For years my wife and I dropped cable television simply because we didn’t have the money for it in our budget. Then eventually we added back a basic package and were okay with that. Fast forward 6 years later and we are spending a fortune and have every channel under the sun. What happened was they slowly offered us deals that added additional channels, we started watching shows on those channels and then when the deal went away I would call and tell them I was going to drop it all and they would add even more channels to get me to stay. When we bought a new house though it was finally time to find a better option to save some money and it just so happened that Nvidia had sent out their Shield TV to us and it was sitting unused. So today I’m going to talk a little about how I dropped cable by using the Shield TV and I’ve been loving it.
Product Name: Nvidia Shield TV
Review Sample Provided by: Nvidia
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE
Okay, let me preface this with the fact that I had actually had the original Shield TV as well and while I played with the game streaming and GeforceNOW functions a little, when we had cable television I would rarely if ever find myself flipping the TV over to use the Shield. Having the refreshed and original devices around left me a whole list of options when I started looking at how we could cut our costs. Honestly, I would be able to mostly get by downloading and streaming the shows that we liked but I really didn’t want to go that route. Not to mention it gets a lot more complicated when you add in that during the college football season I watch the games as my once a week break away from anything tech/work related. So I needed to have access to ESPN and Big10 Network so dropping down to the most basic package with my cable company sadly wouldn’t do the job.
Now I consume a lot of my TV at my desk while working, then a lot in the living room with my wife, but we also have TVs in our bedroom and another big TV in the basement where I can hide during gamedays. So whatever I picked needed to be flexible and be able to run on multiple platforms. We have HTPCs in all of those rooms, game consoles upstairs and down, and a few Nvidia Shield TVs as well.
Once I got looking what I found were a few options that might work for us that had a lot of the channels that we enjoy as well as the sports channels I would want come football season. All of which were more than half to a third of the price of what we were paying for TV and all of these options also allowed for more TVs where cable I had to pay for a box in each room.
So here are the services I was looking at, depending on what channels you want will determine what you might want to go with,
So all of the options have packages that start at about $35 except Sling at $20 and then they go up from there. But unlike cable, none of them add up to crazy amounts. At the time Youtube TV wasn’t available where we live so I took that off the list. Then from there, I had to decide between the three. They all can be viewed with a browser but DirectTV Now didn’t have a way to run on our Shield TVs without side loading the app so I skipped that one. That left me with Sling and Vue. Vue had every channel we wanted except Comedy Central and as a bonus, you can also use the PS3 and PS4 with it as well so I decided to give it a try.
The Vueing experience (see what I did there) hasn’t been perfect but I wouldn’t call it bad as well. You are going to have to have a good internet connection but our 250/20 is way more than enough. For a while, there were some server issues causing buffering on random channels that would get really frustrating but those have improved. Video quality is solid as is audio quality as well. Most of what I both love and hate about the server has been with the UI and how they handle channels and their DVR. So you can navigate to a somewhat traditional guide and flip through it but you have to go out of the way to do that and it only has 6 days of guide loaded at any time so forget trying to set something to record far ahead of time. Most of the navigation actually uses photos of each channel or of each tv show to make navigation easier.
The DVR is similar to the live TV navigation as well with photos. What is unique is you setup shows on your favorites list and then they just automatically record every episode. I think they store everything in the last 30 days. So if you digitally horde movies or shows that you like to rewatch over and over on your DVR or if you don’t get around to watching stuff often you aren’t going to like this setup because a lot of things might be gone. But at the same time, there is no capacity limit and especially with shows aired all the times like the Simpsons you basically have access to the entire catalog after a month. This setup also makes it weird for recording one time shows or movies, not to mention the 6 days lead time on the guide. So, for example, there are a few shows coming up that I want to make sure I don’t miss that aren’t always on the air, so I have to remember to add them the week of them airing. You can use the mobile app to do this as well at least, so if you don’t want to miss something but you will be traveling for a week or more you won’t miss it.
Channel selection gets weird when it comes to local channels as well. Depending on where you are at you might have a ton of channels or none at all. That doesn’t mean you are SOL if you don’t get the local channel you do still get access to the on demand for that channel. But sports aren’t included on demand, so for example for football, I didn’t have a local ABC channel at the time so I would have to use the ESPN app for shows on that channel. The same goes for NBC and the Olympics.
One of the most frustrating issues I’ve had with Vue was something I would never have seen coming and it rarely gets mentioned when talking about the service. If you pause or rewind a show that you are watching live they only allow you to go back or stay paused for 3 minutes. The crazy thing to me is on most channels the server has to be recording it anyhow because it's going to be on someone’s favorite list. But this even happens when you have it being DVRed at the same time. Basically, if you get up to go to the bathroom or fix dinner you better be quick. It will hit the end of the buffer and start playing again and anything you missed it gone. Most DVRs will pause for 30 minutes, but come on Sony at least give me enough time to poop lol.