Posted by kopower
Damn, you guys have made me want to drop it asap. Huh, I guess the internet isn't a fad after all. So you guys just use your computer and hook up an HDMI cable to your tv, or do you use Roku or something like that. The only problem I have with it is that the majority of time we are watching tv, we both are on our computers. I would possibly need to buy another, just for the purpose of watching online tv. I guess all the money I would save on cable would easily cover that though.
I have a Boxee Box in the living room on the big screen and have a Roku in each bedroom. Total cost is under $400, which pays for itself in just a couple of months. Plugging in your laptop works, but for a permanent setup, it would be a pain. All 3 of my boxes support 1080, which is more than I can say for Apple TV, which frankly sucks balls.
Roku is really simple and inexpensive, but isn't as robust as the Boxee Box, which is why I have that in the living room. Roku has a ton of channels and content to work with...including a UFC channel. You can order PPV's though it or watch weigh-ins, etc. It has all of the major players like Pandora, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video, Netflix, and such. And they're adding new stuff all of the time.
The Boxee Box has only been around since the end of last year, so they are playing catch up on a couple of the apps/channels. They're still working on the app with the UFC and Hulu Plus is coming down the pipe as well, but they offer something like 150 different channels as well, including Netflix. Most of the channels are smaller niche channels, but there are some really good ones. It also has a browser, which is nice for manually going to a website that isn't part of a channel. One huge advantage that it has is that it aggregates free web content. So, let's say you have the Big Bang Theory marked as a favorite show, when it gets put on the web the day after airing, it automatically pops into your watch later queue. Most of the shows that I watch are actually available this way. I don't even bother with Hulu...I tried the free trial, but decided that they've still got some purchasing to do before it's worth my 8 bucks a month. That just depends on what shows you watch really though. Another big advantage is that it will play virtually any media file that you throw at it. My router is uPnP compliant, so I have a 2TB hard attached directly to it that streams via wifi to my living room television. You can attach a hard drive, SD card, or thumb drive directly to it as well. I have over 500 movies, over 400 television episodes, plus music on disk and it's still not half full. You can do tons of customizations as well...I can stream content from anywhere on my network, including sharing a Sopcast stream with my laptop. There are also application repositories on the web for applications that aren't officially supported...like for sports, if you know what I mean. There are ways to watch things legitimately too though. I know MLB, NHL, NBA, and possibly others have channels available, but I don't watch any other sports so I don't know the cost of those are. I think there are even PGA and Speed channels, if you're into that. If you like paying for movies, Vudu is available for new releases. Oh, I almost forgot one of my favorite things. I have a button at the top of my browser on my laptop...anytime I'm surfing and come across a video I'd like to watch on TV, I just click my "watch later" button and it gets put in my queue.
I wouldn't recommend the Boxee Box unless you are very computer savvy though. I know someone who loved my setup and bought one. It was a bit much for him...he eventually got frustrated and took it back. If you have the know how though, it is a great device with a beautiful GUI. It actually goes out and gets all of the thumbnails and movie/tv descriptions from the web automatically from IMDB and a couple of other sources. The computer version has been around a for a couple of years, so you can toy around with it to get an idea of what it's like. The set top box version is still kinda new though, so it's still somewhat of a work in progress. Boxee is basically a build off of XBMC, if you've ever used it. Roku is simple and not very customizable, but works right out of the box and is easy enough that my daughter could set it up.
I still get the major networks though my provider though too. It's not a cable package, it's the basic whatever they call it package...just the broadcast networks and local stations and such. Comcast gives discounts for combo packages, so it only costs me like two bucks more for them to feed me the basic channels, rather than just having internet. So, 2 bucks isn't too bad for all the basic channels in HD. Add on the $7.99 I spend on Netflix and that's a total of $9.99 a month. Not bad, when you consider what most cable packages cost.
Something I forgot to mention. There is still one distinct advantage to connecting your laptop or building a dedicated Media Center PC. Some media providers block content from set top boxes. For instance, Hulu uses the freemium business model. You can watch Hulu Basic on your computer, but they block it from the dedicated boxed. The theory is that they'll pull you in with the free content on your computer, so that you'll pay for Hulu Plus on your TV. So, obviously connecting a computer to your television would be the loophole for that. There are some webisodes that get the same treatment as well. It just depends on what kind of contract each company has for distribution.
And just like anything else, there are ways around that as well. There's some software called Play On that will play the video from your computer on your TV...and it's compatible with a number of devices. It won't play all videos, but it's compatible with the some of the big ones like Hulu.