Cable bills are soaring. and we are getting less for our home entertainment dollar. Some of us are cutting costs by either cutting back or eliminating our cable services. There are cheaper or even free. I just want to cover a few tips.
Over the Air
The great broadcast television switch over to digital had a lot of people convinced that we were now completely reliant on our cable service for content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Each broadcast channel has multiple available subchannels. From Galveston, I can receive about 77 channels. Some of them are religious, others Spanish or Asian channels. and a few are shopping channels. There is plenty of good stuff available. I was somewhat surprised to find that a lot of the channels I got were local broadcast channels and not cable channels.
I live about 50 – 70 miles away from the Broadcast towers. and my antenna is a smaller one that fits conveniently in the attic. There are times that a few channels can’t be received, but most of them can be viewed reliably. If one lives closer a pair of rabbit ears may be sufficient. The video is digital. there is no shadow there is no ghosting ,there is no snow. whether the material is standard 480 or 1040P.
It’s worth nothing that there can be a clear difference in quality between the cable offerings and what you receive over the air. Comcast tends to compress pretty heavily. while the over the stuff has fewer artifacts and compression.
Content Streaming Hardware.
There are several ways to access the streaming content, my intent is not to give a comprehensive review but to cover the capabilities. available with each method. If you’re going to stream content you will need a good high-speed internet service.
Smart TVs have streaming capabilities built into the Television itself. The biggest advantage to smart TVs is that the user only needs one remote., another is that it doesn’t use precious HDMI ports. The interface is consistent and simple. Access to the content are called Apps. Typically Apps that are available include Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and a bunch of other mainstream services. I have one of the original Visio sets, they recently dropped Amazon from the availability list. Probably due to the complexity and security that is involved with the options of making purchases. Unlike other devices. It’s not so simple to update the hardware and software when it’s integrated into the set. The external units are inexpensive enough to be disposable if the technology becomes obsolete.
Some addons devices such as Blue-Ray and game systems such as Xbox and PlayStation also have smart streaming capabilities.
The Roku is the Grandaddy of the of the streaming add-on-box. It has a great interface and comes preloaded with a bunch of services. They come in different models, and have a huge choice of available programming. It’s reasonably priced particularly if one purchases one of the middle priced boxes or sticks, there isn’t much 4k quality to stream these days. I have 2 older boxes, They are not as flexible as the Amazon Fire Stick, and the remote is infrared so the box is line of sight, and the remote needs to be pointed at the box.
Google Chromecast Cast
The Chromestick takes a different approach. You are to use a device, typically, a smartphone or tablet, although a PC running chrome will work. The apps are loaded into the phone. you select a video that is broadcast from your Chromcast device out to your HDMI port.
I found Chromecast a little limited. First of all, they don’t support Amazon Prime. The other issue I had with it is that it relies on the phone. Loading heavily burdened phones with dozens of more apps is awkward, at least to me it is.
Amazon Fire Stick
I have the Roku Chromecast, and the Firestick. The only one that we use these days is the Firestick. It has a convenient remote that is radio operated. so the remote doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the stick, would be difficult to do anyway because the stick is just a little bit bigger than a USB thumb drive that plugs into an HDMI port at the back of the set. It works with all the typical apps, including of course Amazon Video and music. The unit is cheap and like most Amazon services the delivery is quick and efficient.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime there is quite a bit of free material available. This combined with the free downloadable books, and free delivery makes it a good value. The Amazon Interface is good and easy to access.
While the choices available are as inclusive as any of the other hardware, it can be expanded even more with the addition of Kodi.
The Firestick operating system is written in Linux, the open sourced and widely understood operating system that runs many of our devices and computers. Because of this third, party applications are easily written and can be added on. Kodi was originally written as a Linux computer program to catalog and stream video sources from around the internet. Its was initially called XBMC, they probably figured the name Kodi was less intimidating for non-geeks. Installing Kodi is moderately complex, but can be done by carefully following directions. The firesticks can be bought preloaded for a moderate markup. There are a couple of different methods for loading Kodi, I used my computer and followed the instructions here. Loading can also be done directly by using the app called ES.
Additional streams can be accessed using the Kodi addon Exodus, The content available here is less legitimate, but almost any content can be found. Old or new series for binge watching, and old or new Movies are all available. Exodus used to be called Genesis, I suppose the next version would be called Leviticus.