Finally decided which Roku model to order…

Mrs. here again.  I’ve been researching which Roku unit to buy to replace our old one, and here’s the scoop…

Starting with the basics…  A Roku is a small unit that streams movies, TV shows, music and other content to your TV via the Internet.  The nice thing about the Roku is that once you buy the basic unit ($60 – $99) one-time cost, there are no monthly fees and you don’t need to have a computer to watch broadband TV.

Since we bought our first Roku almost two and a half years ago,  I was surprised to see that Roku has added about 100 channels (mostly free) including more movie channels, news channels and a bunch of Internet related channels (like ones that let you view your Facebook, Picassa or Flickr photo albums on your TV – pretty cool.) The ones we use the most are…

  • Netflix – (the first Roku channel and the reason we bought our original unit) lets us watch thousands of Netflix Instant movies and TV shows on our TV and only requires an $8.99/month Netflix account.
  • Huluplus – lets us watch HuluPlus on our TV.  Basically takes the place of our old Tivo and DVRs and lets us watch current broadcast TV shows on demand (e.g. 30 Rock, The Office, Saturday Night Live, House, etc.).   Requires $7.99/month Huluplus membership which lets you want thousands of shows and clips for free.
  • Amazon Instant – lets us watch new releases (and some in-theater movies) from Amazon Instant on our TV.  Most rentals are $3.99 for 24 hours, but they do run $.99 specials on occasion.
  • Pandora – Great free music service – lets us create an unlimited number of ‘stations’ for the different music we like.

Choosing a Roku model

Currently, there are three different Roku models to choose from:  (1) The Roku HD, (2) The Roku XD and (3) the Roku XD/S.   The good news is that there is only about a $40 difference between their budget unit and their deluxe one.

1. The Roku 2 HD is their basic unit and sells for about $70.  It is compatible with any TV (old analog ones and new HD TVs) and has built in Wi-Fi and a wired Ethernet connector.  It lacks some of the bells and whistles of the other Roku models (1080p HD video quality, enhanced remote with instant replay capability, extended range wireless or dual-band wireless ), but might be a good choice if you are on tight budget, or have an old analog TV and have your Internet router placed close to your TV).

2. The next step up is the XD Roku 2, which sells for about $80.   It has all the features of the basic model, and adds 1080p HD video compatibility.   Some channels stream in 1080p already, and more are expected to follow so if you have a Flatscreen TV which supports 1080p, it’s probably worth the extra $20 for this feature alone.   The XD also comes with an enhanced remote with instant replay and has built in extended-range wireless (wireless-N) which can double your Wi-Fi range, letting you use your Roku in larger houses and making for faster and smoother streaming.

3. The top of the line current model is the Roku 2 XS unit, which sells for about $100.   It has all the features of the lesser models plus dual-band wireless which is advertised as the current wireless standard and since it has two different types of wireless radios, it can deliver even faster bandwidth, less interference and better reliability.   This unit also has a USB port for showing your home videos and pictures on the TV, which I love.

If was a close call between the $80 XD model and the $100 XD/s model, but for $20 extra we ended up choosing the Roku XD/S unit.  We’re not running dual-band wireless yet, but the unit is downwardly compatible with standard Wi-Fi and we’ll probably upgrade to dual-band soon, which my husband has been wanting to do for a while.  And since it also has the USB port, I really like the idea of showing the whole family the latest cute kid video or birthday party pictures without dealing with various camera cables that we can never find!

Just ordered it last night from Amazon for $99 with free 2 day Prime shipping and will post again when we receive it and hook it up.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about my post, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.  Thanks!

5 Ways to watch your favorite sports without cable TV.

Football, baseball, basketball images

We’ve heard from a lot of families who are considering canceling cable, but aren’t ready to make the leap due to concerns about being able to watch their favorite sports.  Here’s a short post on some of the alternatives we’ve seen…

Note: Keep in mind that games aired over standard networks can be watched using free high definition over-the-air broadcast TV.   (e.g. college and professional football).   In many cases, the picture is much better (since many cable signals are compressed) – even on a 50″ or 60″ flat screen TV.

1. Football – Watch games being aired over standard broadcast networks using free high definition over-the-air broadcast TV.   Good for college and professional football and bowl game coverage (including of course the Superbowl).  Unless I missed it, doesn’t currently offer the ability the watch live games (unless you live outside the US), but they do offer a number of options here.

2. offers a service called NBA League Pass which lets you watch live games via broadband or mobile device.  They currently have two options –  Choice, $24.95/year, lets you to watch live games for up to 7 teams and Premium, $49.95 for all 30 teams.  In addition all games can be accessed via a DVR-like full season on demand archive.

3. Major League Baseball games can be watched on your normal TV by buying a subscription and watching on a set top device like the Roku.  As of today, pricing is $119/year which includes home and away broadcasts, full game archives, multi-game view (PIP, Split Screen or Quad) and Live DVR Controls.  They also include a bunch of other extras (listed here).

4. ESPN3 via broadband (select college football, NBA, MLB, The Masters and US Golf Open and all 4 Grand Slam tennis tournaments).   Free access via TV via XBOX for Xbox Live Gold members or streaming via web site.

