Quirks, Savings, and Conclusions
Welcome back to the third and final chapter in our recent cord cutting saga, in which the crew here at the PC Perspective office take a fresh look at dumping traditional cable and satellite sources for online and over-the-air content. We previously planned our cord cutting adventure with a look at the devices, software, and services that will replace our cable and satellite subscriptions, and then put that plan to action by deploying an NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Plex, and an HDTV tuner with antenna.
Now, several weeks into this experiment, we wanted to take a step back to evaluate how the process went in practice, including a look at some of the challenges we failed to initially anticipate, projections of the increased Internet bandwidth usage that accompanies cord cutting (especially important for the many of you with home broadband usage caps), and finally a calculation of the initial and ongoing costs associated with cord cutting in order to determine if this whole process actually saves us any money.
Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide - Part 2: Installation & Configuration
We're back with Part 2 of our cord cutting series, documenting our experience with dumping traditional cable and satellite providers in exchange for cheaper and more flexible online and over-the-air content. In Part 1 we looked at the devices that could serve as our cord-cutting hub, the types of subscription content that would be available, and the options for free OTA and online media.
In the end, we selected the NVIDIA SHIELD as our central media device due to its power, capabilities, and flexibility. Now in Part 2 we'll walk through setting up the SHIELD, adding our channels and services, configuring Plex, and more!
YouTube TV for NVIDIA SHIELD
When YouTube TV first launched earlier this year, it had one huge factor in its favor compared to competing subscription streaming services: local channels. The service wasn't available everywhere, but in the markets where it was available, users were able to receive all of their major local networks. This factor, combined with its relatively low subscription price of $35 per month, immediately made YouTube TV one of the best streaming options, but it also had a downside: device support.
At launch YouTube TV was only available via the Chrome browser, iOS and Android, and newer Chromecast devices. There were no native apps for popular media devices like the Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV. But perhaps the most surprising omission was support for Android TV via devices like the NVIDIA SHIELD. Most of the PC Perspective staff personally use the SHIELD due to its raw power and capabilities, and the lack of YouTube TV support on Google's own media platform was disappointing.
Thankfully, Google recently addressed this omission and has finally brought a native YouTube TV app to the SHIELD with the SHIELD TV 6.1 Update.
Providers and Devices
"Cutting the Cord," the process of ditching traditional cable and satellite content providers for cheaper online-based services, is nothing new. For years, consumers have cancelled their cable subscriptions (or declined to even subscribe in the first place), opting instead to get their entertainment from companies like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
But the recent introduction of online streaming TV services like Sling TV, new technologies like HDR, and the slow online adoption of live local channels has made the idea of cord cutting more complicated. While cord cutters who are happy with just Netflix and YouTube need not worry, what are the solutions for those who don't like the idea of high cost cable subscriptions but also want to preserve access to things like local channels and the latest 4K HDR content?
This article is the first in a three-part series that will look at this "high-end" cord cutting scenario. We'll be taking a look at the options for online streaming TV, access to local "OTA" (over the air) channels, and the devices that can handle it all, including DVR support, 4K output, and HDR compliance.
There are two approaches that you can take when considering the cord cutting process. The first is to focus on capabilities: Do you want 4K? HDR? Lossless surround sound audio? Voice search? Gaming?
The second approach is to focus on content: Do you want live TV or à la carte downloads? Can you live without ESPN or must it and your other favorite networks still be available? Are you heavily invested in iTunes content? Perhaps most importantly for those concerned with the "Spousal Acceptance Factor" (SAP), do you want the majority of your content contained in a single app, which can prevent you and your family members from having to jump between apps or devices to find what they want?
While most people on the cord cutting path will consider both approaches to a certain degree, it's easier to focus on the one that's most important to you, as that will make other choices involving devices and content easier. Of course, there are those of us out there that are open to purchasing and using multiple devices and content sources at once, giving us everything at the expense of increased complexity. But most cord cutters, especially those with families, will want to pursue a setup based around a single device that accommodates most, if not all, of their needs. And that's exactly what we set out to find.
