Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How to fire the cable/satellite company?

  1. Jul 16, 2011 #1


    Staff: Mentor

    Hi Everyone,

    In the Netflix price increase thread some people mentioned that they do not have cable/satellite, but get all of their TV via broadband. I have been thinking about doing the same, but would like some advice.

    What is your setup including any required hardware or software or websites or services? Do you get HD-quality? Can you do something equivalent to DVR, or is it even relevant? What works well, what doesn't?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    In our area, we have a choice of fiber optic systems - one of the regional cable companies (which replaced copper coax with fiber optic) and the regional phone company (Verizon) and their fiber optic FiOS system. I think the pricing is comparable.
  4. Jul 18, 2011 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I have a relatively powerful computer which uses a 37" LCD TV as the monitor. It has a 3.5 GHz quad-core processor, big hard drives, blu-ray burner, plenty of RAM, and Logitech Z-5500 5.1 surround sound. It works great as a home-theater rig.

    For the "big two":
    - Netflix does stream something like 720P for "HD," though it isn't full 1080P streaming (that's what the Blu-Ray is for).
    - Hulu "free" streams in 480p max, so not HD; but I think some stuff is available in 720p through the paid subscription. I would pay for Netflix before Hulu though...

    - YouTube has a small amount of HD content, but nothing worth watching for more than 10 minutes.
    - Some channels like CBS have online content available free, but usually nothing in HD. I want to see Discovery Channel offer an online HD streaming service for $5/mo!
    - Amazon has started offering streaming content, I haven't tried it though.

    Not relevant, since online "TV" is already on-demand so you don't need to record it for watching later. That assumes of course it stays available online; I don't think any online streamers provide a legal means of saving a video to your hard drive for later viewing.

    Internet bandwidth is the most important thing. I would say the minimum is 6Mbps, with more always being better. I have 12Mbps cable and it works well for Netflix and some of the more bandwidth-hungry ones like Vimeo. I wouldn't mind having 20Mbps FIOS though, you'll just have to decide what's in your budget. Also note- if you're using wireless make sure it's 802.11n, 802.11g can get a little dicey for streaming applications.

    Computer hardware can be important if you want to watch 1080p HD content (and BW becomes doubly important then too), but for most stuff on Netflix and Hulu my wife's laptop works fine with a 2.2 GHz dual-core AMD Turion and 4GB of RAM. Still, as more people start offering 1080p streaming, computer hardware could become a concern.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2011
  5. Jul 18, 2011 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Don't forget, unless you're really way out in the boondocks you can get ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, CW, MyNetworkTV and maybe some more channels for free by putting up an antenna. (No ESPN, CNN, HGTV, Discovery, etc.)

    This is what I use in a rural area, with most of the transmitters > 50 miles away:


    The last time I had cable TV was nearly 25 years ago, when I first moved here and lived in an apartment. Then I got married and we moved into a house that already had an antenna (not the one shown above) on the roof.

    And yes, there are DVRs for broadcast TV. I'm about to go watch the evening news on one, zipping past the commercials. :!!)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  6. Jul 18, 2011 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Not only is it free, but most of the ones I get are HD. I have a rotor for my antenna, but ever since the switch to digital I haven't had to use it as I can receive on the back side just fine.
  7. Jul 18, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The video game consoles out now (Xbox, PS3, the nintendo thing) have the ability to interface with netflix to play onto your TV. There are also some blu-ray players that also interface with netflix (with all these options, you simply plug the ethernet cable into the system and the system to the tv). As others have pointed out, you can also route it through your computer, but I feel this is a bit difficult for rooms without computers in it. You could build a small home theater PC, they're super small for computers but can do netflix and everything else you'd want to do but with the power and flexibility of an actual computer.
  8. Jul 18, 2011 #7

    Ben Niehoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I don't "get all of my TV" via broadband. I just got over my addiction to TV instead (I never had much of an addiction to begin with, though).

    I watch a movie or a cartoon or a classic show like the Twilight Zone maybe once or twice a week. If I want the news, I read it or hear it on NPR (news television just strings you along and repeats itself a lot anyway).

    Most HDTV's have a VGA or DVI input. I just connect my laptop and it treats the HDTV as an external monitor. Unfortunately my laptop does not display in 1920x1080...I usually leave it at 1280x800 (slightly more than 720p).

    They do make headless media PCs for this dedicated purpose...look around on Newegg, I think they run for about $300-$500. They're very small, maybe about like a medium-sized book. They will display 1080p, but as someone else mentioned, Netflix can't stream that resolution (at least not today).

    If you really need HD television you might be out of luck. But for me personally, I don't see a need for that except for movies.
  9. Jul 19, 2011 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    These are some good options I didn't mention, especially an X-Box or PS3. There are even TV's that come with built-in streaming capability these days.

    Imagine if you're spending $100/mo on HD cable, you could buy a $1000 TV in 10 months with the savings!

    All HDTV's now have HDMI (which is just DVI with audio in a different form factor), so all you need is an HDMI to DVI converter cable which is easily found on Amazon or others.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook