Best options for a new HDTV
October 28, 2013 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I have a new (to me -- it's about 10 months old overall, I think) HDTV that, unfortunately, doesn't have an Ethernet port nor does it have wireless connectivity. It was a gift, of sorts, so I'm kind of stuck with it. Since I had a very old standard set, it's still an upgrade. Now, I'm looking at options for HD television content, like maybe the Roku, AppleTV or any other neat solutions that I don't know about yet.

Looking at stuff, the only HDTV options available in my area (Montreal) seem to be Videotron (I have them for standard cable now) and Bell Fibe (not yet available in my area) and Bell Satellite (not eligible since I live in an apartment and they won't permit me to put a dish on a roof. A balcony is acceptable to the building owners, but I'm one of four apartments in the building without a balcony).

Here's my major issue: I absolutely loathe watching standard TV on an HD screen, in particular due to the aspect ratio business and resizing the picture isn't a great option because it's either small on my screen or it's cutting off portions of the picture to make it wide enough to fit on the screen by zooming in. Not a fan of this.

I also can't stand Videotron. I mean, I loathe them. I have been dying to get away from them for years. Plus all my phone and Internet stuff is with Bell, so short of dropping Bell for everything to get a mega package deal with Videotron, I'm going to be paying outrageous amounts for HD cable. And I'd really like to avoid either dropping Bell or paying Videotron outageous amounts of money every month for a bunch of channels I don't watch, but have to get because that's the only way I can get RDS.

As such, I'm looking into other options and would welcome your input!

What I'd like to be able to do:

- watch Montreal Canadiens hockey games in HD (prefer RDS). I don't particularly care about other teams, so I'm not sure if the Roku/NHL Gamecenter would be worth it (due to blackout stuff)
- watch Canadian Netflix
- possibly watch American Netflix (which I know I can do on my computer, not that I'd ever do such a thing...)
- possibly use my new TV as an output for the video from my computer so I can play media files or streams from my computer to my TV
- would love to have a PVR and such, but don't want to buy one outright (preferring to "rent" or "borrow" one from a service provider), so I know this is likely not going to happen short of going with Videotron

What's the best and cheapest way to go about accomplishing what I want? Is it really just going through Videotron since I don't have Fibe available yet (and not anytime soon, either) and can't use Bell Satellite TV? Or are there other options that allow me to do most of what I want to do more cheaply?

Thanks so much for any input. I am pretty uneducated when it comes to these new-fangled TV things. :)
posted by juliebug to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would first get an inexpensive antenna to see what you can get over the air. This reddit article may be of some help. The over the air channels are often times better than the cable counterparts.

Also, I use a roku for netflix, etc. I have ripped all my DVDs and have a Plex server running on my computer, which can be accessed with a Plex channel on the Roku.
posted by nightwood at 5:34 PM on October 28, 2013

I can't speak to the Canada-specific stuff at all, so I'll leave that to others. I have both Rokus and AppleTVs in my house. IMHO the Roku user experience is awful compared to appletv. The one advantage of roku is that more content is available. But I find that I almost never use it, because it just annoys me. I have friends who have roku and love it, but none of those friends have appletv...
posted by primethyme at 5:43 PM on October 28, 2013

Roku or AppleTV + Netflix + NHL Gamecenter + Adfreetime.

Adfreetime will region unlock you for other countries' Netflix libraries and should (as far as I know) help you avoid hockey game blackouts. Guides for devices or support forum on reddit. Run by a Canadian.
posted by bluecore at 5:46 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a smart TV with a Roku and an Apple TV plugged into it and use the Roku 90% of the time, with mostly Netflix and USB. The Samsung TV itself has buggy apps and for whatever reason I just don't like the Apple TV as much as the Roku.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:56 PM on October 28, 2013

I vote for just cutting cable entirely. The hardest things to do here are the hockey games. Some might be available OTA from CBC/RDS? If you're in Montreal. If so, the habs games will blacked out on gamecenter... Unless you use a VPN type service to pretend you are in the states. I love for this. This also gets you American Netflix. Run a plex server on your PC and stream your files to a roku. Being able to use plex is the only reason I have a roku, otherwise I'd suggest an AppleTV.

