Cable and Satellite TV companies have it made, especially now that UHF and VHF channels are no longer available. If you want to watch local television channels, you now need a special digital antennae, converter box, or – you guessed it – cable or satellite. If you’re not a technologically savvy person, the digital antennae or converter box may intimidate you, but don’t let it. It’s really not that hard to set up, and if you’re disillusioned with your cable/satellite provider it will be worth it to you (in most cases) to get one.
When we moved into our new home a few months ago, we opted to go with cable – satellite wasn’t an option for us because we’re surrounded by very mature trees…lots of them! We were excited about all of the options our cable provider afforded us, along with the free month of HBO (who doesn’t want to watch Game of Thrones?). However, our issues with cable began almost immediately. At first the DVR didn’t work, so we called a service person to replace the box. Then we started getting fuzzy images every now and then, so we’d have to reboot the boxes. Then we realized all we were really watching on cable were the old season reruns, and the shows we enjoyed watching (for the most part), were on basic television anyway. We were spending over $120 a month on cable to have faulty equipment and the ability to watch reruns. Uh….No, thank you!
A couple of weeks ago I was perusing my Facebook feed and a friend of mine asked about streaming media players because she wanted to ditch her cable. My ears (eyes?) perked up at the thought of a way ditch cable too. Several of the people that commented brought up the Roku. Roku is a streaming media player that allows you to play channels or “apps” (think Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.) on your television set.
I decided to do some more research on the Roku to see if it would fit the needs of my family as well. Turns out the Roku was just what we were looking for. The player has a slew of channels, some are subscription channels – Netflix, Pandora, Amazon, etc., and other channels are free. The cost of the Roku ranges anywhere from $50ish to $100 depending on the type box you need. This is a onetime price – no monthly fee comes with the unit. However, you MUST have an internet connection in order to use the Roku, so there is still an ongoing cost to utilize it. But if you have personal computers at home, you would be paying that fee anyway. The other fees associated with the use of the Roku are the fees for the channels that you want (not all have a fee associated with them though). Some of the channels, like Netflix and Pandora are maintained through those companies websites, others are channels that Roku provides through their service.
I will say now, that you do have to put in a method of payment when you sign up with Roku – they will accept a credit card or you can use your PayPal account, which is what I did (no point in having my credit card information floating around out there more than it needs to be). This information is kept on file in case you want to add a channel to your Roku box that has a fee associated with it (in most cases the channel feel is minimal ($1.99 give or take a $1). This isn’t any different than if you were subscribing to Netflix or Hulu. We picked up a Roku XS, which is right in the middle as far as models go. They don’t sell the XS model on the Roku Website, but we picked ours up at Walmart, and I have also seen them on Amazon.com.
We officially ‘cut the cord’ this week with our Cable provider after a 2 week test run with the Roku. While there have been a few issues, overall we have really enjoyed our Roku and are planning on getting another one for the television in the bedroom. The kids, in fact, prefer the Roku options over the standard Cable options as far as television shows go. And my husband and I are enjoying the Roku because instead of the same old reruns of Law & Order or How I Met Your Mother, we can watch things that are much more interesting.
As for the drawbacks -there are a few. The first one doesn’t have anything to do with the Roku itself, but with our local channels. Because we are in such a heavily wooded area we don’t always get a clear reception when trying to watch our local channels. Some stations come in better than others. That’s not such a huge issue for us because we only care about the news most days, and that is easily viewed on one of the other channels that we do get clearly. The other issue we have is with our internet speed. We will probably need to upgrade to the next higher speed of internet (we have the most basic package) because on rare occasions we have issues with buffering, but it’s not frequent enough for us to run right out and upgrade our internet. Other than those two items, the switch from cable to Roku has been very smooth.
My recommendation is to give Roku a try. I wouldn’t drop your cable until you’ve tried the unit for a few weeks to make sure it’s right for you (I’m sure it won’t be the perfect choice for everyone), but for less than $100, and for the chance at saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars in cable/satellite bills, it’s worth a shot. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.