How To: Live Without Cable TV, Part 1

How To: Live Without Cable TV, Part 1

Oct 3, 2007

Yeah, we know.... there are a lot of you out there that already do this. But if you gasped at the thought of living life without cable television (or satellite TV, if that's your persuasion), we're setting out to prove to you that there is life after cable.

We're not talking about turning off your TV and setting it on the curb. There are plenty of media alternatives to the cable box and we're ditching ours. We think we'll survive, all without missing a single episode of Grey's Anatomy. Step one of this process, figuring out your current media setup and what you may need to augment your system.

This is the first in a series of three posts dedicated to life without cable television. Check out Part 2 and Part 3.

The first question you may want to ask yourself is, what can my TV do without cable? Of course, you can always use an antenna to pick up local channels. (Find out how good the signal is in your neighborhood at TV Fool.) If you've got a clunky, old analog television, it's not going to work much longer, and you're going to have to do something about this anyways. So, without cable, you may have to get yourself a digital or HD tuner in order to get the local programming you want.

But, if you're not interested in having a TV (like us), a second consideration is watching television via your computer. However, this scenario requires a bit more planning, and probably buying some new gear. Your system will depend on your needs, but we'll walk you through some of the questions that you need to ask yourself before you consider unplugging the television. Here's what questions first popped into our minds when we considered it:

Can my computer handle it?
Think about how your computer handles online media, such as YouTube and flash websites, if you're struggling to watch something simple, then there's no way you can sit through a streaming television show. Our rule of thumb is that if it's older than two years, or has less than 512MB of RAM, you're going to have to do some upgrading.

Is my display pretty enough?
This isn't as crucial as one might think, watching television on an old LCD monitor wont feel much different than watching your old analog TV. If quality is important to you, consider buying yourself a newer LCD monitor (Dell, Apple, and Samsung all offer good options). If you do enough thinking ahead of time, you could have a nice display share work and play roles. However, even the most expensive display won't make a Youtube video look like a DVD.

Oh great, another Windows-only service.
Other factors to keep in mind are your operating system and internet speed. Neither of these will keep you from watching, but they may limit your options. We'll talk about this more when we discuss the actual Internet-based TV options.

I don't know if I can do this.
If you're not willing to cut the cord completely, there are a plethora of third-party devices that will bridge the gap between the computer and your TV. From the Slingbox to the Apple TV, there are plenty of ways to modernize your media watching.

Tomorrow we'll tackle our TV watching habits, and how we can move them away from cable television.

Thanks to Marco Wessel, jGregor, Andrew Coulter Enright, and Gerard Yates for the photo.

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