Bluetooth has come a long way since the technology was introduced in 1998. The addition of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) in 2003 brought support for high-quality audio streaming, but Bluetooth still didn’t offer anywhere near the quality of a wired connection. This unfortunate fact is often overlooked in favor of the technology's convenience factor, but what if we could have the best of both worlds? This is where Qualcomm's aptX comes in, and it is a departure from the methods in place since the introduction of Bluetooth audio.
What is aptX audio? It's actually a codec that compresses audio in a very different manner than that of the standard Bluetooth codec, and the result is as close to uncompressed audio as the bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth technology can possibly allow. Qualcomm describes aptX audio as "a bit-rate efficiency technology that ensures you receive the highest possible sound quality from your Bluetooth audio device," and there is actual science to back up this claim. After doing quite a bit of reading on the subject as I prepared for this review, I found that the technology behind aptX audio, and its history, is very interesting.
A Brief History of aptX Audio
The aptX codec has actually been around since long before Bluetooth, with its invention in the 1980s and first commercial applications beginning in the 1990s. The version now found in compatible Bluetooth devices is 4th-generation aptX, and in the very beginning it was actually a hardware product (the APTX100ED chip). The technology has had a continued presence in pro audio for three decades now, with a wider reach than I had ever imagined when I started researching the topic. For example, aptX is used for ISDN line connections for remote voice work (voice over, ADR, foreign language dubs, etc.) in movie production, and even for mix approvals on film soundtracks. In fact, aptX was also the compression technology behind DTS theater sound, which had its introduction in 1993 with Jurassic Park. It is in use in over 30,000 radio stations around the world, where it has long been used for digital music playback.
So, while it is clear that aptX is a respected technology with a long history in the audio industry, how exactly does this translate into improvements for someone who just wants to listen to music over a bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth connection? The nature of the codec and its differences/advantages vs. A2DP is a complex topic, but I will attempt to explain in plain language how it actually can make Bluetooth audio sound better. Having science behind the claim of better sound goes a long way in legitimizing perceptual improvements in audio quality, particularly as the high-end audio industry is full of dubious - and often ridiculous - claims. There is no snake-oil to be sold here, as we are simply talking about a different way to compress and uncompress an audio signal - which is the purpose of a codec (code, decode) to begin with.
Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 01:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: streaming, mohu, cord cutting, CES 2017, CES, broadcast tv, antenna
Mohu (the company behind untangle.tv) was on hand at CES 2017 to show off a new product called the Airwave that the company hopes will help people to cut the cord and ditch their cable TV subscription. The Mohu AirWave is a wireless television antenna that picks up over the air broadcast TV signals and then streams that video to any device that can run its Mohu TV app.
The Airwave can be placed anywhere in your home (wherever it gets the best signal) and can connect to your home network over Wi-Fi or Ethernet (I'd recommend the wired connection it if at all possible). Users can then use the Mohu TV app on their smartphones (Android and iOS) and tablets as well as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Firestick streaming boxes connected to a TV. The Mohu TV app offers an electronic program guide that pulls metadata from the digital TV stream and displays it along with showing current and upcoming programs. The guide also lets users set up a list of favorite channels.
Of course, the exact channels users will be able to watch will depend on their location and what is broadcast in their market. The Mohu representative at CES indicated that the initial AirWave is an un-amplified antenna with an average range of about 30 miles though they were able to tune into channels up to 40 miles away in their testing. An amplified antenna is coming in the future for users that live further away from the city and broadcast towers. While it is unamplified, you can move it around to get the best possible number of channels and the ClearPix technology is, at least supposed to, reduce pixelation. In addition to picking up broadcast TV, the AirWave also integrates with some streaming television providers such as Newsy and Twit.tv. You can see an example of that in this video by The Streaming Advisor where he takes a look at their demo setup at CES.
