Cable television, as popular as it is, hasn't changed all that much in the last twenty years. New technology has come and gone, but the basic structure of a cable box attached to a TV has remained the same.
Fortunately, the Internet offers a way out: Streaming services, led by companies like Netflix, have disrupted the notion that television as a linear thing fed to viewers by networks in specified order. Instead, the power is shifting in favor of users, who is now able to dictate when and where they want to watch content.
This, too: Cable television is expensive, and offers a majority of the time stuff that viewers rarely watch our outright don't want. The solution, then, is clear: leave the cable box behind. These devices can make it happen.
(Photo credit: Samsung)
Microsoft has been making a big push as of late to make the Xbox far more than just a game console, and video, predictably, is a big part of that.
(Photo credit: Microsoft)
The smallest of Roku's set-top boxes, the Roku LT offers over 350 channels of content, including support for games like Angry Birds and PAC-MAN Championship Edition. Price-conscious consumers can't go wrong with the device, either: The Roku LT is a commendable $50.
(Photo credit: Roku)
Physical media may be on its way out, but its still a big part of the Playstaion 3, which is the only game console that can play Blu-ray discs.
Perfect for those already heavily invested in Apple's ecosystem, the Apple TV can play content from the iTunes Store, Netflix, MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, and NBA League Pass. Apple also offers TV shows, which can be synced to multiple devices via iCloud.
As oddly shaped as it is, the Boxee Box remains one of the best devices for watching on-demand television. Equipped with its own simple remote, the Boxee Box works with services like Netflix, Youtube, Vudu, and Pandora. $180.
(Photo credit: D-Link)
With the Boxee Live TV, D-Link is attempting to make its device more than just a streamer. The dongle harneses the power of over-the-air HD television, allowing users to view the content from within the Boxee interface.
The best part about services like Netflix and Hulu Plus is that the are all available via the Internet as well.
If there is one constant in all of the devices mentioned so far, it's Netflix. Recent criticisms aside, Netflix remains the best streaming service deal around with its $7.99 price tag and wide selection of titles. It's simply impossible to get through it all.
Smart TVs got a lot of attention at this year's Consumer Electronics Show -- and for good reason. The displays promise to be the future of television, offering all the comforts of the small screen with all of the strengths of the Internet. Taking a cue from smartphones and tablets, Smart TV's are designed with apps in mind, allowing the devices to run services like Netflix and Hulu Plus without the need for a set-top box.
Sometimes the best solution is the most simple one.
While many of the previous examples have been on the more involved end of the spectrum, there's still a lot to say for the simple HD antenna, which offers the basic broadcast channels without the need for any sort of subscription. If you aren't heavily invested in television, don't discount this option.