The Best Internet TV extender buys for Black Friday

If you want to cut your cable TV bill once and for all, and not just on Black Friday, here's your best picks for Internet TV.

Best Internet TV deal on Black Friday: A Roku box
There are Black Friday deals for Roku boxes, Apple TV, Boxee WD TV, and similar Internet TV media extenders, but guess what? They all list around $99 and, at most, their prices will be reduced to about $79 on Black Friday. Cutting your cable bill, however, will save you from $50 to $150 every month of the year. 

So, for the real money win, what you want to do is not focus so much on buying the cheapest device, but picking the ones that will give you the best service not just as a holiday present but all the year round. So, instead of wondering what in the world ever possessed you to stand in line at 4 in the morning in front of your local Best Buy or Wal-Mart, let's work out the best way for you to cut the cable cord. 

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Antennas: The Old School TV Networks

The first thing you should consider doing is simply add over-the-air (OTA) TV back to your media room with an antenna. There's lot of great free HDTV in the air and  you can catch a lot of it with the right antenna. 

Of course, vanilla OTA doesn't give you anything except a live stream. To make the most of that you'll need a DVR. For OTA, I think the best DVR you can get today is a TiVo Premiere. This device also comes with a handful of Internet TV channel offerings. So, if you're going to be out on Black Friday anyway, look for TiVo Premiere deals

So long as you're at it, if you don't have a Blu-ray DVD player, now's a good time to look for those too. In particular, what you want is one that includes built-in Wi-Fi and  access to such major streaming service as Amazon Instant, Netflix, and Hulu Plus.

While I like Sony DVD players, such as the Sony BDP-S590, the honest truth is that these devices are all pretty much the same these days. Look for the best deal you can find on any brand-name Blu-ray player with Wi-Fi and the big Internet streaming services and you'll be ready for your first steps to life without a cable bill.

The problem with DVD players and TiVo and cord-cutting is that none of them have good user interfaces for Internet video. Sure, you can use them for Netflix or Hulu, but they tend to be on the clunky side.

The same is also true, I'm sorry to say, of Google TV devices and all the other so-called Smart TVs. I don't care how good a deal you can get on one of these, I think you're better off avoiding them. Someday, someday soon, someone is going to make a good Smart TV, but I haven't seen it yet. 

What you can do, though, is add an Internet TV media extender to your OTA setup and an Internet-ready DVD-player. I've played with pretty much every media extender on the market and for my money the best of the lot are the Apple TV and the Roku device family.

Like all Apple hardware you'll never get that much of a deal on an Apple TV. Best Buy's $10 off for the Apple TV is about as good as you can expect. That said, the Apple TV does have several things going for it. First, the iTunes Store offers a great selection of TV shows and movies for rent. You can also use iTunes to stream your own TV and movie collection to your Apple TV without the headaches you usually find with generic media streamers. Last, but not least, thanks to AirPlay Mirroring you can now stream videos from your iOS 6-powered iPhone, iPad, or iTouch or Mountain Lion-powered Mac to your Apple TV-equipped TV. 

Roku players start at $49.99 list for the Roku LT to the top-of-the-line Roku 2 XS for $99.99. I think the sweet spot, though, is the Roku 2 XD, which lists for $79.99 and supports 1080p video. 

Roku devices have two great features. First, they support more Internet video channels than all the other devices combined. True, a lot of those services don't offer much, but if what you really want is a channel of all Kung Fu movies, Anime, or cowboy Westerns, then Roku delivers. Its best feature, however, is its new search function. With this, it's easier than on any other device to find the shows and movies you want to watch when you want to watch them. Last, but not least, if you like Roku on Facebook, you can get their best Black Friday deals without waiting in line. 

Me? Personally I use all of the above, but you can start with just OTA and an Internet-ready DVD player. As for Apple vs. Roku, if you're already invested in Apple technology go ahead and get the Apple TV. If you're not, then I'd buy a Roku myself. Happy shopping!

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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