Carl from Abt.com interviewed Mohu at their CES booth which you can see in the embedded video below.
The Mohu AirWave will be available this spring for around $150. In all, it looks to be an easy to use and set up product for turning into your local live TV and if that is all that is holding you back from cutting the cord this might be a solution that ends up being cheaper than something like DirectTV Now (which also doesn't have DVR functionality (yet)) or Sling TV. On the other hand, the lack of DVR might leave heavy TV watchers frustrated (who has time to watch TV live these days? heh) and they might be better served with a custom setup using OTA tuners and Plex or a box with DVR like the Tablo.
As a companion streamer or something to set and forget for the less tech savvy though this could be a good option that would save them money and hassle by not having to deal with their local cable monopoly (heh) and I'm all for that!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 8, 2016 - 02:03 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: workshop, video, streaming, quakecon, prizes, live, giveaways
UPDATE: Did you miss the workshop? Relive the fun and excitement with the replay below!!
It is that time of year again: another installment of the PC Perspective Hardware Workshop! We will be presenting on the main stage at Quakecon 2016 being held in Dallas, TX August 4-7.
Main Stage - Quakecon 2016
Saturday, August 6th, 10:00am CT
Our thanks go out to the organizers of Quakecon for allowing us and our partners to put together a show that we are proud of every year. We love giving back to the community of enthusiasts and gamers that drive us to do what we do! Get ready for 2 hours of prizes, games and raffles and the chances are pretty good that you'll take something out with you - really, they are pretty good!
Our primary partners at the event are those that threw in for our ability to host the workshop at Quakecon and for the hundreds of shirts we have ready to toss out! Our thanks to NVIDIA, Logitech and ASUS!!
If you can't make it to the workshop - don't worry! You can still watch the workshop live on our live page as we stream it over one of several online services. Just remember this URL: http://pcper.com/live and you will find your way!
PC Perspective LIVE Podcast and Meetup
We are planning on hosting any fans that want to watch us record our weekly PC Perspective Podcast (http://pcper.com/podcast) on Wednesday or Thursday evening in our meeting room at the Hilton Anatole. I don't yet know exactly WHEN or WHERE the location will be, but I will update this page accordingly on Wednesday August 3rd when we get the data. You might also consider following me on Twitter for updates on that status as well.
After the recording, we'll hop over the hotel bar for a couple drinks and hang out. We have room for at leaast 50-60 people to join us in the room but we'll still be recording if just ONE of you shows up. :)
Prize List (will continue to grow!)
Intro and Xbox One
Introduction to Remote Streaming
The ability to play console games on the PC is certainly nothing new. A wide range of emulators have long offered PC owners access to thousands of classic games. But the recent advent of personal game streaming gives users the ability to legally enjoy current generation console games on their PCs.
Both Microsoft and Sony now offer streaming from their respective current generation consoles to the PC, but via quite different approaches. For PC owners contemplating console streaming, we set out to discover how each platform works and compares, what level of quality discerning PC gamers can expect, and what limitations and caveats console streaming brings. Read on for our comparison of Xbox One Streaming in Windows 10 and PS4 Remote Play for the PC and Mac.
Xbox One Streaming in Windows 10
Xbox One Streaming was introduced alongside the launch of Windows 10 last summer, and the feature is limited to Microsoft's latest (and last?) operating system via its built-in Xbox app. To get started, you first need to enable the Game Streaming option in your Xbox One console's settings (Settings > Preferences > Game DVR & Streaming > Allow Game Streaming to Other Devices).
Once that's done, head to your Windows 10 PC, launch the Xbox app, and sign in with the same Microsoft account you use on your Xbox One. By default, the app will offer to sign you in with the same Microsoft account you're currently using for Windows 10. If your Xbox gamertag profile is associated with a different Microsoft account, just click Microsoft account instead of your current Windows 10 account name to sign in with the correct credentials.
