Over the last little while, more and more cable/satellite subscribers have been cutting the cable. In other words, these folks have unsubscribed from their local cable company or satellite provider, mainly to save money. Since almost all of us have relatively fast Internet coming into our homes, people have found that there are many other entertainment sources out there, some free and some available for a small monthly fee. Today we’ll examine some hardware that will help make your transition from cable-TV junkie to streaming entertainment aficionado.
If you own an HDTV (high definition television), you almost certainly have one with an HDMI port. All recent HDTV sets have them. These ports open up a completely new streaming world for you, one that you can take advantage of for very little money. There are two gadgets that we’re interested in today but you can get the same kinds apps that these two offer on other hardware. These alternatives are substantially more expensive, however. All of this technology will turn your HDTV into what could be termed a Smart-TV, one that allows you to watch old-fashioned TV via cable/satellite or OTA (over the air with an antenna) as well as streaming offerings such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.
If you’ve never tried any of these streaming services, you really don’t have to spend a lot of money to test them. The two bits of technology that we’re interested in right now are the Chromecast from Google and the Streaming Stick from a company named Roku. While you could spend hundreds of dollars or more for a Smart TV that does all of this in one package, the cost of entry with either of our two suggestions is much, much less. The Chromecast retails for $35.00 in the United States, slightly higher in Canada, while the Roku cost $49.95 ($59.95 in Canada). It seems to us that either of these two gadgets would be a terrific way to test the waters, at least as far as online streaming goes.
This is what the Chromecast looks like:
And now for the Roku product:
The Chromecast is available now, March 2014, while the Roku Streaming Stick won’t be available until April. The main difference between the two devices has to do with the availability of a remote control with the Streaming Stick while the Chromecast uses an Android or iOS app on your mobile device as a controller. Each product has different features and specs so you’ll have to figure out which one fits your needs but we think the low prices are a great way to enter the new world of streaming entertainment over the Internet.
Here’s a link to the Roku site which gives you a rundown on the various types of channels available: Roku Channels
Keep in mind that while many are premium channels, some are free. Additionally, some of the sports packages, for example, have preview periods where you can check out the games at no charge. Here are some of the channels that Chromecast offers:
Both Google and Roku offer Netflix, as does every other streaming console, TV or Smart DVD player. Beyond that, you’ll have to compare the packages provided with each device. Since these things are all digital, however, there is always the possibility that the channels could change in the future. Updating the firmware, basically the part that is the brain, is quick and easy, substantially faster than any of Windows updates. If you want to test things out, get one of these gadgets and try some of the free channels, Youtube or Vevo, for instance. Heck, you can even get a free month of all-you-can-watch entertainment with Netflix. For the relatively small price of this new technology, you’d be surprised at how much entertainment you can get for little or no money.
TIP: Streaming, obviously, involves a LOT of bandwidth. Before you can think about watching something on Netflix, you’ll have to consider two things. The first is the speed of your connection. We’ve got a 5Mbps connection here and everything works perfectly. The second consideration is your data cap. We have unlimited Internet but some of you may have caps of fifty gigabytes or less. For an average home, you’d really need about three hundred gigabytes of data a month, unlimited is preferred. Check all of this carefully before springing for any of the ‘smart’ products.
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