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The video quality is standard definition, but if bandwidth is limited, it will thin the stream. Before you see a drop in resolution, you will notice a lower frame rate. This makes motion a bit more blurry. This is fine for most programming, but one won’t enjoy the visual splendor of Downton Abbey or nature shows with this app. Most cord-cutters are able to watch PBS over the air in HD. You can also buy most PBS shows on iTunes, or watch older episodes on Netflix and Hulu Plus.
There are commercials on the PBS app. PBS shows are underwritten by corporations. PBS simply does not get enough money from donations or the government, so this is a necessity. There are far fewer commercials than regular TV or most online offerings. Typically, you only see a commercial at the beginning of the program.
Apple TV: iOS app directly supports AirPlay
Quality: below SD to SD
Adult Swim is a popular late night cable TV network. It mostly features animation, however, there are live action shows as well. The content is humorous and often a bit raunchy. It features many wildly popular shows, such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show: Great Job!, and Metalocalypse. They also have syndicated shows from other networks, such as Family Guy. For those who have cut the cord with their cable company, Adult Swim content is still accessible for free. For those who still have cable, Gold access is available. The Gold member service allows most cable subscribers to access additional episodes through the app. Much like HBO, Adult Swim has a relationship with cable providers and limits access to cord cutters. Cord cutters still have quite a lot of free content to enjoy.
The Adult Swim app is mature, stable, and easy to use. Simply start the app and pick a show to watch. You are presented with full episodes or clips. Once you start a video, you can turn on AirPlay within the app. Don’t be alarmed when you see an Apple TV menu screen appear in the middle of your show. This happens between commercial breaks. The commercials and main content are separate videos, with a small gap in between while loading the next part of the video. The full length episodes are limited, but the collection is frequently updated. Older episodes are replaced with recent ones.
As with most online content, there are fewer commercials than on TV. The video quality is inferior to TV. If you require better quality, watch the show on cable TV or download it on iTunes if you cut the cord. Netflix and Hulu Plus also have some Adult Swim shows.
Apple TV: native support; iOS app recommended
Quality: SD to HD
iTunes has free content. It is surprising how many people overlook this. Beyond numerous movie trailers, iTunes actually has whole episodes of TV shows for free. While many of these are just the first episode, sometimes iTunes offers a complete season of a series for free. At one point a whole season of “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern was free on iTunes. I love this show. Andrew Zimmern travels the world eating very strange and often disgusting food. Unfortunately, it is no longer free. iTunes’ free offerings are ephemeral. Get them while they are available. (continue…)
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