Opinion

Wednesday, Feb 26 2014 06:00 AM

Tech Wire: Cutting the (TV) cord

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Matthew Sgherzi

In this day and age, the smaller, more portable, faster, convenient and "smarter" something is, the more attractive it is. It appears that the terminology of modern-day technology has evolved quicker than we can begin to understand it. There are ways we can improve on the smart technology our TV has, resulting in "cutting the cord." The term "cutting the cord" stems from those who have TVs that are so "smart," that the cable or satellite provider is no longer needed. With TVs providing Internet access and other devices available that offer streaming and apps, the Cable company or satellite provider may not be justified for its price.

In order to know how you can "cut the cord" and ultimately save money, it is important to understand "smart" technology in general. Everything today appears to be "smarter," but what exactly does it mean for a device to be "smart"?

There are different definitions being tossed around as to what a "smart" device is defined as. Some will say that connectivity to the Internet is what makes a smart device. Others will say that the ability to mimic a computer in terms of accessing the Internet through a web browser is what a smart device really is. Finally, some will say that it is the "apps" that make a TV or other device truly "smart." My definition is all of the above. If a device has the ability to connect to the Internet, mimic a computer by storing data and "updating" itself and being able to install and run certain apps, I believe this is a definition we can all agree on that truly defines a "smart" device.

Is your TV smart enough?

Almost any television that is purchased today will have all of the "smart" features we expect. It will be able to connect to the Internet, store photos and videos and even run apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and others. However, there are ways to make your TV even more smarter.

There are a variety of devices that can be added onto your TV that provide superior functionality and features than what your TV can provide out of the box. Many of these devices provide so much more use out of your TV, you may end up giving your cable or satellite provider altogether. This is why cutting the cord has become so attractive lately. You can get more use out of your TV for an inexpensive price that it almost doesn't make sense to have a television provider.

Roku

The "Roku" devices have been around for many years. Roku, which was founded in 2002, has been around providing smart technology to TVs even before the "smart" terminology became famous. With a Roku, you can install and access "channels", which are essentially the same as apps. With a Roku, you get unlimited access to over 1,000+ channels and the ability to surf the web and stream at High Definition. The latest version, Roku 3, runs at only $100. The latest version also provides the ability to connect wirelessly, stream your own custom photos and videos as well as provide motion control for games (games are a part of its channels). Roku is available at any of the online dealers as well as Roku.Com where they provide an extended warranty.

Chromecast

One of the newest, rapidly evolving and ever growing in popularity smart devices is the Chromecast by Google. The Chromecast is Google's take on the smart technology market. The Chromecast is growing in popularity specifically for two reasons: It's simplicity and it's price. The Chromecast is the size of a thumb drive that plugs into your television's HDMI port that streams anything from your Google Chrome browser to the TV. More apps are becoming available for Chromecast and Google is absolutely committed to adding an array of functionalities in the very near future. The price tag for Chromecast is a tempting $35 and can be purchased through Newegg, Amazon or Google.Com.

Apple TV

The Apple TV has always been a serious contender against devices such as the Roku. For the same exact price tag of $100, the Apple TV can do everything the Roku can do, and more. Because Apple TV is obviously made and developed by Apple, it has a broader range of support for use with Macintosh computers, iPhones and iPads. Because Apple TV uses "AirPlay," the wireless method of communication across Apple products, you can use your Mac or iOS device (iPhone or iPad) to take full control of the Apple TV and your entire television, as well. Apple TV has an array of apps available as well as access to everything in iCloud. This means access to your iTunes purchases, Music, photos, videos and other apps. If you are part of the Apple eco-verse, then an Apple TV would be a wise choice to ensure consistency across all of your devices. Apple TV can be purchased through Apple.Com and also includes their extended warranty.

All of these "smart" devices make your TV even that much more smarter. Because you can access the Internet, stream videos across apps such as Netflix and Hulu as well as be controlled from your mobile device, it makes your satellite provider or cable company subscription questionable. Many are cutting the cord with their television provider and instead opting for smarter technology at a fraction of the price. It may be a "smart" route to research, and it may even result in a cut in your monthly subscription costs and allow you to get more use out of your TV.

 

MATTHEW SGHERZI lives in Tehachapi where he has operated an IT business since 2007 (tehachapicomputers.com).

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