Apple TV on a Budget

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Value and utility are paramount when it comes to cutting the cord. Sure, you might not be able to get every channel you had on cable. But is that channel really worth $100 a month? Keep in mind, virtually every show and movie is available on iTunes. I often buy seasons of shows like Better Call Saul or The Walking Dead on iTunes. While they cost upwards of $40 per season, I would have to subscribe to cable for several months to watch these shows. The iTunes fees pale in comparison. I can also get most of these shows by subscribing to a channel bundle service, such as Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. If you’re patient, Netflix gets a lot of these shows a year after they originally air.

Sports are another potential problem for cord cutters. Although there’s a plethora of sports apps for Apple TV, they almost all have blackout restrictions. This means that if the game is broadcast locally, you can’t watch it on Apple TV. This is unreasonable, but there is a simple workaround — just use an antenna. With today’s digital broadcast television, you can watch sports on local TV in high-definition. If you follow out-of-market games, the sports apps on Apple TV offer far more capabilities than any cable box. The MLB and NHL apps offer 60 frames-per-second video and the ability to watch two games at the same time. Users can also drill down into stats and player information. You just can’t do that on your cable box. Subscriptions for these apps often cost around $100 a year. It may seem like a lot, but have you looked at your cable bill lately?

We’ve explored the benefits and pitfalls of cutting the cord. It isn’t for everyone, but most people can do it. I have found that I watch less TV, but better TV. Between Netflix and HBO NOW, I actually had more quality TV than I could watch. These days, I only subscribe to one service at a time. My TV budget averages about $20 a month, which covers Netflix or HBO NOW and the occasional iTunes purchase. I tried all of the channel bundles, and they are very much like cable. Unfortunately, they reminded me of the hours I wasted channel surfing and watching mediocre television. They’re just not for me, but they’re a good option for some. Services like Sling TV start at just $20 per month.

The pessimistic view of Apple TV is that it doesn’t offer as much content as cable. While this is true to some extent, your cable box probably doesn’t have video games and apps. Despite the effort to thwart TV devices, tvOS developers have transcended television. Apple TV is really a specialized entertainment platform. It is far more capable than your cable box. In fact, games like Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP: Renegade are actually better on Apple TV than on dedicated gaming consoles. Unfortunately, tvOS and the App Store are relatively new, so there’s not an abundance of great games yet. New apps are added to the App Store every day. Apple TVs hardware and core operating system offer impressive performance for apps and games. (next page →)

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