Although it may not have quite the same live TV options, or the universal search and content discovery options that satellite and digital packages have to offer, Internet TV still provides a mass of content for those that are willing to put in a little extra effort. What’s more, many of the catch-up services and most subscription services like Netflix are available too.
If you’re a heavy TV viewer, then you may want to wait before ditching your satellite subscription. Otherwise, there are plenty of options to enjoy streaming Internet TV and catch-up services. But, which one is the best for you and your requirements?
The Smart TV should be the perfect solution for those wanting Internet TV. Access to the Internet, typically via a choice of wireless or wired connection, directly from your TV means that you don’t need additional wires, you don’t need an extra, obtrusive box, and you can enjoy content on your big TV in the lounge. However, if you have any but some of the latest and best models, the user interface can prove clunky, while many TV manufacturers haven’t managed to secure apps for all of the biggest services so you could end up missing out on some high quality programming.
If you’re upgrading your TV anyway, and you do enjoy services like Netflix and Amazon, as well as catch up or on-demand TV, then invest in a decent Smart TV – one that has a dedicated processor and one that includes access to the channels and apps that you want.
Laptops And Computers
Laptops and computers are an obvious choice and, for many people, they will provide all of the features that they need in order to enjoy Internet TV services. Laptops, in particular, are portable so can be used wherever you go, while HD monitors for desktop computers are inexpensive when compared to TVs. And, obviously, you can access every Internet TV service going.
However, you don’t enjoy the same viewing quality as you would through your TV. The screen is typically smaller, audio options are limited, and if you do plug your laptop in through the aux or HDMI port on your TV, it means additional wires and it means that nobody else can use the computer while you’re watching TV. Good if you’re the sole viewer, are comfortable sat in a PC chair, or are looking for an affordable option and already have a laptop.
If you buy a premium laptop then you should find that viewing quality and audio are greatly improved; after all, these devices are made for playing the very latest games.
Mobile or cell phones, tablets, netbooks, and chromebooks offer at least some access to Internet TV. Ideally, you will be able to download apps for the channels that interest you most, because some services may not be convenient or comfortable for use on mobile browsers.
Using a mobile device is only really an option when you have no other option. Screens are small, audio is poor quality except through headphones, and you will need to have your phone plugged in or risk using your battery up before your favourite show has finished. It can also quickly use up your monthly data allowance unless you’re on WiFi. Devices like Samsung’s Galaxy View, which offers a larger than normal tablet screen and improved viewing experience, could change things, but expect to pay a premium for this type of device.
If you’re buying a cell phone with the intention of watching Internet TV, then make sure that you get high quality audio output, such as the audio on the HTC One M9 to enjoy the best experience.
Streaming Media Players
Streaming media players are designed specifically for the very purpose of enabling you to watch Internet TV services on your TV. They are available as dongles or small set top boxes, they cost next to nothing in most cases, and if you buy an independent device like the Roku it means that you can install apps and channels for just about every service that is available in your area. However, streaming media players are not without their faults.
The greatest bugbear with this type of device is that every app and channel works independently. Some devices have introduced universal search features, and even some universal content discovery, but these are still severely limited. What’s more, they can be troublesome to work with at times, with dropped Internet connections and other niggling problems. Arguably the best option, along with a capable Smart TV, but still not really a viable alternative to satellite TV. At least, not yet.
It is also worth mentioning games consoles in this discussion. Sony and Microsoft both bill their latest console iterations as being more than games consoles, and one of the features that they offer is the ability to install and use apps. Apps include many on-demand and streaming TV services, as well as film and TV rental services. They also include subscription packages like Netflix and Amazon.
However, the choice of channels remains limited, while the manufacturers’ own content channels are both expensive and lacking in high quality content. Things are likely to improve, and if you already have a console in your home then this could certainly be the most convenient and affordable option, but Internet TV is not a justifiable reason to part with the kind of money it costs to buy the latest Xbox or Playstation (unfortunately).
For the most part, if you want regular and high quality content, and you want to watch the latest shows and movies, then a satellite package remains your best option. However, Internet TV is more affordable and you can access a host of catch-up, on-demand, and subscription based packages.
A top notch Smart TV is probably your best bet, but if you don’t want to part with hundreds to buy one, then the streaming media player is probably your best bet, unless you’re happy to make do with a laptop or computer, or if you have a games console and only really watch content from a single service.