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Hulu, Roku, Apple TV: Popular alternatives to traditional cable

How do you watch TV?

Does anyone watch TV the old-fashioned way anymore? What used to be a revolution in the way we watched television is now status quo -- recording shows live to watch later (commercial-free!), streaming via the Internet to beat the rising costs of cable and even downloading shows from online retailers such as Amazon. Let's explore some of the alternatives to traditional cable that are available for watching television.
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Hulu

How to get it: Accessible on your computer, laptop or smartphone (Hulu Plus only) at www.hulu.com

What's available: Versions of most mainstream popular television shows from the major networks, plus older seasons and episodes of some television shows. Movies are also available, although you won't find any new releases in their lineup. The newest episodes of television shows are not available immediately -- sometimes it takes a few days to appear on Hulu. And be warned that every now and again, you'll have your show interrupted by a short advertisement.

Cost: Free. You can upgrade to Hulu Plus for $7.99 per month, which allows you to watch entire seasons of popular shows, instead of just the most recent five episodes, plus a larger library of movies, all with limited advertisements and in high-definition.

Pros: The price is obviously a selling point for Hulu. Even though it's a free service, it certainly doesn't feel that way!

Cons: If you're anxious to watch the newest episode of your favorite show, it can be hard to wait for it to pop up on Hulu. Not being able to start seasons from the beginning can be frustrating.

Overall: Despite its drawbacks, Hulu is a fantastic way to watch TV without cable. For the most part, Hulu is easy to use and access online, even when traveling away from home with your laptop.

Apple TV

How to get it: You can easily purchase Apple TV at your local Apple retailer, or jump online to purchase it on the Apple website or even Amazon.com

What's available: Once you hook up the Apple TV box to your television, you can purchase and download almost any TV series or movie that you can think of. You can also access your Netflix stream and even photos and music via Apple's newest invention, iCloud.

Cost: $99 for the Apple TV box, plus the price of any shows or movies you want to download, which range from $1.99 to $3.99 apiece

Pros: The Apple TV box itself has a tiny footprint, which is nice if you don't have much space. Plus, you can access a huge library of television shows and movies -- even new releases. With iCloud storage also available now, you don't even have to store your shows on the Apple TV device, which leaves you room to download as much as your heart desires!

Cons: If this is the only way you're accessing television, it could get costly to be downloading entire seasons of your favorite shows.

Overall: Apple TV is a great option for watching television, especially if you are only watching select shows or prefer watching movies. And, of course, Apple addicts who are already using other Apple products and features will love syncing their TV too.

Roku

How to get it: Roku can be purchased on the company website at www.roku.com and at some local stores -- check their website for details

What's available: Roku is a great way to manage all of your favorite television and movie favorites such as movies from Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus and many more.

Cost: The Roku box ranges from $50 to $100, depending on the features you choose. Remember that you'll also have to pay separately for the services above, such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Pros: If you have a hard time choosing your favorite way to watch television, Roku is the perfect option for consolidating the ways you access TV and movies into one device. Also, Roku is a streaming device rather than a downloading device, so you can watch shows and movies instantly.

Cons: You must also have high-speed wireless installed at home and you'll have to subscribe to some additional services in order to get access to television shows and movies.

Overall: Roku is a pretty cool way to watch television while avoiding standard cable television fees.

TiVo

How to get it: The best prices tend to be on the Tivo website, although you can also pick up a TiVo box at most big-box electronics stores

What's available: TiVo is a service that you use in addition to traditional cable, which runs through your TiVo box to your television. TiVo allows you to manage your cable television service, plus access movie services such as Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand easily, and record shows and movies from cable to watch whenever you'd like.

Cost: The TiVo box itself will cost you anywhere from $80 to $500, depending on the level of storage you need. In addition, there is a monthly fee of $20 to use the TiVo service.

Pros: TiVo is a great way to manage the shows that you're accessing via traditional cable and record them to watch later -- plus you can fast-forward through commercials!

Cons: The monthly fee is certainly a downside to TiVo service, although it's comparable to what you'll pay for a DVR through your cable service, but with a lot more features.

Overall: One of the original DVR options on the market, TiVo is still holding strong when it comes to helping you watch television with ease. The interface is easy to use, as well.

Tell us

How do you watch TV? Share in the comments below!

More about watching television

Turn off the TV at dinnertime for your family's health
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