DirecTV is another service with high channels counts and multiple package tiers. Like PS Vue, it’s close to the experience you’ll get with cable or satellite when it comes to available channels. In August 2018, DirecTV Now took a major leap forward for football fans, adding the NFL Network to several of its base packages. While competitors like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue have offered the NFL Network for some time, it was one of just a few key channels missing from a service known for its channel count. Subscribers of the Just Right package and above now have the channel, meaning it’s only missing from the $40-per-month Live a Little package.
These antennas are compatible with all televisions made since 2007 (when built-in digital tuners became a federal requirement) and they plug directly into the coaxial port in back of your TV. Once plugged in, you simply have your TV scan for available digital signals. Most TVs have a signal meter display that shows just how well each channel's signal is being received.
If you want a power upgrade from the ClearStream 2V, there's the ClearStream 4. The mantra with this antenna is simple: bigger is better. Because of that, the range is bumped up to 70 miles and the antenna is 4K-ready out of the box. Unfortunately, that will make setup a bit harder because of the bigger size, but given its improved performance over its counterpart, that definitely makes up for it.
However, if you’re a more casual sports fan or a supporter of an out-of-market team, cord cutting is still a worthwhile option. Sling TV—assuming it can hold up under the strain of future events—will give you ESPN and ESPN 2 in addition to a handful of basic cable channels for $20 a month, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network. Add in an indoor TV antenna and you’ll also have access to network sports.
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.
PlayStation Vue is the slickest of all the major streaming TV providers, with a pleasant, evolved interface that is also easy to use. Its DVR is excellent, with unlimited storage and the ability to skip commercials on any show -- although unlike YouTube TV, shows in Vue's DVR are deleted after 28 days. The biggest knock is that it's one of the most expensive basic packages (Hulu is now also $45), but it has fewer channels than any of the Big Five aside from Sling TV, and local channel coverage is less comprehensive, too. You don't need a PlayStation 4 to watch it -- just like the others, Vue has apps for numerous streaming devices including Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV as well as phones and PCs -- but a PS4 is the only way to get its sweet multiscreen view.
The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.
Sony PS4 (starting at $299.99) / Microsoft XBox ($299 to $499): One of the biggest unexpected players in this space has been the major video game console companies. The Sony PS4 and Xbox One X are state-of-the-art in terms of their streaming capabilities, and they’re even creating their own services that attempt to serve the same functions as traditional cable TV. (More on that later.) The Xbox One S, Microsoft’s previous model, was still for sale as of August 2018, at $200 less than the One X. Click here to compare the two on the Xbox website.
In my opinion the best TV tuner brand out there right now is HDHomeRun. HDHomeRun devices are affordable (the cheapest model is $79.99) and easy to use. All you have to do is plug your antenna into your HDHomeRun and connect it to your local network. Once you’re up and running, you can access OTA TV channels from any HDHomeRun app. HDHomeRun makes apps for pretty much every platform, including Mac, PC, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, Android, Kodi, Plex and more.
The major network channels are all broadcast in HD. And you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the quality of uncompressed HD video in an antenna feed is actually superior to what you've been getting with your cable box. Cable operators have to deliver hundreds of channels, plus broadband and phone service over a single connection to your home, so the TV signal is usually compressed to conserve bandwidth. Not so with your OTA feed. The difference is immediately noticeable. Outside of a Blu-ray movie, this is the best output I've ever seen on my TV. And did I mention the channels are free?
Also with the transition from Prevue Channel to TV Guide Channel, the nature of the service's scrolling listings grid began to change. During broadcasts of the channel's original primetime series as well as during red carpet awards ceremony coverage, programming started appearing almost entirely full-screen, with a translucent, non-scrolling, two-line version of the channel's regular listings grid occupying only the extreme bottom of the frame. Semi-regular stylistic redesigns of the grid also occurred, and support was added for the display of locally inserted provider logos and graphical advertisements within it. Starting in 2004, light blue backgrounds began to appear on listings for children's programming, complementing the red, green and purple background colors already applied to listings for films, sporting events, and pay-per-view programming respectively.
Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.
The only real downside of the Roku is that it can be a little slow from time to time. The interface, while easy to use, isn't nearly as fluid as devices like the Apple TV. Plus, the remote (at least the one for the XS model) is really, truly awful. It feels more like a Wiimote than a TV remote, which is fine when you're playing games on the Roku, but it just seems big and clunky when you're using it for TV. Overall, though, the Roku is a killer device for streaming content, and its easy enough for nearly anyone to use.