5. Hockey: NHL GameCenterLive offers live broadcasts (watch up to 40 out of market games each week, full length DVR like archives and the ability to watch up to 4 games at a time (using split screen mode).  As of today, pricing is $79 for the season.

Since some of these services aren’t available via a set top box like Roku or Xbox, you may need to connect your laptop to your TV to use them.  There are a few different ways to do this (we’ll be writing a detailed post on this soon), but if you have a flatscreen TV and your laptop has a HDMI output, you can typically use an inexpensive HDMI cable to connect the two.

Time for a new Roku

Let me introduce myself…I’m Mrs.  Thought I’d try my hand at adding to our blog! Here’s the latest….

In late December, we had some bad weather and our Roku unit’s power adapter was fried during a lightning storm. This was a pretty big deal since we (including our kids) have been relying on it to watch just about all our tv and movies for the past couple of years (Netflix and Hulu Plus for free shows and movies, and Amazon on Demand for current release pay per view movies).

The timing of the power surge was unfortunate because the whole family was all set for movie night.  My husband descended into the basement and hastily searched through his big bag of transformers and what-not that he’s saved from every appliance we’ve ever owned. Luckily, he found a power adapter that worked, even though it wasn’t an exact match. To the delight of the kids, and myself, movie night continued.

This was a couple of months ago, and instead of calling for a new power adapter, we continued to use the temporary fix. The only problem was that it was causing the Roku to need rebooting every couple of days, which it never needed before.  My husband appointed our 7 year-old to be in charge of this, and that actually worked pretty well until now.

Technically, the Roku unit’s still working, but I think using the wrong power adapter has taken its toll on it, so we’ve finally decided to buy a new one.  The good news is it looks like they are cheaper than the $99 one we bought several years ago.  The bad news is there are now three different units to choose from, so we’ll need to do some research. To be continued…

December 2010 Update

It’s been way too long since out last post, but we’ve blocked off some time and have a lot of new things to blog about.    Due to a few new cool services and devices, its even easier for us to watch free Internet based content on our TV (and even our phone).  And with just about every other bill rising, it feels great not to pay $150/month for cable.    As we blogged about last year, we used the money we saved to buy a flatscreen TV and a Nintendo Wii.

This year we decided to improve our cable-free setup by subscribing to HuluPlus and purchasing an Ipad.    We’re also about to upgrade our trusty original model Roku with one of the new models that are currently being discounted for the holidays.   Over the next week or two, we’ll post more about our current setup and answer some of the more common questions that we receive.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Canceling Cable: March 2010 update

It’s been over a year and a half since we originally canceled cable. Here’s a quick update on what’s new…

On July of 2008, we wrote a blog post comparing the costs of keeping cable with buying a 50″ TV each year and tossing it in a dumpster and created a simple calculator to see how much cable TV really costs.   We also launched a free showfinder tool which shows how to watch your favorite shows without cable TV.

A lot has changed since we started this blog.   The digital transition has taken place. is on it’s way to becoming a household word.   And we’ve found even more ways to watch our favorite shows without cable.   We’re amazed at all of the attention our site has been receiving and appreciate all the recommendations!

Here’s what’s new since our last post…

Our current setup:

Main TV:

We took some of the money we saved by canceling cable and purchased a 50′ flatscreen TV for our family room.   It was a good feeling, since it cost less than what we would have paid for about 7 months of cable.   Best of all it has a built in over the air tuner, so we now receive free broadcast HD programming with a picture quality that is superior to our old cable signal.

For movies, We’re using a Roku player in combination with a basic Netflix account.  This lets us watch thousands of movies and shows for free using Netflix’s free streaming service – kind of like zero cost pay per view.  If a very recent movie isn’t available, we usually get it by DVD via Netflix.  Another nice thing about the Roku is that it lets us rent current movies from Amazon’s Video on Demand Service (typically $3.99) and watch them on our TV.

We ended up canceling our Tivo service and instead, we connected our laptop to the TV using a HDMI cable and watch our favorite shows on   The only downside is that we can’t fast forward through commercials, but the nice thing about Hulu is most commercial breaks are 30 seconds vs. 2 minutes or more on broadcast TV.


We pulled the TV out of our bedroom and use our widescreen laptop (an old 15″ HP) to watch TV in bed via


In addition to the widescreen laptop, we have an inexpensive Netbook which weighs about 3 pounds and lets us watch, Netflix Instant, and Itunes anyplace in the house.   We also take this with us on vacations and use it instead of a portable DVD player.

What we are working on…

In the next few posts, we’ll try to answer some of the most common questions we’re asked…

  • How to watch Hulu programming on a TV
  • Watching sports coverage without cable TV
  • New devices which let you watch movies and TV over the Internet

We’re also in the process of updating our Showfinder tool to reflect the new programming which is now available.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please leave a comment for us.   Thanks!

Cable TV alternatives – one year update.

It’s been over a year now since we canceled our cable TV service.   We’ve saved a lot of money and now watch all our favorite shows using a combination of free HD broadcast TV and the Internet.   We’ve been very happy with our decision and have been taking advantage of some pretty cool new services.

