Monday, April 01, 2013

On Smart TVs and Less Brilliant Humans

To remove any doubt, I will "reveal" up front that the Less Brilliant Humans in the title are us.

Nonetheless, we've had quite a few neighbors and friends ask us about our ongoing experiment with ditching cable and watching everything online and I have promised a blog entry about it, so here we go.

We got rid of cable and our phone in Fall and have not missed either since then.  Instead, we watch local TV through an antenna, rent and/or buy movies from Amazon Instant Videos, watch other movies and TV shows through Netflix, and if we really want to see something current, we hook up the laptop to the TV and watch shows (for free) through Hulu (not Hulu plus, which costs, but regular Hulu which is free).  We are cheap, so this all works for us.

We have two HD TVs.  One we bought 4 years ago from our TMZ winnings.  This TV was recommended by Consumer Reports Best Buy and we have it hooked up through another Consumer Reports Best Buy Blu-ray device.  We are very happy with the quality  of that TV and the Blu Ray is like WOW as far as detail and clarity.  However, note that we are cheap.  These are the Best Buys, which means 1) they are NOT the best rated and 2) they are not necessarily from Best Buy, they are just the Best Bargain.  The Blue-ray device is key to this whole thing working because it has the internet connections in it.  When one turns it on, there is automatic access to Netflix and through a menu, one can get to Amazon, Pandora, Flickr, games, sports info and all sort of other things we don't pay as much attention to.  It also has Hulu Plus as an option, but see the info about being cheap above; we're only subscribing to one TV service and Netflix works for us.

The second TV is a Smart TV.  We bought that with a small part of our tax refund this year.  It's theoretically the grown up TV, because I can only take so much Fresh Beats Band before my head explodes.  (Side note: this TV is in the front room of the house, the only room of the house that used to always be clean because no one used it.  Now it is used and it is no longer clean.  At least EVERY SINGLE ROOM OF OUR HOUSE IS USED NOW.  And no room is clean!)  So because this TV is "smart", we don't need to Blu-ray to access all the internet stuff.  Netflix, Hulu, Flickr, Amazon, Pandora, and, oddly, a boatload of Fox local news stations from around the country are available on the basic menu of choices.  Also, this is a Best Buy from Consumer Reports, but is actually cheaper than our first TV and the quality...HOLY COW!  It's amazing how much better both the video quality and its ability to get the local TV stations.  I don't see why anyone would want a Smart TV if you have cable.  But if you don't, it's a great idea.

So if we don't have cable, what do we have?  We have the highest speed internet access available.  And most of our devices are running wirelessly (two laptops, iPad, Smart TV) and we are not noticing an access problem.

So for nearly $100 less per month, we like it.

What we do miss is access to ESPN sports.  We can get other big sports events off the local TV, but we no longer have access to ESPN.  We do, ahem, have access to someone-who-gave-it-to-us cable access code, so we can watch ESPN on the iPad and the laptops.  But that would be the big downside for folks who really like ESPN.  And there is the issue of just leaving the TV on for background noise.  I don't do that.  I'd rather have the radio on.  But late at night, when my brain cannot handle thinking, I really miss House Hunters and House Hunters International as something to put on and enjoy but not think about.  For some reason, I don't want to put on any of my netflix TV shows unless I can sit down and actually watch them.  (Or actually, I watch them when I'm doing elliptical at the gym. I'm working my way through Parenthood right now)

So there.  I'd love to hear your solutions and strategies to save money and still be mindlessly entertained by TV!

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