Monday, February 16, 2015

Review on devices that make it possible to be cable free

It has been well over two years since I dropped our TV provider and I love being without it. There are times when it would be nice; Olympics, Super Bowl, any college or professional football for John, etc., but for the most part we have found a way to watch them anyway even if it's not on our TV. While I was in Florida visiting my aunt John bought a small antenna for football, but I never use it. 

For the first year without satellite we used our Xbox 360 as our streaming station and it's been okay.

  • User friendly and fast
  • Has an ESPN3 app for sports
  • Online gaming and entertainment in one device
  • You have to have a Gold account to access the internet to stream content which is an additional $30 a year. Not a big deal when you're using it for online gaming too, but a waste for us since we're not. (XBox has updated this to where you don't need the Gold account anymore, but it wasn't that way when I started this post)
  • If the Xbox has an update you can't do anything until it updates which is always annoying when you just wanted to watch something quick before you have to leave or do something. Depending on the update and your internet speed this can take a while. 
  • Pausing things in a hurry is impossible with the wireless controller. It goes to sleep when not in use and has to wake up before it can pause. This is a huge annoyance with me since we pause mainly when someone is at our door and since our TV is downstairs it already takes longer than average to answer to door. By the time I pause and make it upstairs the person has usually started walking down my driveway. There is a remote that you can buy to use with the Xbox, but the cost has always deterred me.  
I know that there is now the Xbox one out that is supposed to be geared more toward entertainment, but since neither John nor I are big gamers we won't be buying it.

My mom bought Chromecast and I stole it to try it out for a while.

  •  The price is unbeatable, at $35 it's a steal.
  • It plugs right into the HDMI TV port or in our case, the bose system, and works after you register it on the apps that it plays.
  • It has Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, YouTube, Pandora, Google Play, and Google + and more. Plus they're adding more apps all the time. 
  • You use your phone, tablet or laptop to control it, which is a plus if you don't want another remote lying around.
  • I actually hate the fact that it doesn't have a remote. The app on my phone stops recognizing that it's playing the show on TV and then there is no way to pause it. My in-laws have it and it does the same thing to them. While we were over there it took 15 minutes to get chromecast to pause a show.
  • My phone also freezes during the loading sometimes and I have to turn it off and back on to make it work. 
  • I thought that I could use the Chromecast for my craft room, but the TV in there doesn't have an HDMI port. I bought a converter for the TV, but it wouldn't recognize the Chromecast.
In the end I gave the Chromecast back to my mom and moved on the the next streaming device. 
While buying the flooring for the craft room we bought a wifi blu ray player, since it was supposed to go in the craft room and that room wasn't ready to use yet I decided to swap out our old blu ray player for the new one for a test run. The size difference compared to our 7 year old model made me chuckle more than a little bit.

This is a cheap model, Panasonic DMP-BD89, because I didn't want to spend the money on something that wouldn't be used often.

  • Set up was very easy and I had it going within 15 minutes of plugging it in.
  • I love how it organizes shows on Netflix and Hulu better than the Xbox. I was surprised by how much easier is was to navigate through shows and see when things were expiring over the Xbox.
  • You can turn autoplay off which I haven't been able to find with the Xbox.
  • It has Netflix, YouTube, CinemaNow, Vudu HD Movies, Hulu Plus, Picasa Web Albums, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and Rhapsody built in. The remote also has a Netflix button, but it looks like most blu ray remotes have that now.
  • I haven't done it only because this blu ray is not staying in our family room, but it can be linked to our bose system and we can use one remote for everything.
  • You can view your own photos and videos through this player and it does have a USB port.
  •  This player will freeze while streaming and the only way to reset it is to unplug it. Then you have to sign back in to all of your accounts. 
  • You only have the apps listed above and can't add anymore or search the internet. 
  • Most blu ray players on the market these days only plug in with an HDMI cable, not a problem with most updated TVs, but like I said above, my craft room TV doesn't have an HDMI port. I had to use the converter to be able to use this player, but I haven't had a problem with it.
This blu ray player actually stayed in the family room for quite some time before John got the player listed below. It worked pretty well as our main source of streaming, but the occasional freezing was something we both hated.
The XBox moved into my craft room since it no longer needed to Gold account and on the smaller TV it was even harder to navigate through, I was glad when I could swap it out with the Panasonic we bought for the craft room.

 I put the Samsung BD-F5900 on John's Christmas list since I had been eying it for some time because it can browse the web and apps can be added to it. I didn't really think it would be purchased, but lo and behold my mom bought it for John. Of course all the times I read about the player I never noticed it was for 3D until I was looking at the box, but since it does everything else we wanted I didn't care.
 We haven't used it for anything other than movie watching, Hulu and Netflix so I can't talk about the other features, but so far it's doing its job. We like that the apps we use most are on the main page and it loads quickly.
It's probably just our slow speed internet, but Hulu does have a hard time making it through a show. It freezes multiple times a show and we have to stop it and restart it. We can't be on any other internet device or it makes it ten times worse. Netflix has no problems playing so we like to blame it on Hulu, but in the future when we get a faster internet maybe it'll work better.

I have loved being cable free and don't plan on getting a contract with a company anytime soon. My personal preference for streaming are our blu ray players and second would be the X-Box now that streaming is free.
I haven't found a new TV show that John and I want to watch that isn't added to Hulu and we have more than enough to watch to pass the time. I recommend everyone cut the expensive ties, its freeing!