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.
Free over-the-air TV solves some of the same problems as live TV streaming services do: it offers live TV and the channel-surfing experience, two things that SVOD solutions lack. It lags in content behind live TV streaming services, as many familiar channels are available on pay TV streaming services but not via free over-the-air TV. On the simplicity front, though, nothing beats free over-the-air TV: just plug the antenna into your TV, scan for channels, and watch. You won't need a streaming box, streaming stick, or a smart TV. You won't even need an internet connection!
Your options get a little thinner after the skinny bundles, but there are some other apps to consider. One of these is CBS All Access, which offers local feeds of CBS stations to certain customers. Once again, you'll have to live in certain areas to get the live feeds – and, once again, you can find out how good the deal is for your region by checking out the service's week-long free trial via the link below. CBS All Access costs $5.99/month (you can pay more to get rid of commercials, but that only affects the on-demand content, not the live TV). You can read our full review of CBS All Access here.
Offer ends and new service must be installed by 4/9/18. Rewards must be redeemed online within 60 days of new activation and are subject to change. New or qualified former DISH customers must provide a valid, original certificate number at time of order for service, prior to installation and activation. Certificate is nonrefundable, not redeemable for cash, nontransferable and may not be combined with other Reward offers. Certificate(s) may be deactivated and referral eligibility may be revoked. Other restrictions apply. Visit mydish.com/refer for full details. All prices, fees, packages, charges, features, functionality and programming subject to change without notice.
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.
Since moving back to New York City and dropping TV service, my Time Warner Cable Internet-only plan costs $40 per month (I'm excluding the $5 promotional discount) for 15Mbps service. The flagship Roku 3 box I'm using costs $103 with sales tax (you can of course choose a lower-priced model). After getting the Roku I signed up for the $8 per month Hulu Plus account. I've always had Netflix in addition to my cable/satellite subscription so I'm not factoring my $8 monthly subscription for that service into the equation.
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
Direct TV Now is a streaming service from AT&T that offers live TV programming over the Internet. It gives you access to over 60 live channels for $35 per month. This includes popular stations, such as CNN, the Hallmark Channel, ESPN, the Disney Channel, HGTV, TBS, Discovery, Bravo, Animal Planet and Bloomberg, among many others. But you can also choose to add HBO, Starz or Showtime for an extra $5 to $8 per month.
There is NO WAY to get FREE CABLE TV over the air, with an HDTV antenna. It is not possible to get HGTV, The History Channel, AMC, CMT, TVLand, and those other types of channels over an HDTV antenna! I wish these websites and these phony ads would stop fooling people into buying these “magic sticks” and “magic TV” antennas claiming that they will be able to watch CNN, TNT, TBS, The Science Channel, Biography, National Geographic, etc. without paying a cable company. It is NOT TRUE. They can stream whatever with a subscription, but guess what? THEY STILL NEED TO PAY THE CABLE COMPANY FOR INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT COSTS ABOUT $80 A MONTH WHEN YOU CANCEL THE BUNDLES!