This is the final article in a 3 part series entitled, Television on the Web.
Ok, so you’ve decided that cutting the cord to cable is right for you. You’ve picked the services you’d like to use. Now it’s time to find the right device.
There are a few factors to consider here. What you want to watch and how you want to watch it. Also, what ecosystem you use and finally price.
The list of which services play on which box is changing so fast that adding it to this article would risk putting outdated information. Instead, I recommend looking through the list of devices and deciding which ones support the way you intend to view your content and then doing further research to see if they support the streaming services you’re that interest you.
Some commonalities, with the exception of some low end budget boxes, expect to see HDMI and 1080p HD video. Also, wireless is the standard for these digital media devices. With the exception of the Boxee Box, they are all pretty small and unobtrusive.
Odds are, you already have a bias to Apple products. Either you love their design and services and already own several Apple devices, use the iTunes store and generally like them, or you think they’re pricy, pretentious and have no intention of buying anything with a half-eaten piece of fruit on it.
Honestly, let that be your guide. Even if the services fit your need, if you don’t like the company, don’t invest in their products. To really get the full experience, you need to be part of the full Apple ecosystem.
That said, Apple TV has many of the popular services and also will allow you to play TV shows, movies and music from your iTunes library. You can also make purchase from iTunes directly from the devices and also stream content from your iPad and iPhone via Airplay.
Cost: from $49-$99 depending on which one you choose.
So, if you’re not interested in the Apple TV, then the Roku XS deserves a strong look. There is an active app developer base and new apps are appearing here all of the time. Nearly every service except for iTunes and Youtube are available on the Roku.
WD TV Live
Price $99 – $200
If I was starting from scratch, the offerings from Western Digital would be a compelling choice. You have two serious options here. The WD TV Live and the WD TV Live Hub. The first is more of a player but can also playback movies stored on an external drive. The second has a 1 TB drive that actually stores those shows and movies to the internal drive. This is a great option if you want a nice seamless setup and also plan to backup all of your DVDs.
Of course, you also have the streaming services like with the other devices in this article.
I like the $99 WD TV Live here. I don’t want to limit myself to the 1 TB in the Hub version.
The Boxee Box
Boxee started as a program that you could install on a home theater PC. They have since switched to the external box in your living room concept. To call it a box is a bit of a misnomer. its more of a pyramid-like thing. You’ll either love it or hate it.
The Boxee Box does a lot of things. Media server, streaming services, social media integration, a lot. What it doesn’t have is Hulu. Without that, I’m not interested. If you can live without it, well then this might be a good choice if you can get past it’s looks.
Price: $500 – Sky’s the Limit
The segment of smart TV is large and growing. In fact, it’s hard to really find a “dumb” tv anymore. You might even already have one and not know it.
The smart TVs are great if you are already in the market to upgrade your TV. I would not, however, go out and buy a new TV just for the so called smarts. How smart is it to pay a several hundred dollar premium for a smart TV when you can easily add the same functionality with a little box sitting under your TV for $100.
Also another consideration, how often do you upgrade your TV? If you plan on holding onto your TV for 5-10 years will you have access to the next big unannounced service coming down the road?
If you like the idea of having the whole solution integrated into one device, then take a look at the offerings from Samsung and Panasonic. They really have some great looking TVs.
If you’re a gamer, you’ve got a way to watch most streaming services in the Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3. If you’re not a gamer, don’t go buying a gaming console just to watch Netflix.
Well, that’s it. Three articles get you closer to freedom from the cable company and freedom from a ridiculous cable bill.
What do you think? What did I miss? What questions do you have? Please comment.