As a fan of cord cutting, I was saddened by last week’s Supreme Court decision that effectively killed Aereo, the innovative streaming service for local TV.
See, it’s easy enough to give up cable if you subscribe to the likes of Hulu and Netflix, but those options don’t give you local programming. And although you can connect an antenna to your TV to catch live broadcasts, Aereo let you DVR it (after a fashion) for later viewing — neat.
An often-overlooked limitation to the service was the location requirement. To view recorded shows, you had to be in your “home area.” Even though your recordings were stored online and streamed Netflix-style, you couldn’t watch them when you were out of town.
If I was traveling outside Detroit and wanted to watch the Tigers game I’d recorded the night before, I couldn’t. Based on your mobile device’s IP address, Aereo knew if you were “out of bounds.” A poor man’s Slingbox this was not.
Now that Aereo is dead, “Aereo alternatives” is popping up repeatedly in search engines. As it happens, though, a couple of those alternatives were better than Aereo already –especially for mobile users interested in watching live and recorded local shows on the go.
I’m referring to Simple.TV 2 and Tablo, a pair of standalone DVRs that would make your old VCR cry. These little boxes work like this: Connect an antenna and a USB hard drive, then use your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku box or the like to schedule recordings and watch TV.
You may have noticed I didn’t say anything about actually connecting them to your TV — and that’s because you don’t. Instead, you tuck them out of the way, or at least wherever you get the best antenna reception. All interaction takes place via your home network and the Internet.
Let me note for the record that, of the two, I prefer the Tablo, if only because it offers Wi-Fi connectivity. The Simple.TV must be physically connected to your router, which could force you to run Ethernet cable somewhere inconvenient.
As for pricing, here’s where it gets … unfortunate. For both products, it’s up to you to supply an antenna and a hard drive, though the latter is actually a good thing: You’re not limited to whatever storage comes with the box. Rather, you get to connect the biggest drive you want to store as many shows as you want. Still, it’s an added expense, though you can easily find a 1TB external drive — enough for hundreds of hours of recording — for around $70, if not less.
The Simple.TV itself costs $199.99, while the Tablo starts at $219.99. Then, plan on another $150 for a lifetime subscription to their respective “premium” service plans, without which you’ll have limited functionality. You can also opt for annual service, to the tune of $50 to $60.
Given that Aereo was just $8 monthly, it’ll be a long while before you recoup your investment. But you’ll enjoy significantly more storage and, better still, streaming capabilities that work wherever you go.
Photo credit: Simple.TV, Tablo