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Cord Cutting: What Equipment Do I Need?

Thursday, January 21st, 2016 by | Filed Under: Android, iOS, Multimedia, TV Tech
 
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So what equipment does it take to cut the cord?  In part one of this article, Louis asked: “Please send as much information as possible on how I can “cut the cord” to cable; include equipment needed to do so.”

Before we got to the equipment, we talked about other important things to consider before deciding if cord cutting is right for you. So if you haven’t read that article yet, click here to check it out.

There really isn’t much equipment required for cutting the cord. In fact, you may not need to buy anything.

I’ll start off y assuming you already have high-speed Internet in place. If you own a SmartTV, it already has apps you can use for accessing streaming services pre-installed. Which apps will depend on your particular TV. You you’ll need to consult the documentation that came with it.

smarttvcrop

You actually don’t need a TV at all for most streaming services. You can watch most of them on your tablet or your laptop if watching on a larger screen isn’t important to you. However, you generally can’t watch over-the-air broadcasts anywhere but a TV, though some laptops do have TV tuners.

But let’s say you have a TV. If you already have a PlayStation or an Xbox gaming console, they are capable of playing apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu that will give you access to a wide variety of television programming Navigating with the game controller can be a little awkward, so you might want to spring for a remote. The other issue is that other people in your house might want to use the game console and the TV for gaming, so you might end up with some conflicts.

xboxsystem

You’ll probably want to purchase a streaming box or a streaming stick. What streaming boxes and streaming sticks do is basically turn your TV in to a tablet and allow it to run apps. The stick or the box is the tablet and your TV becomes the monitor. Instead of being controlled by a touch screen, you use a remote.

A steaming box will hook up to your TV via cables.  It can normally pick up wireless or be wired straight into your modem. Popular brands include Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. These boxes usually run around $100 including remote. Though Apple TV can run as high as $299. That’s a one time purchase price for the box. But the individual streaming services will cost a monthly or yearly fee.

roku

 

A streaming stick plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV. Popular brands include Chromecast, Fire TV Stick and Roku. Installation is super-easy.  These sticks run between $30 and $50 including a remote. But the price of subscriptions to individual services will vary.  Google’s Chromecast works differently than Roku or Amazon Fire TV. With most streaming devices, you have an on-screen interface that you operate with a remote and the media plays directly from that stick or box. With Chromecast, you use an app on your tablet, smartphone or PC to play the content and then stream or “cast” it to your television via the Chromecast stick or box.

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The apps available on these devices vary, though most will offer you big names like NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and individual subscription services offered by networks like CBS.

Another piece of equipment you’ll want to consider is an antenna for your television. This will enable you to enjoy local channels and live television.

Antennas Direct HDTV Indoor Amplified Antenna

If you live in an area where it’s easy to pick up television signals over-the-air, you might not need more than a slim tabletop antenna.

Don’t assume you’ll be able to pick up channels over the air just because you could 10 years ago. With the advent of the digital transition, many places that previously could receive TV signals no longer can. Digital signals are not only line of sight, they also have to be basically perfect or nothing. So there are no fuzzy TV signals these days. It’s either clear or it isn’t here at all.  You may find that you need to purchase and an outdoor antenna and mount it on a 30-foot-pole to get a signal.

Here’s a link to an article about a great website that will determine what type of antenna you need in your area.

The heart of cutting the cord lies with choosing streaming services. In the next part of our series, we’ll look at your options and how much they cost.

~ Cynthia

 

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3 Responses to “Cord Cutting: What Equipment Do I Need?”

  1. John says:

    I “cut the cord” over a year ago. My strategy is to eliminate cable TV charges, replace cable phone with Ooma, eliminate the cable company’s modem. I had a satisfactory router in place already. I needed to purchase a modem, an Ooma box, a netflix subscription, and antennas for each TV. Unfortunately, I have not been able to eliminate the Time Warner internet service – their charges are still exorbitant after eliminating as much as I could.
    It worked. But I really miss my sports programs. Ooma is not the same quality as cable phone but is acceptable considering the cost savings.
    What is the law about sharing cable feeds? I live in a condo community. I see many active networks for my neighbors. Are we permitted to pool resources? With a higher speed connection, that would really cut costs while still retaining services.

    • cynthia says:

      John: You aren’t legally able to use your neighbors cable. That would be similar to tapping into their electricity or gas line. Someone might be willing to give you their password, but your usage might put a lot of strain on their plan, especially if you’re streaming movies. Some apartments and condo complexes actually get a deal and provide WiFi for everyone in the complex as part of their rent or maintenance fees.

  2. L A Graham says:

    Smart TV and internet aside, there is another way to get your local TV stations – including digital and HD. It’s those small “stick-me-on-the-window” TV antennas that you can find online; they’re available with different mileage ranges, ranging from 25 miles to 60 miles. My granddaughter just recently moved to a rural area where the only TV service offered is via satellite. She was given one of those “window” indoor antennas that receive digital signals and because she’s in a plains state (flat land, more or less), she gets over 65 stations off-air, including the nearby local channels as well as some foreign-language stations (think Asian as well as Latino). She’s very happy with this in combination with her internet service; I don’t know the supplier for the internet service, but that’s apparently adequate for streaming on her smart TV. The combination of the two services is working out as well as it can in an area where 5 MB/Sec is considered “fast” internet. :)

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