Note, however, that as part of Microsoft's relentless efforts to get everyone in the Virgo Supercluster to join the online Microsoft family, the Xbox app will ask those using a local Windows 10 account if they want to "sign in to this device" using the account associated with their Xbox gamertag, thereby creating a new "online" account on your Windows 10 PC tied to your Xbox account.
If that's what you want, just type your current local account's password and click Next. If, like most users, you intentionally created your local Windows 10 account and have no plans to change it, click "Sign in to just this app instead," which will allow you to continue using your local account while still having access to the Xbox app via your gamertag-associated online Microsoft account.
Once you're logged in to the Xbox app, find and click on the "Connect" button in the sidebar on the left side of the window, which will let you add your Xbox One console as a device in your Windows 10 Xbox app.
Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2015 - 12:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: bandwidth, streaming, fud
The next time you hear someone harping about how the tubes are clogged with filesharing, either legal or illegal, as the reason why your internet is slow or dropping out you should reference this chart. According to Sandvine, who would tend to know this sort of thing, just over 65% of all traffic is media streaming. Chances are that the vast majority of that traffic is legal, coming from Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and the wide variety of other online content providers. Indeed, chances are you pay to use that service so when your connection degrades and you contact your ISP about it make sure to have this handy as a reference.
If those companies want to charge you for a service they should actually provide it and not try to blame their lack of infrastructure or insight on something else. Unfortunately they will probably ignore the data and the only result of knowing this will be a sharp increase in your blood pressure. Still, knowing is half the battle so head to re/code for a look at the charts they have compiled into this article.
"Here’s the latest breakdown from broadband services company Sandvine of “fixed access” — for the purposes of this piece, read it as “home broadband” — Internet usage during peak evening hours. That big red bar in the middle is the one to focus on."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD will bring FreeSync to HDMI early next year @ The Tech Report
- The Radeon Technologies Group Gets Visual @ Hardware Canucks
- Microsoft begins migrating Office 365 SMB customers to new plans @ The Inquirer
- Bare metal is not dead, so Borg goes for SDN assimilation @ The Register
- Apple Swift for iOS, Mac OS X and Linux is an open source hit @ The Inquirer
- Performance-Per-Watt & How The Raspberry Pi 2 + Pi Zero Compare To Old NetBurst CPUs @ Phoronix
- Surface Book and Pro 4 see order delay to 1Q16 @ DigiTimes
- Theremin’s Bug: How the Soviet Union Spied on the US Embassy for 7 Years @ Hack a Day
- Nokia, ARM, Enea craft new TCP/IP stack for the cloud @ The Register
Setup, Game Selection
Yesterday NVIDIA officially announced the new GeForce NOW streaming game service, the conclusion to the years-long beta and development process known as NVIDIA GRID. As I detailed on my story yesterday about the reveal, GeForce NOW is a $7.99/mo. subscription service that will offer on-demand, cloud-streamed games to NVIDIA SHIELD devices, including a library of 60 games for that $7.99/mo. fee in addition to 7 titles in the “purchase and play” category. There are several advantages that NVIDIA claims make GeForce NOW a step above any other streaming gaming service including PlayStation Now, OnLive and others. Those include load times, resolution and frame rate, combined local PC and streaming game support and more.
I have been able to use and play with the GeForce NOW service on our SHIELD Android TV device in the office for the last few days and I thought I would quickly go over my initial thoughts and impressions up to this point.
Setup and Availability
If you have an NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV (or a SHIELD Tablet) then the setup and getting started process couldn’t be any simpler for new users. An OS update is pushed that changes the GRID application on your home screen to GeForce NOW and you can sign in using your existing Google account on your Android device, making payment and subscription simple to manage. Once inside the application you can easily browse through the included streaming games or look through the smaller list of purchasable games and buy them if you so choose.
Playing a game is as simple and selecting title from the grid list and hitting play.
Let’s talk about that game selection first. For $7.99/mo. you get access to 60 titles for unlimited streaming. I have included a full list below, originally posted in our story yesterday, for reference.