By Chad Greenslade
If you are looking to cut-the-cord on your cable television provider, I can't recommend enough a solution consisting of an over-the-air antenna combined with a smart TV streaming box.
I have been using the following solution for over two (2) years. Prior to implementing this solution, I was paying AT&T U-Verse approximately $250 per month for television and (terrible) DSL-based Internet service. Now I pay SuddenLink $90 (+ tax) each month for their 1Gbps Fiber-Optic Internet service only. I do not pay for television service.
For my over-the-air television service, I installed the "EXTREMEtenna 80" ($109) external television antenna (https://www.channelmaster.com/Digital_HDTV_Outdoor_TV_Antenna_p/cm-4228hd.htm) on my chimney. If you live in an HOA, you'll want to get pre-approval to install the antenna. I also installed the "Titan 2 High Gain Preamplifier" ($69) (https://www.channelmaster.com/TV_Antenna_Preamplifier_p/cm-7777.htm). The amplifier is mounted onto the antenna. I hired Eddie Banegas of "Digital TV & Media Services" (http://digitaltvandmediaservice.com/ (469) 855-0707) to install the antenna and amplifier and run coax cable to my "OnQ" wiring distribution box located in the laundry room. It cost me $420 to have the antenna & amplifier installed. I now have over-the-air HDTV service to every room with a coax outlet. I get over 100 HDTV channels, including the major ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates.
For my Internet streaming service, first it's imperative that you have high-speed Internet. For me, AT&T U-verse's DSL-based service didn't measure up. While I could use AT&T U-verse's DSL-based Internet service for Netflix and Hulu (because both of these services dynamically optimize for lower bandwidths), using a Smart TV streaming box was out of the question. Once I was able to get 1Gbps (gigabit) service to my home, the Smart TV streaming box performed much better.
Another item to keep in mind with Internet streaming is that a wired connection is better than a wireless connection. You'll want to force the devices (Televisions, Smart TV boxes, etc.) that are involved in video streaming to use the wired connection. In my home, I have COAX (television) and Category-5 (CAT-5) (data) outlets in every room. The data outlets are the ones to use for streaming. The wires for the outlets terminate in a distribution box located in my laundry room. The Internet service also comes into the house at this distribution box. In order to distribute the Internet service to every room in the house, you'll need a "switch". There are many makes & models to choose from, but I recommend a 1Gbps (gigabit) switch containing as many ports on it as you have rooms in your home with a data outlet. For me, I have a 16-port, 1Gbps switch ($80) installed in the distribution box in my laundry room. This provides wired Internet service to every room in the house.
Once you have wired Internet service to your room, you’re ready for Internet streaming. Many of today’s “Smart TVs” can be connected to the Internet directly using either a wired or wireless connection. Again, use a wired connection for the best, most-reliable results. Smart TVs generally come pre-loaded with one or more streaming “Apps” such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. Use these apps as you normally would.
Now, what about premium channels and content such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, ESPN, CNN, etc.? This is where the Smart TV box comes into play. If you’ve plugged your TV directly into the Internet using the data outlet in your room, you’ll first need to “split” this connection so that the TV can access the Internet alongside the Smart TV box. To do this, again you’ll need a “switch”. The switch you use in the room does not need to be as big as the one used in the distribution closet. Whereas the switch in my distribution closet contains 16 ports, switches in my bedroom or media room only contain 4 ports ($40), or 8 ports ($65), depending on the number of devices in the room that need to access the Internet. Again, you’ll want these switches to be 1Gbps (gigabit).
For the Smart TV box itself, I highly recommend the Kodi box. They can be purchased at www.xbmcmart.com. They generally only have a few models available and any one of them will work. They range in price from $100 to $165 each. There is no monthly subscription charge. You’ll get access to virtually everything on television. Now, one thing to keep in mind is that you are watching “streams” of video and each “stream” is only as good as (1) the person (connection) uploading the stream, and (2) the person (connection) downloading / watching the stream. Not all streams are created equal. Some uploaders have limited bandwidth and your bandwidth will directly impact the quality of your experience. This is why you must have extremely good Internet service. I own two Kodi boxes; one is installed in my media room and the other is installed in my bedroom. Both perform great. There will be a little bit of trial-and-error involved as you learn how to operate the Kodi box, but rest assured, you’ll figure it out. The menus are intuitive and no prior experience is necessary. Each Kodi box comes with a remote. I do not recommend purchasing the mini-USB keyboard remote from xbmcmart; it’s a piece of crap and there are better options available on Amazon.
Lastly, I don’t have DVR (digital video recording) capability. With the setup above, I have found it to be obsolete since virtually everything is on-demand. Now, if you want to purchase a DVR box for over-the-air recording, be my guest. Channel Master has some great options available.