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.
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.
Optical: Though a similar technology to the old-school audio interface, HDMI-over-optical is capable of far greater bandwidth. It's also capable of far greater distances. It's easy to find options that are over 330ft/100m. Prices have dropped radically in the last few years, with options available for similar prices per-foot as traditional copper cables. Most don't even need external power. They work, and look, just like a thin HDMI cable.
Well, to figure out the best plan I would start with what shows I primarily watch. Make a list and add who carries them, such as CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, etc. That should help you sort out which plan has the majority of what you want to watch. Next if you have a smart TV with internet you may not need a streaming device. You can try connecting to the internet from your smart TV without one. Then, if you experience issues you may still need to invest in a streaming device.
Pluto TV: Pluto turns online video sources into cable-like channels that you can flip through, and many of those sources cover the news. Install this app, and you can tune into round-the-clock feeds from NBC, CNBC, TYT Network, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, RT America, Sky News, Bloomberg, and Cheddar. Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast
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.)
It wasn’t until 2015, when Ergen introduced Sling TV, that the floodgates truly opened. Sling TV is a so-called “skinny bundle,” giving online subscribers the option to buy just a few channels and pay a much lower monthly fee—in this case, about a fourth of the average cable bill. Since its arrival, at least six more online TV services have entered the market.
If you want the best android box to use, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro Home Media Server is it. I decided to go with the more expensive version for more memory, but it does have USB ports so you could use that to add memory. It is preloaded with different apk's but I've added better ones to use. For a listing of apk's you can go to Kodiapps.com which also has builds and apps. You also can use Google playstore for apps and games, some are free and some you pay for. Some have said only gamers would get this android device as it is more useful for them. I would disagree on that. It's true with its graphics, it's great for games (but not as good as ps4 or pc), but I found it ran apps and apks much better than using a lower end box - less ... full review
With thousands of available “channels,” Roku’s platform connects to virtually every major streaming service online. More importantly, the interface is very intuitive; you can quickly search for content across providers by actor, series, or movie titles, or the specific genre you’re looking for. The Roku interface will even tell you which services offer what you want for free, and which will charge for it. The remote is also super handy, allowing you to control power and volume on most TVs as well as voice search at the press of a button.
* It is possible to build an antenna for less than $20 that can receive stations from over 50 miles away. Google for “M4 DB4 antenna DIY” for plans and instructions. A home-built antenna can be specificly tuned to the RF channels in your area. My area still has 5 very important stations in the Hi-VHF range – I suspect most metro areas are in a similar situation, though many stations are broadcasting on UHF now.
I would love to save, although our cable bill for TV is not extraordinary. But I’m 75 and I don’t understand the details. We don’t want to watch TV on a computer. It sounds as if the cheaper options all require the internet. But the internet doesn’t connect to the TV set. I don’t think our TV can receive a wireless signal unless we add some kind of cable box to it (it has a separate cable going to it than the cable box for the computers). Also, my husband watches FOX news most of the day and also all the channels with food shows, Alaskan living, ancient aliens, Pitbulls and Paroles – so we don’t want to cut off his entertainment. We live in SE Iowa and our cable bill is $157 a month including: high speed internet, landline with free long distance, TV package, TIVO. The basic cost is $120 – the rest is fees and taxes, etc. The stuff tacked onto the bill is ridiculous! Also, we practically never watch a movie – never as far as newer movies go. And we aren’t interested in the shows produced by HBO or Netflix, etc. I’m thinking our current plan is our best option. Am I missing something?
General idea: SlingTV has also been a huge player in the cord cutting game as it's one of the more affordable monthly options out there at just $20 per month. But the low price range doesn't mean the channel selection sucks. Even the basic plan offers your favorite channels, including HGTV, Comedy Central, ESPN, CNN, Disney, and BBCAmerica. Our favorite part about Sling is how you can tweak channel options: Aside from the main plans, Sling offers customization options where users can pick and choose extra channels to add on without having to upgrade to the next level. For $5/month each, you can customize with extra channel bundles for kids, sports, comedy, Spanish TV, and more, each with "Sling Orange" or "Sling Blue" bundles for extra picky mixing and matching.