So if we know what we want or at least have an idea of what we would like to have, let’s discuss the hardware options out there that can get us to where we want to be.
First, we will start with streamers. Streamers will give us a way to watch Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/DirectTV Now and Sling TV. There are others, lots of others, but we will focus on these. They are the best suited to get us to where we want to be.
Apple TV – This option will be liked my some and frowned upon by others. Apple vs. Android is the ‘Tastes Great – Less Filling’ of our time. But if you have iPhones in your family, the Apple TV is a solid option. It will handle all of the services above with the exception of Amazon Prime Video. You can also mirror your iPhone, iPad and Macbook screens to the Apple TV. Apple TV starts at $149.
Roku boxes – Roku boxes are the most well rounded of all the streaming boxes. They will play all of the streaming services above, and have a nice easy price tag to go along with them. Roku starts around $50
Blu-Ray players – We all have Blu Ray players laying around, and most of them will play at least one of the services above. Streaming services are really an add-ons to these players, and the confusing user experiences proves it. They is a way to dip your toe in and try streaming without buying new hardware. But, they are not a very flexible way to go long term.
Game Consoles – Game consoles are another way to get into streaming. One of the new Xbox consoles will even accept an antenna for OTA tuning with an add-on module. If you already have a Play Station or Xbox they are a nice way to try cord cutting. But at the time of writing this, NTX Cord Cutters is not experienced in their use as an everyday cord cutting solution.
OTA (Over the Air) Tuners/ DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) – will connect to your antenna and tune in local channels. Most come with lifetime service as opposed to paying a monthly service fee for the continuously updated channel guide. These help you take advantage of the FREE content available over the air by the major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX) and allow you to record it.
Channel Master – The Channel Master DVR+ will take its input from your antenna and a web connection to receive it’s channel guide information and off it goes. It will play your recordings as well as live TV for you on your TV. It has dual tuners, so that you can watch one show while recording another. The DVR+ only supports a few streaming services (unfortunately not Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime), most notably DVR+ will stream Sling TV. The DVR+ starts at $350.
Tablo – Tablo 2 and 4 tuner DVRs are an interesting solution to cord cutting. The Tablo DVR does not have a TV (HDMI) output. Instead it streams the output to its authorized users. Authorized users can watch Tablo via a Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV and many others (see above). While other authorized users can watch via a web connected tablet, or even phones. Unlike the Channel Master and TiVo DVRs, the Tablo users must connect an external USB hard drive to store your OTA recordings. Pairing a Tablo with a Roku is a nice comprehensive solution. A Tablo/Roku solution would have Tablo providing the OTA content and Roku with the streaming. The Tablo 2 tuner DVR starts around $190 and requires a subscription for some features.
TiVo – Tivo Roamio is a 4 tuner DVR that incorporates streaming options like Netflix/Hulu and Amazon Prime all in one box. What sets the Roamio apart from solutions like RoKu/Tablo is the OneSearch feature. Roamio does not keep OTA and streaming separate. You can OneSearch for a show and Roamio will search your streaming services that you subscribe to that are compatible with Roamio. The channel guide and your recordings can also be searched. The Roamio also provides a comprehensive list of episodes available to you in one place. Skipping commercials is a snap with TiVo as well. Just tap during a commercial, and TiVo will forward to the end of the commercial block. Roamio starts at $399 and includes 1TB of storage with no monthly fee. With the addition of a TiVo Stream, Roamio will stream live TV and recordings to portable devices that are on the same wifi as Roamio.
TiVo Bolt will do everything that the Roamio will do plus some additional features. The Bolt will display 4k video and will stream to portable devices right out of the box. The Bolt has a monthly fee of $15, and starts at $150 with 500Gb of storage space.
TiVo Mini – the Mini will give you the full TiVo experience on any TV in the house, as long as you already have a Roamio or Bolt. The Bolt requires a hardwired ethernet connection or coax MoCA connection on the same network that the Roamio or Bolt are connected to. The Mini starts around $100.