One of the larger trends to day is saving on utility bills and this often means using your cellphone as your primary phone and downgrading or eliminating your Cable TV Bill.
Lets face it paying hundreds of dollars a year for the pleasure of having a 100 tv channels of which you probably watch 5 is really not cost effective. Unfortunately unless cable tv and dish companies come out with plans that allow you to only order what you want to watch you are going to be paying for tons of garbage just so you can watch a few stations that you like.
For me I really enjoy watching the news all day long while I work and then at night I may watch a local baseball game and a cooking contest show and maybe a movie if there is something I haven’t seen a million times. And what is really disappointing is there are some stations in the basic lineup that I just completely disagree with. I don’t want to watch them but I know my cable bill is paying for that content even if I never turn that station on. I am pretty sure no matter what your feeling are about anything today there are a few channels you just hate paying for.
Well there are a few solutions that you can use to reduce your cost and stop paying for stuff you just don’t like.
The process will take some ingenuity on your part and some research and as you can expect you will be paying for some of it. But when you order cable or dish after the first few discount months you end up paying for the DVRs or Cable Boxes every month anyway. So, maybe its better if you can put together your own broadcasting center and dedicate your television watching to things you want to watch.
In other How Tos we will cover how to setup Network Storage for your videos and music, Media Center PCs to capture TV off an antenna and store it like a DVR and how to build your network to allow streaming to all of the televisions in your home.
What is a Media Player and why do I need one?
Media Players are small devices that connect to each of your televisions and allow you to play content from a variety of sources including your phone, attached hard drive or a computer on your homes network. They can also connect to the Internet and play videos, music and broadcast radio or tv streams from both paid and free services.
The variety of options that are a available will vary pretty greatly and you may think you are buying one technology when you are buying something that has a number of limitations on it so you really need to do your research before buying one of these devices.
The first thing to know is that many of the older devices are propitiatory software. They run on a closed operating system that more than likely will never see upgrades by the manufacturer.
Newer devices are more open and run on Android. However there are drawbacks when you choose Android as a media player. The biggest one in my mind is that just like on your phone you won’t be able to access Free Hulu.com and you will need an account. And like propitiatory devices even your android OS version will probably never see a core upgrade. If you go with Android make sure its the latest version.
The next important thing is video in and out options for connecting to your television.
If you are someone who is considering maintaining your dish or cable tv lineup or if you have a dvd player or other devices that you want to connect to your television then you will want to find a Media Player that has HDMI Pass through. A Pass Through device means that you can string devices in series and if your cable tv has hdmi out you can plug it into the back of the media player then plug the media player into your TV’s HDMI in port. You don’t want to have a situation where higher quality 1080p Video is available and because you have no open ports you have to connect it by using Composite / Coax which drops it down to 480p and looks like garbage.
On the other hand if you have an Antenna you can connect that to your Composite/Coax connector on your television and get HD TV and then use your HDMI Port for your media player. Another option is connecting your antenna to a media center PC and capturing your TV Shows for later viewing. After they are captured you can stream them to your TVs.
What Options should you look for in a Media Player?
That is difficult to say because each vendor normally adds a few features that other companies do not offer but overall you want to look for a Media Player that is both cheap and offers you what you need.
Some Options Include:
Ethernet , built in WiFi or both for streaming files from your network and the internet.
The ability to stream videos from a Network Share that does not require Windows Media Center or another Media Server.. just right from the drive share with no server app needed.
HDMI Output or Optical for best quality video.
HDMI Pass through so you can string your devices together.
Android OS of the Latest Version
Optional built in custom apps for YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and other services.
USB Ports for connecting large hard drives or small thumb drives.
The ability to play the file format you normally store your videos in so you do not need to convert them.
StreamCasting from your Phone to your TV.
Media Players are not full dedicated PC’s that can offer much more when connected to your Television they are simply a way to get video and audio to your TV. They can be complex in features but most offer a pretty basic graphical interface that can be run from your remote control.
If you are able to add a keyboard and mouse you can probably extend the ease of use and functionality of your device. It would be a good idea to see if USB devices other than storage are able to be used with your Player.
Just like you are careful not to load your cellphone up with paid apps or get into a texting frenzy that can wind up costing you hundreds of dollars in phone bills you have to remember that a media center can end up costing you a monthly bill so be aware and since we are trying to save money here don’t rely on paid services for most of your content.