I was a consumer of cable and satellite services for a number of years. In the last year or two, I started to figure out that I could cut that cost in half by buying a Roku, FireTV or Chromecast dongle and subscribing to one of the myriad of streaming services that have been recently launched. There are dozens of reviews of these services online, but with a series of articles, we hope to break down each one without comparing them to each other. Each of these services have good, unique qualities, but it depends on what you are looking for and what equipment you have work with.
Speaking of equipment, these services have been tested using the Roku or Fire TV dongles and streamed online. If you are watching on a game unit or Apple TV, your experience may vary, but streaming is more affordable on the aforementioned devices. Also, I have ditched Chromecast for the most part because it is not convenient to stream from a phone or tablet unless you have Google Home. No surprise, this is being tested too. Even then, this is in the early stages and not that convenient. Both viewing experience will be reviewed as well as the interfaces of each. While many of these services have been reviewed online, not many have said much about the interface or the latency of stream. This series of articles will attempt to discuss all of these issues while still reviewing the channel selection and picture quality.
To summarize, the categories that will be reviewed will be channel selection, interface (ease of use), and picture quality. Latency or time delay of the stream will be addressed, but this is not really an issue unless watching sports and your phone gives you notifications, so it will be noted but not a category for choice.
For those that might have found this article through search, this will be a quick run through the services and highlights, but moving forward each service will be reviewed on their own merits and linked here.
DirecTV Now: Great channel selection, but the interface is slow and horrible. Did I say horrible? Why wait 30 seconds to see your show and the grid was confusing.
Sling: Great interface and good channel selection, but while they lure you in with a $20-$25 price point, if you want all the channels that you enjoy, you have to subscribe to multiple levels and it adds up. Overall, a great service with a nice interface.
Playstation VUE: The best video quality of all the services and probably amazing on a Playstation, this service has a good general channel selection, but no way to add other channels and the interface is moderate. If you are are looking basics, this is a great service, but it will be a bit pricey.
Philo: If you love basic cable channels, this has it all. Nothing local or sports for channel selection, but the best add-on to other services that lack most some of the channels you might want.
YouTube TV: Great overall channel selection and online viewing option. Lacking some home and cooking channels, but otherwise fantastic. Current choice, along with Philo, currently.
Hulu Live: More research be done here, but the initial trial was confusing with the interface. You might find articles that say it is intuitive and recommends well, but I was not finding that in initial contact which was some time ago. More research to be done and reported here.
The best thing about these services is that you can cancel online at any time. If you don’t like one, download the app of another, try the free trial and give it a shot. Hopefully our testing will help.