Of course, there's no live tv with this, but torrents are wonderful, not that I'd know anything about that. Hulu Plus would help, but it is really a pain in the butt to get working in Canada, even with a US ip address, unless you have a verified American PayPal account or credit card.
posted by cgg at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2013

We live in Victoria and my son is crazy crazy crazy about hockey.

We "cut the cable" and rely on Chromecast (purchased in the States) to play YouTube and Netflix, and a laptop hooked up to the TV via HDMI to play livestream hockey on CBC.

In your case, you may be dissatisfied with the picture quality of the streaming hockey, though.

Chromecast is totally totally awesome. It just works (it's HD, too) with perfect aspect ratio, and you can do everything from your phone or tablet.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:34 PM on October 28, 2013

Nothing beats a full on computer (you can small models) attached to an HDTV and networked with other systems if you have them. Plenty of streaming options, and as mentioned helps with regionalization issues (and gives you Netflix Canada, US, U.K., Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Netherlands (and any future regions no doubt)).

Vmedia has Internet in Montreal but not cable yet. I'd ask them if they plan to. About 50% cheaper than Rogers/Bell.
posted by juiceCake at 10:33 PM on October 28, 2013

Best answer: Before you sign up for cable, go to the nearest electronics store and buy an antenna for $20 and see what you get over the air -- you'll probably be surprised at how nice the picture quality is HD over the air. I have an antenna for local sports and an xbox for hulu, netflix, etc, and I've never needed anything else.
posted by empath at 11:40 PM on October 28, 2013

I have a roku 3 and an apple tv (latest model). I use roku almost exclusively. Perhaps primethyme's experience with the roku is with an older model that has a more sluggish processor? I can see how that would detract from the user experience. I find Roku is more focused on bringing you as much content from as many places as possible, whereas Apple TV, like all Apple products, are designed to steer you toward content that profits Apple. To me, the big differences are the Roku PBS and Amazon channels, neither of which are available on Apple TV. If you have Amazon Prime, then the Amazon channel is a pretty good alternative to Netflix for no extra monthly charge.

Also, definitely try an antenna. Most channels are now broadcast in full 1080p, whereas many cable operators only give you a 1080i (and charge you extra for the upgrade from standard definition!). The difference is slight, but many people say they can tell a difference when watching sports.
posted by skewed at 7:33 AM on October 29, 2013

Response by poster: Quick update: I picked up a cheap antenna tonight and am getting SRC, CBC and CTV all in HD (and if I fiddle with it, Global in HD, too). I suspect I'll have more channels available if I reposition the antenna (only has a 5 foot integrated coax cable so I need to pick up a connector to reposition where I want it). I can't describe my utter joy at seeing all this HD TV, so thanks to all who recommended even a cheap antenna.

Follow-up questions (for the more technically savvy):

1) Assume I would like to use my new TV as an output from my computer that has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 (the way KokuRyu is talking about having hooked up a laptop via HDMI). How do I do that? What equipment would I need? I presume I'd need some kind of cable and string it from my computer to the TV? (My computer and TV are in the same room and not even 10 feet away.)

2) Assume that I snag a Roku and set up a Plex server on my computer instead. Could I, for instance, stream a live stream of something (cough, entirely legally viewable hockey game streams, cough) through the Plex server to the Roku to watch it on my TV? Or is it in the fashion of queueing up media files? Also, with regards to the channels offered by the Roku, are they live TV-type channels? The Canadian Roku website is less than helpful.

3) Do the Canadian/US Roku channels differ? If I were to get a VPN to watch US Netflix from Canada, (not that I would ever do such a thing) would I get access to US Roku channels too? Again, no idea if there's much (if any) difference.

Thanks so much for your help already and any other resources you might be able to provide! :)
posted by juliebug at 8:52 PM on October 30, 2013

If you video card has an HDMI output you just need an HDMI cable to connect your computer to the TV. HDMI will carry both video and sound so you may have to modify your sound output settings.

If you have DVI out only on your video card I believe there are DVI to HDMI adapters and maybe even cables like DVI to HDMI, but in that scenario I believe you'd have to feed the sound from the computer separately.
posted by juiceCake at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2013

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