Guide to Cut Your ASTRO
For decades, cable television (ASTRO) was the best way to get quality shows geared toward specialized audiences. Today, that’s what streaming service do, while cable is more like a lumbering dinosaur, slowly laying waste to both consumers’ wallets and their sense of good taste. Cable TV still has some great shows, but you no longer need to pay through the nose to get them — not when you can cut the cord.
Here’s what you’ll need to know about life after cable TV. Tom’s Guide will tell you what kind of hardware you’ll need, where you can find your favorite shows and roughly how much you should expect to spend.
HD TV with HDMI port
If you want to take advantage of streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW and so forth — you’ll need a way to display them on your TV. If you have a recent TV from a major manufacturer, you may not need to get anything at all. Smart TVs usually have these apps built in, and almost every high-end TV sold within the last two years or so has smart capabilities.
If not, setting up your TV for streaming can still be a simple and inexpensive process. The market is positively glutted with set-top boxes, streaming sticks, game consoles and other devices. Tom’s Guide has compiled a list of the best devices to fit various budgets and streaming preferences.
In general terms, your choices boil down to devices from Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple, plus game consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The Roku Ultra is our top pick in this category, as it offers thousands of channels, 4K resolution and an inventive interface. If you are on a budget, get Roku Streaming Stick instead.
Amazon and Google also produce a 4K players: the 2015 Fire TV and the Chromecast Ultra, respectively. An Apple TV is a good choice for consumers who already own a lot of Apple devices, while if you plan to do a lot of gaming, a PS4 or an Xbox One is the way to go. Streaming devices range in price from RM 285 to RM 729.
Finally, if you have a laptop or don’t mind moving your desktop to the living room, you can simply plug your computer into your TV via HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA or DVI cable. Grab a wireless mouse and keyboard, and voilà: You have access to almost every streaming music and video service on Earth.
Once you’ve picked up the appropriate device, all that’s left is to pick the services that provide the shows you want to watch.
While Netflix, Hulu and HBO NOW are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds Ringgit per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don’t have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. DirecTV Now, for instance, has more than 90 channels to be enjoyed.
Netflix, Hulu and HBO NOW are the best-known subscription-based services, and for good reason. They have excellent selections of TV shows and movies, both modern and classic, and the services are quite inexpensive. Even if you subscribe to all three, this will represent a substantial price break over ASTRO.
We compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV Show / TV Series, and HBO NOW offers blockbuster movies and plenty of HBO original TV Show / TV series.
Recent ASTRO-cutters will probably want to keep an eye on Hulu, since network and cable shows often show up on the service just a day or so after airing on TV. On the other hand, if you want a rich backlog of classic shows (and ambitious original programming), Netflix or HBO NOW is probably the way to go.
You should also keep an eye on the trend of TV networks offering their own streaming subscription channels. CBS All Access, for example, is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of live CBS TV, on-demand CBS programming and next-day episodes for new CBS shows.
One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service (such as DirecTV NOW, Sling TV or DirecTV Premier), or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass.
To learn more about streaming sports services, visit our sport streaming’s website
Premium Movie Channels
By cutting the cord, you’re also losing your access to premium channels, which often have some of the most daring content on TV. Networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz are the prime destination for edgy dramas like Game of Thrones, Homeland and Outlander, respectively. You can also get raunchy comedy specials, niche documentaries and newly released movies.
The good news is that premium channels are starting to cut out the middleman. The three aforementioned networks all exist in stand-alone formats and can be subscribed from Directv Premier package.
All three apps are widely available, so you should be covered whether you use a smart TV, streaming player, game console, mobile device or computer.
While foreign-TV streams make for a huge topic on their own, it’s worth pointing out that cutting the cord opens the door to a whole world of TV from other countries. Offering entire cable channels for individual linguistic niches would be unthinkable, but there are a ton of streaming channels dedicated to just that.
For starters, anime fans should check out Crunchyroll. DramaFever brings Korean dramas and sitcoms to Western audiences, while YuppTV broadcasts a variety of news, sports, music and serials in Hindi. Those who prefer programs in English can check out Acorn TV, which streams British TV to expats and Anglophiles all around the world.
These channels are available on most streaming devices, but not every service is available on every device. (Acorn TV, for example, isn’t available as a Chromecast app.) Your best bet is to check the manufacturer’s website for your streaming device and see if the channel is supported before dropping the money on a subscription to it.
There are thousands of niche channels, from local live news stations to camera feeds that show nothing but goats. (Really.) Two services worth checking out are Plex and Crackle.
Plex is a fantastic service, which allows you to make a media library on your computer, then stream it to your TV, mobile device or other computer anywhere in the world. Plex has become one of the most comprehensive media servers around, letting users record TV from HD antennas and store their media servers in the cloud.
Crackle is not the only free streaming-video service out there, but it is one of the only ones that don’t rely on public domain or cheap content. Sony owns Crackle, and as such, you can find tons of cool movies, newish anime, beloved sitcoms (Seinfeld, All in the Family, Mad About You) and even a few funny original shows (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, SuperMansion, Sports Jeopardy!). If you remember the days of mid-’90s afternoon cable, Crackle is like coming home after school and binging on TV that’s so bad it’s good.
Beyond that, there’s a whole world of streaming content to explore. No, you can’t cut ASTRO and continue to watch every single one of your favorite shows in real time — at least not yet. But you’ll never again be shackled to an expensive service that broadcasts mostly junk, and that’s worth the price of a few prime-time dramas.