Cable is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as TV shows and movies become more accessible than ever (thanks, Internet!). So it’s not a surprise that many men are tossing out their cable boxes for streaming services and devices. Who needs live TV when you can catch up on your own time for much less cash? Plus, many services allow you binge watch new and classic series in full, wherever you want, when you want—your rusty box just can’t beat that. Below, we analyze four streaming services and four streaming devices to help you decide the best new way to watch TV.
When it comes to picking a streaming service, it’s typically all about selection. All four of the options below offer massive catalogues of movies and TV shows, but slight differences in what’s available on each platform may make your choice for you. Either way, say goodbye to your cable bill as these competitors offer slim prices for big entertainment.
Selection: Entire seasons of most, if not all, broadcast TV series (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW) with next-day service for streaming new episodes. Hulu also hosts a large selection of cable network series (including Comedy Central, MTV and A&E) though not always up-to-date. There’s a library of movies available as well, but the catalog here isn’t particularly great.
Originals? Hulu has been pushing plenty of its own original shows, including The Hotwives of Orlando and Deadbeat, but they have yet to land a must-see series.
Are there ads? Yes—both with the free and paid service.
Cost: $7.99/month, unlimited screens
Worth it? If you’re strictly TV-obsessed, Hulu Plus is the way to go. While you can get plenty of Hulu for free, shelling out the 8 bucks monthly will get you the next-day service you need so you’re not stuck clueless at the watercooler.
Selection: Netflix offers up thousands of movies, though not the absolute latest blockbusters. But it makes up for that with entire catalogues of many otherwise unavailable TV shows, including Breaking Bad, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Bob’s Burgers.
Originals? Plenty, including Emmy-nominated series House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as well as Derek, Hemlock Grove, and the acquired Arrested Development.
Are there ads? No.
Cost: $7.99/month for one screen, $8.99 for two screens, $11.99 for four screens
Worth it? While Netflix’s claim-to-fame movie service is lackluster, it does tend to acquire new movies by the bucket load, so its catalog shows continuous growth. Meanwhile, the ability to binge-watch shows sans commercials and its critically acclaimed collection of originals makes Netflix easily worth the price.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Selection: Its selection is far more current than Netflix, but the newest flicks and TV shows (from both broadcast and cable) often come with an extra price tag to buy or rent. Still, Prime beats everyone else with its HBO library. Every episode of shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Oz and Band of Brothers are available at an instant for free with your subscription, and you won’t find them anywhere else.
Originals? Prime has also thrown its hat into the originals ring with shows like Alpha House and The After, but it hasn’t produced anything to draw a crowd.
Are there ads? No.
Worth it? The sticker price may scare you, but Prime Instant Video is actually less than $9 a month. Additionally, a Prime account gets you free two-day shipping on all your Amazon orders, potentially a huge perk if you’re a big online shopper. Amazon has also introduced Prime Music, its ad-free music streaming service with over a million songs and counting.
Selection: Vudu offers plenty of films as well as broadcast and cable shows—their movie catalog is so fresh that you can pre-order flicks currently in theatres and watch them online the day they hit store shelves. The danger in this, however, is that there is no monthly fee: you pay for each movie or show episode you watch. To be fair, Vudu offers plenty of deals, including a 99¢ Movie of the Day, so streaming a few specials a month is comparable to a subscription elsewhere.
Are there ads? No.
Cost: Varies, $0.99-$14.99/film or episode
Worth it? Vudu could be a solid option for those who want their films and shows streaming at top quality, as well as those who aren’t regular streamers. If you’re a regular, however, the monthly bill will rack up quickly.
First, the basics: all of these devices offer the streaming subscription services previously mentioned, so that shouldn’t factor into your selection. Though they’re all up to the task of helping you survive sans cable, there are perks and setbacks to each device that are important in making your pick. Below, four of the most popular streaming devices are asking to replace your cable box.
Perks: As well as the subscription services described earlier, Hulu says it boasts more than 1000 entertainment channels, many of which are free.
Setbacks: As the brand’s highest-tier option, the Roku 3 only works with HDTVs—if you’ve still stuck in standard definition, you can snag a Roku 1 or Roku 2 for a lower price.
Cost: $99, comes with 2 free months of Hulu Plus
Extra costs: You’ll still need to pay-per-month for your subscription services like Hulu Plus and Netflix, and heavily promoted services like HBOGo and Watch ESPN will require you to have a cable subscription, which won’t help our mission.
Worth it? When it comes to the possibilities, Roku seems limitless, and has always appeared to be at the top of the streaming game. Any device in the Roku family is a safe bet, but the Roku 3 will serve you better.
Perks: The Apple family rules here. With AirPlay, you can stream anything on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch straight to your Apple TV, and your entire film and TV library is plucked straight from the massive iTunes catalog. Apple TV will never stand alone, as your content will live on all your Apple devices.
Setbacks: Unlike Roku 3 and Fire TV, Apple TV doesn’t carry any original games—but again, the magic of AirPlay allows you to play games from your iPad and iPhone on the big screen.
Extra costs: You’ll still need to pay-per-month for subscription services, and hardly anything in the iTunes catalog is free.
Worth it? If your digital devices are all Apple, it may be best to keep it in the family and enjoy all the perks that only Tim Cook & co. can provide.
Amazon Fire TV
Perks: The first thing Fire TV boasts is its collection of over 200,000 films and TV episodes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Its voice search capabilities allow you to find whatever you want just by saying it out loud, and you also get access to hundreds of games with Amazon promising thousands on the horizon.
Setbacks: The initial price tag is on par with its competitors, but you also have to factor in the $99/year Prime Instant Video subscription as well as a $40 game controller in order to get the full gaming experience.
Cost: $99, comes with 30 days of free Prime Instant Video
Extra subscriptions: If you cough up the $99 for Prime—which Amazon clearly wants you to do—that once-a-year payment should erase your need for anything else.
Worth it? Fire TV is optimized for Amazon’s Prime service, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a decent option if you just want to get to your Hulu Plus or Netflix accounts. Plus, when it comes to gaming, Fire TV is in a league of its own.
Perks: Unlike the others, Chromecast is simply a memory stick you can plug into your TV, which makes it much easier to plug in and forget about. You don’t use a remote, but you can use your mobile devices to browse and control what’s playing. Also, the cheaper price tag is clutch, getting you the exact same access to most streaming services.
Setbacks: We don’t currently see Chromecast offering any options for gaming, so it may be strictly for viewing purposes.
Cost: $35, comes with 90 free days of music streamer Google Play
Extra subscriptions: Again, it will depend on what you choose—you’ll still have to pick a streaming subscription.
Worth it? If you’re looking for the cost-effective option and a fan of Google products, Chromecast is certainly the way to go.