Best Set Top Box for Cordcutters

Cordcutting will require some hardware. Below are some of the most popular set top boxes that people using when cordcutting. Whether this is your first time being a cord-cutter or have been doing this for a long time, the following list should provide a good idea of what kind of cordcutting hardware you will need to buy.

 

Android Boxes and Android Stocks for Cordcutting

There are a variety of Android Boxes and Android Sticks that are available from an ever increasing number of manufacturers. If you are well versed in using an Android Phone then you will catch on very quickly on how to setup and use these devices. When shopping for a device you should look for one with the latest version of Android and it should include Google Play. Some devices offer Amazon as an Android Store but you will never be able to install Google Play unless the Manufacturer installs it which will limit you in many ways. Networking can be by WiFi (especially for sticks) or for better HD Streaming choose Wired. Once you hook it to your TV you will be able to stream content from standard Android Apps including: Hulu, YouTube, Netflix or Kodi.tv which can also play content from a local server or a directly connected hard drive. You can also watch content from a SiliconDust or other Shared TV Tuner. Some of the best unsaid features include the ability to use a standard keyboard and mouse to turn your TV into a basic gaming device, run office applications or browse the web(a cheap computer for the kids). The best part about Android Devices is that you are not locked into a propitiatory device. Adding Features or Streaming Providers is as easy as downloading an App from the Play Store. Entry devices can start at $25 for an Android Stick, $50 for a basic Android Box or up to about $100 for an Android box with advanced features such as multiple USB3.0 Ports, Android 5.1(at time of writing), Faster Processors and GPUs, More Ram and Storage which makes things run faster. Some models include webcams for teleconferencing and VOIP Phone Services. Picking an exact device requires research of Reviews and selecting a Retailer you can Trust to accept a return if there is a problem.

 

Amazon Fire TV for Cordcutters

The Amazon Fire TV is the new kid on the block. Its claims to fame are powerful hardware, voice search (currently working with Amazon content, Vevo, and Hulu Plus), quick play of shows once they are selected (called ASAP, works with Amazon content), and select Android games. It also is a great choice for an XBMC box. Its downsides are lack of content channels (mostly relative to Roku, it is already superior to Apple TV), and an additional $40 expense if you would like to game on the system (although other controllers with USB or bluetooth connections work). The general consensus seems to be that the device will get better in time with software updates. A solid choice for Prime users, casual gamers who don’t already own a gaming system, and people whose content needs aren’t robust enough to require a Roku or HTPC.

 

Apple TV for cord cutting

The Apple TV, long considered a niche device, has taken to the forefront. If you’re very invested in the Apple ecosystem, it’s a great choice. You have access to many streaming options like Netflix and Hulu, as well as the ability to purchase episodes and movies for streaming. The problem here is the walled garden: if you live within the Apple ecosystem, it’s a great choice, but you’re going to have to buy your episodes if your stuff isn’t available via streaming services

 

Roku for Cordcutters

The Roku is kind of the grandaddy of the streaming boxes. It has a very simplistic interface and a channel store with wide network adoption. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Amazon (On Demand / Prime) are all available, as well as some paid specialty channels. Plex also has a client that runs solidly well, using the Roku UI Experience. This device is easy to setup, uses very little power, cheap ($50-$100) and simple for use. Easily the Honda Civic of the bunch – the cheap little car that works for almost everyone. Also, Roku has a PLEX plugin, see below.

 

Cordcutting with Boxee Box

The first Boxee Box was amazing, the new one not so much. Boxee is an interesting concept with a subpar function. The older Boxee Box functioned a lot like the WD Live Hub – ability to stream as well as play external content. The premise is simple: OTA channels and a cloud PVR feature, as well as streaming services. The Cloud PVR service costs an extra $9.99 per month. However, the newer Boxee TV (according to recent reviews as of 12/2012) leaves a lot to be desired – reviewers claim it is buggy, unfinished and won’t even recommend buying it. If you’re feeling like a challenge, be my guest – but I would probably stay away if I were you.

 

Game Consoles can help cordcut

Consoles are extremely common for streaming and often have the basic services on board (Netflix, Hulu, various other streaming services). The downsides: high cost to entry (a new Xbox 360 is around $200, so around this price point), may require a separate subscription (Xbox Live Gold @ $59 per year) and high power usage. However, you are still able to use Plex via the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as the Media Server software will still stream content to the console without having to use the Plex Client. This is a good choice if you’re going to have a console (with a subscription to Xbox Live, if on Xbox) already and just need to yank the plug – and don’t mind that you’re not getting the same bells and whistles.

Last generation consoles (i.e. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) are typically a safer bet at this point since their app libraries are more robust than current generation devices (i.e. Xbox One and PlayStation 4).

 

Google TV and Cordcutters

The cool thing about Google TV/Android TV boxes is that they come in varying shapes, sizes, colors, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. A good example of one of these boxes is the Vizio CoStar: you will have access to many Android apps, such as Netflix and Amazon, as well as the GoogleTV versions of Plex. However, your mileage may vary. HBO Go and Hulu Plus seem to not currently work with the CoStar, but you may have luck with other Android boxes with these apps – I would recommend this for the tech oriented folk, rather than a mainstream consumer.

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