One of my Cord Cutting goals has always been to make our TV viewing experience streamlined and simple. As a nerd, I personally have no problem with fumbling through this and that just to get something to work. But that gets annoying after a while. Aside from that, my wife (the most non-nerd person I know) just wants things to simply work. And honestly, I can’t blame her.
After I got our Roku boxes set up, my search began for a channel that would allow live TV streaming. Sure – it’s simple to switch from HDMI to TV and vise-versa, but I couldn’t help but think about how awesome it would be if all viewing could be done from the Roku alone. In my opinion, that’s one advantage the cable and satellite providers have: you use 1 box, and simply change channels.
There are several options out there and I believe this market will continue to grow. The first option I came across was the much talked about Aereo. As it wasn’t initially available where I live, I waited (somewhat) patiently for it to arrive. When it did, it unfortunately wasn’t the experience I had hoped it would be.
Another option I tried out was NimbleTV. However, Nimble TV isn’t as much live TV streaming as it is quite simply a satellite service provider. In fact, upon signing up for the service, you will receive an email from Nimble TV telling you to expect an account letter from Dish (which I did) that they tell you to simply ignore. On top of that, Nimble TV’s lowest priced plan is $29.99. There is a free plan, but the channel offerings are lack-luster to say the least. My Spidey Senses immediately began to tingle – if I’m going to pay at least 30 bucks a month for a service that’s merely streaming satellite television, why wouldn’t I just pay for satellite television?
This week, I decided to give simple.tv a try. I had seen it before while searching other options, but for some reason I kept saying to myself, “I’ll get back to that one.” I have to say, I’m glad I did. Simply put, I literally saved the best for last.
Quite frankly, what the folks at Simple have done is nothing short of genius. As there is no way to directly connect your over-the-air HD antenna to your Roku, simple.tv provides the “bridge” to make it possible. And to add extra icing to the awesome cake, simple.tv gives you DVR functionality by having you connect
an external hard drive. And this is the full DVR functionality you expect from cable and satellite – you can pause, rewind, fast forward, schedule recordings of upcoming shows, or an entire series of shows.
ALL from the simple.tv Roku channel, the Android app, or the IOS app! Or, if you don’t happen to have your mobile device handy at the time, you can always simply schedule your recordings from the simple.tv website. Not only can you schedule shows from the apps or the website, you can watch YOUR shows as well – either your recordings or live TV being picked up by your HD antenna. Like I said, nothing short of genius!
As I wanted to tread lightly to give it a test drive, I picked up the 1st generation simple.tv unit (pictured above and left). It’s a single tuner unit, meaning that if anyone else wants to tune in while I’m watching, they either have to watch what I’m watching or they will change the channel and interrupt my viewing. This really isn’t a big deal in my house though – we all tend to watch the same things at the same time. Simple.tv has since partnered with SilliconDust to offer the dual tuner pictured below.
The biggest negative I experienced was the initial setup. Simple.tv isn’t necessarily “out of the box” ready, which is understandable. It of course has to scan for and set your available channels. Also, if you decide to give it a try, be warned about the external hard drive you connect – simple.tv will completely format it upon setup. You may want to purchase a new one to dedicate to the unit, or if you’re a nerd like me, use an extra one that you may happen to have lying around (I happened to have a 500GB Western Digital in my hardware closet). I’m not 100% sure why formatting is necessary, but at least you are given a warning about it during setup. Overall, the setup time was extremely long. Granted, part of the extra time I experienced could be attributed to the fact I’m running the 1st generation unit that had to download an update, but I felt the drive formatting and channel scanning process were a bit excessive time-wise.
Requiring Microsoft Siverlight for desktop viewing is also a bit of a con, especially for us Chromebook owners.
Another thing that may be considered a “con” to some is the channel load time. I personally understand that this type of streaming requires a little patience, but you channel surfing types may be a bit turned off by the “Please wait while we tune into channel ___” screen. Simple.tv does a great job explaining this in the owner’s manual that comes with the unit as well.
Overall, from a Cord Cutting perspective, I give simple.tv a solid 5 out of 5 stars. I’ve only seen one slight hiccup in which the live shows that simple.tv was displaying were at one point almost 15 minutes behind what was actually being aired live. And when I changed the channel, then went back to the original broadcast made it start over. I emailed support and got an almost immediate response – another one for the “pros” column. However, a simple reboot of the unit appears to have cleared up that issue.
If you’re looking for a simple solution that lets you watch live TV through your Roku, mobile devices, and computers, I highly recommend simple.tv!