limited service” cable — it gives me the major networks, with QVC, FAM, all the spanish channels and two public broadcasting stations thrown in, for $17.00 a month. The high speed internet was costing me $52 a month, so I reluctantly let it go. Watching TV online is no bargain at all for me.
Remember the days when you could watch network television for free? (those under 25, ask your parents). Well those channels are still available at no cost...if you have an antenna. And no, we're not talking about the clunky rabbit ears of old. Antennas have changed substantially in looks and performance over the last several years. Breakthroughs in technology spurred by development of the tiny but powerful digital antennas in smartphones have been adapted to the realm of TV reception. The result? "TV antennas today are 10% of the mass they were decades ago," says Richard Schneider, president of Missouri-based manufacturer Antennas Direct. "And the move to an all digital transmission that the FCC mandated back in 2009 has put those TV signals in a higher frequency which means a better signal with less noise".
Streaming video on demand is a great way to replace content from TV: you can watch your favorite shows and movies online whenever you want! But is that really the same thing as being able to watch TV without cable? To some people, sure – but others might find that their favorite things about TV are missing. What about brand-new episodes of the latest network TV shows? What about channel surfing and “just seeing what's on?” What about live sports?
The light grey program-by-program summaries for individual channels, red and light blue channel highlighting, and graphical "Prevue Weather" forecasts that were previously available to cable systems as optional grid features and inserts remained available in the same manners as before. Closed captioning, MPAA movie rating and VCR Plus+ logos were additionally introduced by this version of the software, and unlike in prior versions, large graphical Prevue Guide logos appeared within its grid, between listings cycles. The old, synthesized interstitial music that had been used since 1988 was also replaced with a more modern piece called "Opening Act," from the defunct James & Aster music library.
You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but this isn't the 1970s. You need a DVR (digital video recorder). Consider the Tivo Bolt Vox (above), a system with six tuners and 75 hours of recording on a 500GB drive for $199.99, or get 150 hours for $299.99. Four of the tuners support OTA recording. (Don't get the high-end $499.99 version—that's cable-ready only.) The companion Vox Mini box sold separately lets you expand DVR coverage to other rooms. As the "vox" implies, you utilize voice control through the remote to run the DVR. Plus, it has plenty of built-in streaming apps. TiVo has a few other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.
I just bought Roku box ($99). I also have a dvd player that has the capability to browse netflix, hulu, etc. I have to say that I am dissappointed in Roku. there are hardly any free channels to stream through. Everything is a paid subscription. Also its not live streaming tv, you have to constatnly go through all the episode to select one, which in itself makes watching tv stressfull. I think most people want to watch whats on tv. they want to come home and just see whats on, and space out. Roku and netflix are cheap but certainly do not match up to cable or dish tv. I am very techincal, so finding channels and configuring the boxes was not at all an issue for me. Most of the channels on Roku are paid. There are some free, but that have garbage on it. The free movies are crap, and are rated 1 or 2 stars. I was not able to find any free shows on roku, and the ones i found were horrible, hence they were on roku. I also found some documentries on roku, but who the hell wants to watch that crap. there is also an hunting channel on roku! common, they could do a lot better then that. This weekend I was over a friend’s house and she had cable. Man I miss cable. Yes its more expensive then Roku and netflix, but its a lot better then them. Channels such as discover (the realy discovery), netgeo, hgtv, tnt, tbs, bravo, movie channel, etc are just not on any of these boxes or netflix. the search capability on netflix really sucks, and they keep on removing movies constantly. I have tried, dish, cable, netflix, hulu plus, roku, but i have to say nothing beats cable tv or dish.
Sadly, we can’t get signals via an antenna due to buildings and trees. Antennas require line of sight. Cable and streaming are our only options, but streaming is very limited when it comes to local news. We’re seriously considering cutting the cable and watching PBS News Hour for national and international news, but local news is, at this time, the problem. I remember when cable TV first started and we were told we’d have options and it would be affordable. For us, neither has come to be. Now with HDTV we are unable to receive signals through the airwaves.
Some also concluded that the streaming service could be good for ratings after seeing the success of AMC’s Breaking Bad. The drama about a meth kingpin drew more than 10 million viewers in its final episode in 2013 after past seasons began appearing on Netflix. That compared with 1.4 million viewers for the first-season debut in 2008. Fans had caught up on the old seasons on Netflix, then tuned in to the current season on TV, they thought.
Hood Canal’s cable offers something for everyone. The major networks that carry all the shows you want; specialty channels to appeal to your personal tastes; premium channels with great movies and original programming; Pay-Per-View channels and 50 digital music stations. So no matter what you are looking for – you will find it on Hood Canal Communication’s Cable TV.