Top-rated HDTV indoor antennas include the window-mountable Moho Leaf Metro ($17, above) or the tower-like Terk Omni ($60), both non-amplified antennas that plug directly into a TV tuner. Outdoors, you could try the roof-mountable Antennas Direct ClearStream 2Max or 4Max models, with 60- and 70-mile ranges, respectively. Other antenna makers include 1byOne and View TV.
Hulu with Live TV subscribers also have full access to Hulu’s full on-demand streaming library and Hulu original content, essentially coupling a basic Hulu subscription (normally $8-12 per month) with live TV. This gives the service a serious edge for current Hulu subscribers. Hulu’s on-demand library is already very good, with some of the best original TV series around.
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.
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
That’s right, Amazon—it’s not just for shopping. It’s a major contender in the online streaming market. A membership to Amazon Prime Video gives you access to a wide selection of popular movies and TV series, plus a bunch of Amazon original series. And if Prime Video doesn’t include the show or movie you want as part of your package, you can usually pay per season or episode, or just rent it.
Unless you live near the center of Pennsylvania, you probably won’t be very interested in what USTVNow Plus offers in the way of local channels. USTVNow is a service designed to let Americans living outside the country access American broadcast TV channels, but the only feeds you can get originate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Additionally, we’re not sure if UTVNow Plus is even totally legal since it doesn’t seem to play by the strict sports licensing rules that other streaming services have to follow.
Hulu With Live TV also presents some stiff competition when it comes to sports, providing a variety of channels, including ESPN, CSN, and Fox Sports 1. Hulu with Live TV also lets users follow their favorite sports teams from the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLS, MLB, and NHL, and record their games, provided they’re available. Furthermore, you can use your Hulu with Live TV login information to sign in to the ESPN App to access live ESPN coverage via ESPN+.
Streaming live TV services are still in their infancy, and the industry is still in flux. Since launch every service has increased prices by $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 – 10 p.m. weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For instance, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that figure takes a dive to about 3Mbps around dinner time, you’ll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem outside of rural areas, but better to check ahead.