I recently wrote about how we're looking into whether we can potentially cut cable TV this year. In addition to doing research on what we can access and how we can access it in the event we ‘cut the cord', one of the things I want to understand is the technology.
Well, you can only do so much reading about the devices, so it's time to get hands on! I have a few different updates, first tied into our ‘soon to arrive' Roku.
Part I: Roku
Last week, there was a Woot Off, and I happened to log in when they were offering a Roku 3 for $65. This is the current premium device, and it was selling for $65, a 35% discount from the $100 suggested price.
With Woot Offs, you only have a limited amount of time to buy one before they end and they move to the next item. It's dependent on inventory. So, I knew I didn't have a lot of time, and I limited my research to seeing what people were saying in the item comment section. The view was that this was a great device, much better than with older Roku's in terms of technology and content, and that the $65 was a great price.
So I jumped.
I ended up getting one about a minute before they ran out, and it should hopefully arrive soon.
I'm excited because I've heard that Roku has access to many channels of streaming content, everything from the weather to news to kids programming, and it's all available as soon as you get it plugged in and connected to the Internet. In addition, you can access subscription content from things like Netflix or Hulu Plus.
We don't subscribe to either of these…yet.
I'm thinking that at the very least I will sign up for Netflix. I know you get a month free for activating (or re-activating in our case, though it's been a few years since we've subscribed), and I definitely want to check it out. I've heard mixed reviews about Netflix. I've heard that their movie content is so-so, that their current TV content is pretty bad (though everybody says Hulu Plus is where you go for this), but that TV content over a season old is where you can hit the jackpot. I'm fine with seeing what's available.
When I last subscribed to Netflix, they were just getting streaming content off the ground. In fact, it was still part of the regular subscription price as they had so few people using it. My, how things have changed.
Part II: Chromecast
The Roku isn't the only device that we have to use for streaming content. I also have a Chromecast which I received as a Christmas gift. This is branded as a more affordable streaming content device that's easier to use. In terms of ease, I couldn't agree more. I had that unboxed and hooked up within 5 minutes, and was streaming content from YouTube via my tablet to the TV.
It was pretty cool. There aren't a lot of providers that are yet able to work with it. Initially it was pretty much YouTube and Netflix. Now, I know they've added content from at least half a dozen other providers, and I've heard they plan on releasing the API so that third party providers can write their own apps, which should really open things up.
Part III: Availability and Stability
Last week, I caved in and bought something that my wife has been bugging me about for a long time, a wireless repeater. The way our cable and wireless is situated, it's located on one side of the house, on the main level. The coverage is fine for the entire first floor and about 75% of the second floor, but there's about 25% of the second floor that gets very spotty service. That spot is, of course, our master bedroom. So, since one of these devices will be used on the TV in our room, not to mention that we use our tablets and smartphones throughout the house, this will provide some much needed coverage. I could have done some re-wiring and such, but the price of the repeater is $30, and I think it will provide a much more reliable solution in the long run.
I'm still waiting on that. It's Amazon's number one seller in the category, and they usually run out regularly, so hopefully that will be here soon. It sounds pretty easy to configure. You plug it in, browse to it on the network, confirm the wireless network you want to repeat, provide the security codes, and it takes it from there.
Part IV: More Research
I know that some of the apps for the Roku and Chromecast have the capability to stream content from media servers and such. Honestly, I have no idea how to do any of this. I know my dad has something set up in his house, as he streams music from a PC that runs media services. Some off-the-cuff conversations have led me to believe that you could use something like this to act as a DVR, if you could add a tuner device which could grab TV signals from the air, and save it. I have no idea if any of this would work and what it would involve, but I definitely want to see.
The Goal: Simulation
My goal through the devices I have is to start looking at ways to simulate in parallel accessing the same content that I do today with our cable box. If I find that I can get everything and it's easy, maybe the cord really can be cut. Of course, I'll have to work with my wife, who I think will put up the biggest fight if I were to suggest it. There's also the logistics that readers have pointed out, with things as simple as ‘How do you know what time TV shows are on?' or ‘How do you know about new shows?' as you won't have commercials or promos built into the content that you receive that you would see on a TV, even if you used a DVR.
Either way, it's a lot of fun and I feel like, as a former techie, I need to get caught back up to the current technology age a bit.