Since I first began discussing “cutting the cord” from overpriced cable/satellite companies we’re getting some free TV channels, looked at a few ways to find cheaper internet, and streaming digital video from more palatable providers. Now let’s look at hardware, the electronic additions to your TV, Internet connection, etc.
Unless you have a “smart TV,” you’ll want an add-on to find even more non-antenna channels and to complete your “cord cutting” package. Antennas provide a number of options, but usually not enough to supplement your digital streaming services. Think of these add ons as a replacement for your cable TV/box.
I have a smart TVand still prefer to use add-ons like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc. that give you functionalities like voice command, more channels, and more. You really need one if you want to explore the joys of having a plethora of free channels. Now let’s dig into detail on some of the best ones.
Chromecast: For those that want simplicity, and a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface on your notebook or cell phone. So if you have everything you want to view already on your notebook or perhaps phone- simply plug the Chromecast into your TV and a power source and you are set to share your video with your TV from your notebook/cell phone. It will walk you through the set up process. Some TVs can already stream Chromecast, making it even easier.
Roku: My favorite. Roku has 1000’s of streaming options ranging from the big offerings Netflix to tons of smaller offerings, and many are free. Free documentaries, foreign films, comedy, classic television shows, just name it. Roku also has higher end offerings like voice control, personal features where you can plug headphones into your remote and listen without disturbing others, and more. They even have “hidden” channels (scary movies, niche stuff) that are set up and shared by users. That makes for some interesting channels. Search for “secret Roku channels” online and you’ll find a list of them and how to add them. Check out Roku Premiere Plus, about $100, for all the bells and whistles, or Roku Express for $30, if high definition is good enough. You will still get all the offerings.
Amazon Fire: For unique gaming options and a video channels — and since it’s Amazon, great support. Sometimes the picture stops or jumps forward, which is annoying to say the least, but it is constantly improving. Fire hasn’t bested Roku yet, but I doubt it’ll be dropped by Amazon anytime soon. It’s a sold add-on — in the form of a discreet “stick” that plugs into your TV — priced similar to Roku.
Apple TV: For the Apple-centric. Apple TV has a lot of streaming options, but not nearly that of Roku or even Amazon Fire. It’s not cheap and it’s focused on mostly on other Apple services and not really third party offerings — no 4K (super high quality) resolution support either. It does offer voice control if that’s an important feature, though, most of the higher-end devices do too.
Nvidia Shield: Really just for the gamers out there. You are looking at around $200+ depending on the subscription, but you can get a fairly rich package that including your remote and game controller. Additional game services come with more charges. You also need a really fast Internet connection if you don’t want to experience lagging while playing games. Nvidia Shield is on its second version of hardware, improved from the first offering by a good chunk. The remote control was once additional money, and the game setup and user interface are better too. But I still wonder how long it will be before something else takes its place.
There are a handful of others are out there, but I will say that if you run into ads saying you can get “free” premium channels through their “box,” with references to a software called “Kodi,” AVOID IT. Most of these overseas mini computer providers are selling you something you will most likely need to install some additional software that is either outright illegal or borderline. If it sounds too good to be true, well, you know the saying.
Electronic add-ons are always coming and going, and always imroving. Many game consoles offer similar accessibility to video providers, which may be perfect for some. But the preceding options are more affordable ways to cover 2 or more TVs.
Lastly and the gist of this, using an electronic add-on along with an antenna for your TV and an affordable Internet connection may give you all you need to finally cut the cord with your cable/satellite provider.
Brian Koch is an avid techie who’s worked in the tech field for dozens of years with Compaq/HP, his own pc business Techpertise, outdoor photography, and more. He has lived with his wife Stacy in Colorado for over 16 years. E-mail questions, comments, suggestions to Brian: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Techpertise.