This is my third annual holiday gift guide for all of you Cable Disablers out there. These are gift ideas for those who have already dumped cable, or who want to. Compared to having cable, these gifts can save thousands of dollars over the years. What could be better than that? There should be something for every gift-giving price level.
This year, my number one gift idea for cable-cutters is again, the Roku. The big deal for me was that they added voice search – much easier to use than the letter-picker. Roku also has the most channels of the set-top boxes. These are not only great for watching Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video on your TV, but also a lot of other free and paid content. Note, if your gift recipient has an old tube TV, make sure to get them a Roku Express+ which has composite video outputs (not the Roku Express.. I know, very confusing).
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The affordable Google Chromecast is a perfect stocking-stuffer for someone who doesn’t mind using their laptop with their TV. This allows you to mirror almost anything that is in your computer’s browser onto your TV. It also works with some Android phones. It’s a bit more techy than Roku or Amazon Fire, so make sure the recipient is comfortable with say, installing a Chrome browser extensions (which is required for this to work). Also, there are some great free trials for Google Play and Hulu Plus which are worth more than the product itself!
The Amazon Echo has nothing to do with TV. It’s a voice-controlled music player with Siri-like capabilities. It connects to your Amazon account to play any MP3s which you have purchased from Amazon, or music from a variety of other services like Pandora. It also responds to other commands to set timers, play the news, give you the weather, and so forth. It’s a great gift for someone who loves music and has a lot of music on Amazon, and who is into tech gadgets.
This is my recommended solution for those who want to record broadcast TV shows. It has a workable user interface, reliable operation, and most importantly, no monthly fee for the channel guide! Read my complete DVR+ review here, or purchase it directly from the manufacturer.Channel Master DVR+ Bundle - subscription free digital video recorder with web features and channel guide (CM7500BDL3)
4. Tablo TV
If you need a whole-home recording and playback solution, then check out Tablo TV. It will record from broadcast TV and play back on any TV that is hooked up to a Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and a variety of other streaming boxes on your WiFi network. You hook your antenna to Tablo, and it streams wirelessly to each TV. So as a bonus, it eliminates the need for a lot of antenna cable in your home.
This is my favorite indoor antenna for beginners because it grabs a lot of channels, it’s easy to use and set up, and can be easily hidden. Just make sure the recipient is in an area that has stations; most big cities are fine, but the suburbs or boonies can be problematic. Enter their zip code into the Station Finder to be sure. Also, consider getting them an upgraded RG6 coax cable, at least 30 feet long so the antenna can reach a window. Read my full review of the Leaf here.
This is another great antenna that I use. In my testing, it was slightly better than the Leaf at bringing in those pesky VHF (Hi-V) channels. It’s more expensive, but might be worth it if you’re having reception problems. It comes with a high-quality RG6 coax cable, so no need to buy it separately though.
The Roku offers stiff competition in the set-top box category, but the Amazon Fire TV is still a quality box. They’ve expanded their voice search to include over 90 channels including Netflix, Hulu, as well as Amazon Video. Plus, you get access to Alexa, their voice-controlled assistant in the Amazon Echo.
8. Apple TV
The app ecosystem is now open so we there are now a lot more apps for Apple TV. The new Apple TV has voice search, a “must have” feature these days. If you need a gift for an Apple fan-boy or girl, this is a good choice. It’s the only set-top box than can play content from iTunes!
9. Your Previously-Viewed DVDs
I admit we have entered “Cheapskate” gift territory here, but hey, times are tough. Giving your old DVD’s might not be the best idea in a lot of cases, but I recently went to a Yankee Swap where I gave a pack of ten of my used CDs and it was one of the most popular items. Are you really going to watch those movies again? Why not give them to someone who hasn’t seen them? And, you’ll save the environment by not giving something that has to be manufactured.
10. A New LCD TV
Before you balk at the cost of a TV, let me say that the prices of TVs are insanely low now and the quality has never been better. If the recipient has a tube TV, a new TV will allow them to attach an antenna without having a converter box. Plus, “smart” TV’s have Internet connectivity and allow you to get services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. Finally, inch for screen inch, these new TVs use less power than tube TVs, which will save money in the long run.
Do you have any good gift ideas for folks who want free and cheap TV? Please share your ideas below! – Brian