Here’s a quick summary of our current setup…

Our main living room TV is hooked up to a digital converter. This lets us watch all network broadcast shows (and FOX/PBS/weather) in perfect HD quality for free.   We also have a Roku device hooked up.   The Roku lets us watch approximately 20,000 free shows and movies on demand.  We tend to watch most first run movies using our Netflix subscription or if we are really impatient, the Roku device lets us instantly rent movies from Amazon’s video on demand service for $1.99 – $3.99 a movie.

Our total cost for everything was a one time $99 purchase for the Roku and $17/month charge for Netflix (which allows us to have 3 DVDs out at a time in additional to unlimited instant viewing).

We have a second HD LCD TV which we use to watch, Netflix Instant and Amazon videos.   In addition, we use a laptop and a $300 Netbook to watch videos in other rooms of the house.  Once in a while, we will use iTunes to buy kids shows or watch a HBO or Showtime show that isn’t on Netflix yet.

We do watch less TV then we used to, but more importantly the quality has improved.   Since we need to be more proactive and select shows from Netflix or HULU, we read a lot more reviews and tend to sit down and watch complete movies rather than just swiching around hundreds of channels.   The same goes for kids shows.  We add about 10-15 shows we select to the queue and then let our kids watch whichever ones they want.  Another nice benefit is that shows watched on the ROKU do not come with any commercials.

Site updates…

We are planning for many site updates over the coming few weeks and months.    Starting with our Showfinder guide and also many reviews of some of the new services that are coming out.   If you have any comments or suggestions for our site, please let us know.  Thanks!

Digital TV transition 6/12/09 – are you ready?


Are you ready for the transition? If you are currently using cable, you shouldn’t be affected, but you may want to read about how we canceled our cable service and now receive free digital broadcast TV.

If you have already purchased a digital converter box or are using a newer HDTV with a built in tuner to receive free digital broadcasts, you should be in good shape.

If you are still using rabbit ears or a roof mounted antenna to receive traditional (analog) TV, here are some suggestions…

Apply for one or more $40 government coupons. The good news is that there is no longer a waiting list and the Commerce Department has recently reported that they expect to have enough funds to provide vouchers until July 31st.   If you don’t have a HDTV, you will need one for each TV in your house.  There is a limit of two coupons.

It may take several weeks until you receive your coupon. If you are in a rush, or have more than two TVs, here are several different converters we found which are available for next day delivery.

In the meantime, if you have a broadband connection, you can watch many shows for free over the Internet.   For a detailed list of shows, check out of ShowFinder tool.

Digital TV Transition Update

The digital tv transition deadline has been moved from February 17th to June 12, but there are some complications.  The problem is that the delay is optional.  If broadcasters think they are ready, they can make the switch today as originally planned. And it looks like about one third of them will be stopping analog transmissions by midnight tonight.

Confused?  Here are a few tips…

1. You can see which stations are making the transition early by downloading this PDF file from the FCC.

2. If you haven’t already placed yourself on the waiting list for a $40 coupon from the government’s converter box program, do it now.

3. If you already have a HDTV, try connecting it to a standard UHF/VHF antenna.  The good news is that most plasma and LCD TV’s have built in digital receivers.  So depending on your area and reception, you may be able to continue receiving all your channels with your existing TV and a standard antenna.

4. If you don’t have a newer TV and the analog versions of your channels are being stopped today, you might want to run out and pickup a low cost converter box.  Our favorite is Zenith’s DTT901 which sells for about $60.  If you can’t find one locally, still has them in stock.

Preparing for the February 17th digital switchover

Woke up this morning and see that has a front page story on the digital tv switchover.

They mention the February 17th, 2009 switchover date and discuss the impact this will have on over-the-air TV viewers like us.   The article confirms many of the things we have been blogging about over the past year, including better picture, more channels and the ability to access HD content for free.

They mention how some people in remote areas may have problems with reception with standard antennas but discuss how broadcasters will attempt to boost digital signals starting on the transition day.

It’s a good solid article and tells people how to get the $40 government coupons and check availability.

And perhaps the most important point, they stress that broadcasters are already transmitting digital signals today and that there is no need to wait until the 2/17/09 to get ready for the switchover.

Our advice? If you are currently using broadcast TV, or are even considering canceling cable tv, take a minute and request a free $40 coupon from the government before they run out.   Then pickup an entry level digital converter box and test out your reception before the actual switchover takes place.   This will give you time to finetune things in advance of the changeover.

A quick favor – How did you hear about us?

Quick post: We are receiving very heavy traffic this morning, mostly from people typing in our URL directly.   This usually happens when we are featured in a newspaper article or radio show, but we aren’t aware of any new ones. If you have a moment, can you please let us know how you heard about our site?  Thanks!

Update: Thank you all for your helpful comments!     Looks like we were mentioned this morning on the nationally syndicated consumer advocate program The Clark Howard Show.

CH listeners: If this is your first time on our site, welcome!     If you are interested in learning about free digital broadcast tv, start here.    Or visit our Showfinder tool to see what shows you can watch without cable TV.  And if you have canceled cable or are about to, please consider sharing your story.