Yourself understanding what you want
Setting realistic expectations is very important when you are changing something that you take for granted. The question is why are you looking to cancel cable and what do you want the experience to be like without it? If your main goal is to save hundreds of dollars a month then you have to be ready to walk away from channels or shows that you really enjoy. If you goal is to cut down on spending and still get a cable like experience you have lots of options from a number of services like Sling TV, Hulu With Live TV, and YouTube TV. The things about cord cutting is that you get to build your experience to your own needs with non contract services and decide what you like and what is worth paying for instead of being told here are your channels pay or your credit will be ruined. Many people can be very happy setting up an antenna and getting one or streaming devices and never look back, while some people are so used to the one size fits all approach and the channel selection that comes with it that other options feel too watered down or even cause confusion. So before you drop off that box or boxes think about the things you want to get from your TV viewing. Is it local news? Is it major national sports events like NBA, MLB, College football and basketball and the NFL? Do you just want to make sure you see a couple of shows you love? Depending on what your needs are your TV bill could be as little as free to $150.00 per month. Cord cutting is not simply about saving money. It is about watching what you want how you want to. Even if you somehow spent as much as you did with cable but you enjoyed what you were watching a lot more it might be worth the change.
If you are trying to watch TV without cable and in some cases without access to over the air TV you will need a streaming device. Luckily this appears to be the golden age of streaming devices with major offerings from some of the biggest consumer technology companies on the planet. What we mean when we say streaming device is one of the many small connected boxes or dongles that allow your TV to become a window to Internet based TV content. They are computers that are built just to show you TV shows, movies, live news, sports and anything else you would otherwise get from cable or antennas. If you want to get into streaming here are some products to take a look at.
Roku is a leader in streaming products that has a line of products with multiple price points. The most basic models will don’t cost more than $30.00 though I recommend starting with at least the Roku Streaming Stick+ which is typically $50.00. It pays to look for sale prices either way. Roku is known for its highly open universal search that helps find content across thousands of apps. As for app selection Roku has the largest selection on the market including the most well known ones like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Apple TV+, etc. It also has a simple out front interface and fun customizable backgrounds. Typically I recommend Roku to anybody jumping in the deep end for the first time because it is easy to use and simple to learn. Check out the Roku Streaming Stick+ here.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV is a platform from none other than Amazon. You may have heard people refer to using a Fire Stick. That is one of a number of products that carry the Fire TV operating system known as Fire OS. Right now Amazon sells two Fire TV devices. The Fire TV Stick, which is a small winky sized dongle that plugs directly into a TV via an HDMI port and the Fire TV Cube. The Cube plugs into the TV with an HDMI cord. The sticks are popular because they are low cost and give users a real bang for their buck. Amazon’s products are set up to highlight the perks of Amazon’s prime membership. They allow users to access the Amazon Prime movie and TV listings and also highlight the Free IMDB TV service from Amazon. But you are not stuck with just Amazon’s products. Fire TV devices can run thousands of other streaming apps downloadable from the Amazon App Store. They include all of the essentials like Netflix and Hulu as well as cable replacement services, live news, etc. Fire TV devices come with the bonus of having Alexa built in. Alexa is in our opinion the best device based voice assistant in the market. And if you are a person with smart devices in the home it can turn the Fire TV device into a control hub. One of the cooler aspects of Fire TV is that it has TV based browsers that can expand what you can find a lot. Check out Fire TV here.
Apple TV is a streaming platform that uses what Apple calls TVOS. The product has a pretty simple layout and the ability to create folders for organization much like an iPad or iPhone. Apple TV devices are equipped with Alexa though unlike on mobile devices Alexa does not talk back. Users set up the devices with Apple an apple ID that will link any previous iTunes Store purchases to the product. The best perk for Apple TV though is that it has an app that pulls content from multiple services into one searchable interface. At the moment it is the only device that does so. What it does is finds content from multiple installed apps and places it in categories. So for instance romantic comedies from Hulu, or Sony’s Crackle, or Britbox might be found in the same place without the need to go into each app and search. Apple TV devices support all of the top app services including its own new Apple TV+ streaming service. So those looking for Netflix and HBO Max or even Peacock will be happy to know they are available. The device also does a good job of registering users with apps by remembering logins for you like a normal computer. This is great if users are signing in to lots of related new services and apps. Apple TV devices are easily the most expensive on the market and for people outside of the Apple ecosystem they might seem like a step too far. Check out Apple TV here.
Android TV Devices
Android TV is Googles streaming TV interface. Users can sign into Android TV with the same login they do for other Google products like Gmail, or YouTube and find all of their preferences set up for them across Googles apps. The system uses a Google Play store set up for TV apps so that you will not have to riffle through games and programs you would not use on a TV. The platform has Google Assistant built in so that any Google Nest product can be controlled via the system as well as the ability to allow users to send video from Android devices and Chrome browsers to the television. Android TV’s interface is built on rows of content based on what is installed on the device. It is meant to help users discover more things to watch based on their habits. Android TV has app support for all of the major must have apps that we have already discussed as well as some that you can’t find anywhere else like Kodi and other media centers. The thing about Android TV though is that you can’t just go to a store and find an “Android TV”. This is because unlike other companies Google has yet to release anything called the Android TV box. The system is built into televisions and multiple streaming devices. Popular ones include the Mi Box from XIAOMI, see here. Another popular Android TV box is the Nvidia Shield and the powerful Nvidia Shield see here.
Antennas are an often overlooked tool in a cord cutters kit. Why would you want one? Because major network TV is delivered free via antennas. That means ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS and the CW. There are also a number of other over the air networks that concentrate on genres like action movies, or old TV shows even sports. The problem though is there is no universal antenna experience. What works for one person may not work for a friend because antennas are affected by weather, trees, geography, distance to TV towers, architecture of a home, type of roofing, neighborhood covenants and more. So unlike recommending a streaming device where high speed internet is the only needed tool antennas are much more complicated. The good news is that there are tools to help you figure out if you should invest in an antenna. It is important first to make sure that your location will be able to take advantage of an antenna. After that it is important to choose one that will get a consistent signal. The best results will always be with an antenna that is mounted outside along with a signal amplifier. The worst results are usually with a cheap old fashioned Rabit Ears antenna like the ones that sat on top of TV’s in the days before HD TV’s. A half way point is the indoor square models from companies like antennas direct. If you are looking for an indoor set up just make sure that you get one that has an amplifier. Also, understand that antennas primarily have a 60 mile range. That means fradulant to good to be true looking offers that advertise range of 100 miles or more are not true. For two of the best tools for using an antenna check out our cord cutter tools here.
Most people work streaming into a cord cutting solution. That means that you will need a consistent high speed internet connection in order to take advantage of this. In most cases high speed internet is only delivered via a local cable company but a search of ISP’s in your area will give you an idea of who you can work with. The best streaming performance is almost always going to come from a physical connection. That would be a cord that runs from a modem or router modem combo unit directly to a streaming device or smart TV. Otherwise you will need access to wireless internet or W-Fi. What kinds of Wi-Fi speeds do you need? This is not a one size fits all question. But the truth is that most of the time as long as you are pulling in 100 Mbps you should be able to stream till your hearts content as long as that is primarily what the internet is being used for outside of browsing. If you are in a household where people use the Internet for high end video games with interconnected players your needs will be harder to gauge. But the average family should be able to get by with a minimal setup. One thing to watch out for though is DSL. DSL speeds are usually not strong enough to do heavy streaming even though they advertise as high speed internet. While we recommend 100 MBPS DSL often provides speeds like 15 Mbps. Even without a tech background the difference should jump out at you.