With cable bills routinely topping $200, it’s no surprise that people’s frustration with their television service is growing. And while cutting the cable is a great way to save a significant amount of money in the long run, ending those subscriptions can be a terrifying prospect. That’s because this new, streaming world is akin to the Wild West—there are innumerable streaming services and devices to choose from, but the conveniences you’re used will take investigation and effort.
And how much you’ll save will largely depend on how many channels you want. Different streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Sling TV carry varying monthly fees and offer a range of content. Then keep in mind you’ll also need to subscribe to a high-speed internet service to stream the video.
And, since you’ll be losing your cable box in the divorce, you’ll also need to pick up some new hardware to get your TV back in business. Here are some solutions to consider:
The best way to get local channels (and network programming) is with a good HDTV antenna. Thankfully, they the new models don’t require climbing up on your roof or plunking a pair of rabbit ears on your TV. The $70 Leaf has an unobtrusive design that’s not much bigger (or thicker) than a sheet of paper. It can be hung just about anywhere and it’s extremely effective at picking up local high def channels within a 50 mile range—even including some networks your cable or satellite system might not offer.
Even in a world of on-demand viewing, a DVR is an essential piece of equipment. The $400 Roamio is a cord-cutter’s dream. It works with an over the air (OTA) antenna, recording up to four shows at once and stores up to 150 hours of HD recording. It also has all of the Tivo features you’d expect—like skipping commercials and “Quick Mode,” which speeds up shows by 30% (in case they’re moving too slowly for your liking). And at that price, the box also lets you forego TiVo’s monthly service fee, a charge that cord-connected watchers have to pay. (Cord cutters should bypass TiVo’s latest model Bolt+, which requires a cable card to record shows.)
If you’re planning to stream video content from service providers like Netflix and Hulu and don’t care much about having local copies of shows, the $50 Roku Streaming Stick is an inexpensive option worth considering. With over 350,000 movies and TV episodes available via various services, Roku’s is also the most open-source streaming stick on the market, meaning you can add services that aren’t a part of the device’s default offerings. Shows stream in 720p and 1080p quality and the stick supports DTS Digital Surround sound. But you’ll need a solid WiFi connection to use the Roku, since it doesn’t support internet cables.
If you’re looking to upgrade your picture quality as you separate from your cable or satellite company, Google’s high-end streaming stick is capable of displaying 4K ultra-high definition and HDR (high dynamic range) video. The $69 streamer also offers the option of connecting via both WiFi or an Ethernet cable (the later of which might be the wiser choice for 4K content). And, as with the standard Chromecast model, it connects your television to a variety of services, including Netflix, Pandora MLB.tv and HBO Now. You can buy a google chromecast ultra from Target, Walmart, or Best Buy.
If you carry an iPhone and iPad—and your mobile world is tied in with Apple’s app ecosphere—it makes sense to incorporate Apple into your cord-cutting mission as well. Starting at $149, Apple TV offers most of the major streaming services, and recently announced plans to offer exclusive content (like a spinoff to James Corden’s popular Carpool Karaoke segment). The set top box also supports 1,600 video apps, has a strong recommendation engine, and any movies, music, or TV shows you buy in the iTunes store can be played through the device. In addition, any pictures or videos on your iPhone or in your iCloud account can also be displayed on your TV.
If instead of Apple, you’re a die-hard Amazon customer, the $90 Fire TV might be a better option for you. It’s a bit more expensive than the Fire TV Stick ($40), but it supports 4K streaming video and works in conjunction with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant through its remote control, which can let you quickly skip ahead or search for the content you want. Like most streaming services, Fire TV supports Netflix, but it will nudge you toward its own Prime Video, which has several exclusive movies and programs. It’s also extremely customisable, letting you add more than 90 premium and specialty channels, including HBO and Showtime without a cable subscription.