An In-Depth Look At The Pros And Cons Of Your Many Cord Cutting Options
Cord cutting is more popular than ever these days. After all, most people aren’t exactly thrilled with paying $200 a month just so they can watch ESPN once in awhile. Of course, the downside in cancelling cable is that you lose a lot of content. People tend to take for granted how much cable content is actually out there. Sure, most of it is crap, but still.
Thankfully, technology is always moving forward, and the people behind that technology get that you’re sick of being a slave to Big Cable and their insistence that yes, you want to watch 19 different home shopping channels. And so they have created options for you. Lots of options.
And thankfully (?) for you, I’m here to break down those options for you, so that you can cut that cord and move forward in the way that makes the most sense for you. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Doing what’s best for you, and not being forced to watch TV in the same way your 90-year-old neighbor does, right? Right. So let’s get to it, the pros and cons of your cord cutting options.
If you’re cool with something basic – extremely, get back to TV’s 1950’s roots kind of basic – then you can drop anywhere from $20 to $60 on an antenna, which will let you pick up whatever local channels you can for no extra cost at all.
The pros here are obvious, and, well, singular: once you’ve paid for the antenna, you don’t have to pay for anything else. It’s all free. Okay, fine, one other pro: if you live in a city, you can probably pick up more local channels than if you live out in the country. In New York, for instance, you can get around 40 channels. Sure, most of them are small and probably shitty, but how’s that different than most cable channels?
The cons are, well, the cons are that you are pretty much stuck watching the major networks, complete with commercials, no DVR, no streaming options, and basically no quality content. Yeah, that’s a pretty big con.
If you still want that sweet, sweet content and are willing to pay for it, and don’t want any extra clutter from devices, a Smart TV is always an option.
The pros include that lack of clutter, plus a streamlined experience that allows you to simply turn on your TV, point your remote and start watching whatever apps you have on your TV.
The cons are that you still have to pay hundreds of dollars for a TV, and from my own personal experience, sometimes Smart TVs aren’t, uh, aren’t all that smart. Connection issues, constant updating (and the wait involved) and a general sense that the “smart” part of your TV was secondary to the, you know, “TV’ part during the design are all a concern, which sucks when you’re paying a pretty big chunk of change up front.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to call this, but I’m talking services that essentially allow you to turn a normal TV into a “smart” TV. Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast. That sort of thing.
One pro is that this a much cheaper option than buying a Smart TV, although it varies depending on what service you use. Apple TV runs anywhere from $150-$200. Amazon Fire TV is around $100. And Google Chromecast is only $35.
Of course, you tend to get what you pay for, but is there really that big a difference between Google Chromecast and Apple TV? Eh, it depends. I know that’s a shitty answer, but it really does depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re cool with essentially just using your phone to stream content to your TV, then Chromecast would probably work for you. Apple TV, on the other hand, has a much richer interface. In short, it “feels” more like TV, something stable and tangible, rather than the more jury-rigged feel of Chromecast.
Amazon Fire TV is closer to Apple TV, and for half the price is probably the better option, unless of course you’re married to Apple the way many Apple fetishists are, and need to feed that iTunes addiction.
But that’s kind of an issue with both Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. They both push you towards using their own services – iTunes, Amazon Prime – which isn’t a huge deal, but can be annoying, especially when you just want to find something to watch without feeling like you’re entering into some sort of deal with the devil. I mean, that’s why you’re cutting the cord in the first place, right?
Roku has several generations of their device now, each offering slightly different options and features. They run from $50 for the oldest, most basic versions, to $130 for the newest, the Roku 4.
The big pro with Roku is that it eliminates all that funneling towards a company’s pre-existing service. With Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, for instance, you get the sense that the product just exists to get you to use their other products. Again, not a huge deal, but annoying nonetheless. Roku, on the other hand, doesn’t give a shit what you use. It exists simply to let you watch a lot of great content.
Another pro is that Roku’s various generations provide a lot of versatility so that you can pick the best one for your needs. For instance, the basic Roku 1 allows those still hanging on to their old CRT TVs to stream through old-school A/V cables. You won’t find that anywhere else.
Meanwhile, the Roku 4 would be the choice if you need something that lets you watch video in 4K. Your needs might be somewhere in the middle, which Roku accommodates with its Roku 2 and Roku 3.
Roku is also renowned for having an extremely user-friendly interface, and an intuitive menu that even Grandma can figure out. This is a big pro if you’re not all that savvy and, hell, even if you are, it’s nice to be able to just sit down and use something without having to dig our your phone or sign up to another service.
Roku’s biggest con is probably that it’s an external device, which is a problem if you’re worried about clutter, and it pretty much tethers you to a single TV, also a problem when you consider how much more mobile our media gets virtually every day.