5 Quick Steps to Easy Streaming of Your Favorite Shows

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Amazon & Google
TCL Roku TV
Roku

STEP 1

Pick Your Tech

Odds are you own a TV. If it’s smart — with web access and streaming services like Netflix built-in — and you don’t care to upgrade, skip to Step 2. If it’s an older flatscreen that’s not a smart TV, you can upgrade its IQ with a set-top box, such as Apple TV 4K ($179–$199). The user-friendly streaming device offers superior-quality Dolby Atmos sound. Hate remotes? Amazon offers a similar, voice controlled 4K Fire TV Cube ($120). And don’t count out smaller gadgets like the 4K Amazon Fire TV Stick ($50), the Roku Premiere ($40) or Chromecast Ultra ($59). They’re not just cheap alternatives to boxes — they have nearly the same processing power.

Want a new set? TVs like the TCL 4K Roku ($370 and up) give lots of bang for little bucks. They run on the same tech as Roku’s set-top boxes and streaming sticks (the bestselling products on the market), which means they offer access to the most services, including major providers like Prime Video and niche ones like anime channel Crunchyroll.

Also Check Out: TiVo’s Bolt Vox

TiVos aren’t just the best DVRs: They make great streamers. Our fave feature: They combine your DVR recordings and streaming services onto one platform, showing you all the episodes of, say, Grey’s Anatomy, you can access. The voice-controlled remote will also cross-search your entire merged library. ($215 and up)

Google wifi
Google

STEP 2

Check Your Connection

You’ve got the tech. Now make sure your internet, modem and Wi-Fi are powerful enough to support it. First, check with your internet provider (IP) to verify your connection speed is at least 8 megabytes per second. If you have a 4K gadget, you’ll want 25 mps. (Most companies offer various speeds at tiered pricing.) Then confirm your modem (whether rented from your IP or your own) supports the rate you’re paying for. If not, splurge on the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 ($180). Have a large home where the TV is far from the internet source? You also might want multiple Wi-Fi routers. “Think of the Wi-Fi router as a bulb that you’re trying to use to light up your whole home,” says Sanjay Noronha, product manager for Google Wifi. “You can’t light up the kitchen with the bulb in the bedroom.” The solution: Mesh Wi-Fi, like Google’s ($99 and up), which blankets your home in one strong, speedy network.

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Netflix

STEP 3

Select Your Services

Countless companies are clamoring for your dollars. How to pick? Consider the type of library you want.

Netflix has the biggest stable of TV shows and movies, plus hundreds of originals like The Crown and acquired series from around the world, such as the U.K.’s Bodyguard and Israeli drama Fauda. It’s also become a new home for stand-up, with projects from Ellen DeGeneres and more. (Plans start at $8 per month.)

Hulu’s onetime main attraction: letting viewers watch shows like ABC’s black-ish the day after they aired. That’s still the case, but they’re also killing it with originals like The Handmaid’s Tale. Plus, they’ve stocked their library with the full series of favorites like The Wonder Years. (Plans start at $8 per month.)

Prime Video Amazon, the online shopping giant, has made a splash with high-profile originals such as action-packed Jack Ryan and Emmy-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. For around $9 per month, catch those plus new movie releases (2018 horror hit Hereditary arrives December 27) and old favorites (now playing: It’s a Wonderful Life). Plus, its Prime Video Channels program allows you to add dozens of other streaming services to its library, like Brit-centric Acorn TV ($5 per month), and premium cable like HBO Now ($15 per month).

CBS All Access Starting at $6 per month, CBS’s service offers availability to thousands of episodes of the network’s hits, such as NCIS, as well as exclusive series like The Good Fight.

Insignia antenna
Insignia

STEP 4

Choose Live-TV Options

Streaming’s main drawback used to be the inability to play programs as they aired — a major drag for those who wanted to “cut the cord” (aka drop their cable service entirely) but still liked to watch live sports, awards shows, etc. But times are a-changin’. If you’re without a cable box (and don’t want to get one), CBS All Access offers a live stream at no extra charge, giving access to CBS and CBSN, its 24/7 news channel. Hulu’s live-TV service ($40 per month, which gets you all the good stuff mentioned in Step 3 too) carries more than 50 national channels including Food Network, FX, Syfy, Lifetime, plus sports stations like ESPN. And their family selection is stacked, with Cartoon Network and Disney’s channels. DirecTV Now has an even more impressive channel selection, adding MTV, AMC, Comedy Central, IFC and others. And it offers different bundles starting at $40 per month (the more channels, the higher the price). Sling TV is also notable for its nearly à la carte channel pricing, allowing you to add genre-based “packages” (like sports or comedy) to its base plans for $5 per month. YouTubeTV ($40) bests all the above, however, with its unlimited DVR storage, something even cable boxes don’t offer. The hitch: It’s only available in 100 cities so far.

Also Check Out: HDTV Antennas

Yes, they still exist! For viewers nixing cable, indoor antennas like Insignia’s Multidirectional HDTV Antenna ($20) are a great way to get over-the-air programming free in HD. The channels you get depend on your proximity to a broadcast tower.

Sonos speaker
Sonos

STEP 5

Decide on Extras

If you have a little extra cash, step up your experience with some cool (but certainly not necessary) gadgets. Don’t want to miss a word? The Sonos Beam smart soundbar ($400) connects to your TV via an HDMI port and includes a speech-enhancement feature that delivers crystal-clear dialogue. For $300 more, pair it wirelessly with two of the brand’s Play:1 speakers for movie theater-quality sound. Hate using your tiny remote for searches? With Logitech’s wireless K600 TV Keyboard ($70), you can type directly onscreen. Like bossing your television around? If you have the Chromecast Ultra mentioned in Step 1, connect that and some smart light bulbs from GE ($25 for two) to a Google Home Hub ($129). With everything linked, you can set up a so-called routine. Say “movie night,” and, at the sound of your voice, Google will dim your lighting fixtures and set your television to the perfect sound and picture levels for movie watching. Now you’re really on easy (streaming) street!

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Gone are the days when all you needed to enjoy the best of television was a cable box, HBO and a flatscreen.

Now, getting the good stuff requires subscriptions to services such as Hulu or Netflix, devices to watch them on your TV, high-speed modems, powerful Wi-Fi — and more decision-making, gadget-buying and tech-savvy-having than ever.

Intimidated? These five simple steps will make it all a breeze. We swear on our new Roku.

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