Posts Tagged ‘Roku’

TV On the Cheap – Your Guide to Ditching Cable and Satellite

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
Netflix Instant Watch - a free add-on to your Netflix service

Netflix Instant Watch - a free add-on to your Netflix service

With the economy being in the toilet at the moment, a lot of people are trying to cut costs.  Cable and satellite are both expensive.  If you get a decent package that includes basic channels, the “expanded” tiers of programming that include the basic cable channels that you want to watch, and some premium channels like HBO or Showtime, you could be looking at a hundred bucks a month or more.  So one thing to scale back on is cable or satellite.

Fortunately, we’ll show you how you can watch all of your programs minus a cable or satellite bill.  Here’s what you’ll need.

First, if you want to watch broadcast TV, you’ll either need an HDTV (we recommend the Samsung LN32B650) and an antenna (go to Radio Shack or Best Buy and pick up a regular old TV antenna, it should cost you $10-15 depending on the model; there’s no need for anything fancy, they’re all basically just a pair of wires) or an analog TV and a digital TV converter box (we recommend the Tivax STB-T8).  Now you can watch live broadcast television.

If you want to watch shows after they’ve already aired, programs from basic cable, or you want to catch up on old episodes, you can probably do that for free online.  The best resource is Hulu.com.  Hulu is an online TV venture from some of the major studios.  You’ll find a pretty good selection of past and current TV and cable offerings there, along with a few movies.  And best of all, Hulu is 100% free.  Some studios/networks (notably CBS) don’t tend to offer programming on Hulu.  But you can probably find episodes of those shows on www.CBS.com.  Hulu and other online TV offerings sometimes have time restrictions on programming; so for example if you’re a fan of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, Hulu only has a few episodes at a time.  And sometimes they’re delayed for a few days as well.  But they’re free.

Some basic cable networks and most premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) don’t put their videos up on Hulu or even on their own websites.  If you want to watch TOP CHEF or MAD MEN, you’ll have to pay for it.  That’s where iTunes or Amazon on Demand come in.  Most standard-definition shows are $1.99 per episode, and most HD versions are $2.99 per episode.  If you think about the tens or hundreds of dollars you pay for cable or satellite per month, even if you couldn’t find any programming on Hulu or other free online services and bought it all by the episode, it would still work out cheaper on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.  Plus, if you use Amazon on Demand and you purchase a Roku Digital Video Player, you can watch your programming on your television.  Perhaps even in HD!  The one drawback to this is that Showtime and HBO both wait on making available their shows until after they’ve aired, sometimes long after, in order not to hurt their subscription base.  Our guess is that as video on demand revenue continues to rise and eventually equal or eclipse subscription revenue, this will change.  But for now, you’ll have to have a little patience when it comes to shows from premium cable channels.

The next step in our TV On the Cheap Guide is Netflix Instant Watch.  As we’ve said before, we’re a huge fan of this service, which is a free benefit with any Netflix unlimited plan (those plans start at $8.99/month).  And you can sync Netflix Instant Watch up to your Roku box as well or your Xbox 360 via Xbox Live.  Netflix Instant Watch offers thousands of films and TV shows, including most of the Starz network’s offerings (PARTY DOWN is a fantastic, hilarious show).

That’s all there is to saving thousands of dollars a year on cable or satellite, without missing your favorite programs.  With your newfound cash, maybe you could pick up a point-and-shoot digital camcorder; we recommend the Flip UltraHD.

Roku Digital Video Player Review – Rockin’ Digital Content with Roku

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
The Roku Box, which lets you stream content (some HD) to your TV

The Roku Digital Video Player, which lets you stream content (some HD) to your TV

Picture Quality: Picture quality largely depends on two factors — what kind of television you have and how good your broadband connection is.  If you have an HDTV and a relatively fast connection, the Roku Digital Video Player will display a fantastic picture — around DVD quality for most programs and HD-level for HD programs.  If you have an older TV and/or a slow connection, the picture scales accordingly.  To put it as bluntly as possible, picture quality will range from good to excellent, depending.  One of the nice features of the Roku Digital Video Player is the ability of content like Netflix Instant Watch or Amazon Video On Demand to up- or downscale the picture quality if and when connection problems occur.  Instead of pausing, in most cases the picture will adjust to a lower resolution.

Audio Quality: Audio quality is also quite good, around DVD quality at its worst, with accompanying surround sound features.

Product Features: Aside from the aforementioned auto-picture scaling, the Roku Digital Video Player comes with a remote control and batteries.  And the ability to sync it up with both Netflix Instant Watch and Amazon Video On Demand so that you can watch your programming on your television.  Netflix Instant Watch features over 12,000 films and TV programs, while Amazon On Demand features over 40,000.  That’s a lot of content!  The Roku Digital Video Player also features built-in ethernet and Wi-Fi connections, so you can quickly get onto your broadband hookup, whether it’s wired or wireless.  And the Roku box includes standard RCA cables for hooking up to your television.  If you’ve got an HDTV and are looking for a higher-quality TV hookup, you can purchase the  Roku Digital Video Player PLUS Premium Cable Pack for only $20.00 more.

Recommendation: As we stated before, we love Netflix Instant Watch.  And Amazon Video On Demand’s pretty great too.  If you subscribe to Netflix Instant Watch and supplemented your movies with those on Amazon Video On Demand, along with purchasing the occasional current season TV show episode (usually $1.99 for standard-def and $2.99 for hi-def), you could forgo digital cable or satellite TV altogether.  And at $99.99, the Roku Box is a feature-laden, easy to use way to view that programming on your bigger-screen TV instead of your smaller-screen computer monitor.  We love our Roku box. Overall

Rating: 9/10 (We don’t give it a 10/10 because it’s not life-changing like the first DVRs were.  But it’s pretty great nonetheless).