Best Practices for Cutting the Cord?

mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
edited June 2012 in Internet & Media
Hi friends, I'm new to the community but didn't see anything exactly like this in the existing discussions. If I may, I would like your assistance in working through our current scenario at home and figuring out the best way forward.

Currently we have DirecTV and AT&T DSL. Due to rising costs, these two services combined are costing us approximately $130 each month. We are in the process of trying to downsize and the fact that we are paying $1560 per year for internet and television is uncomfortable for us. We do not even have an expansive television package and we only have the 3 Mb down/512 kb up package from AT&T.

AT&T is sending a tech out next week to investigate a "direct line" to the central office which, according to the phone technician, should improve our internet connection. This is good as we don't have a viable alternative (Comcast only offers 3Mb in our area unless we want to pay for 50Mb down).

It seems like the best options for cutting the cord entirely would be the following:

Hope that Hulu Plus and Netflix is enough and add them to our Wii.

Buy a Roku box as well as Hulu Plus and Netflix.

Buy a Mac Mini and install Plex. Run as a dedicated MCPC.

I have read Brian's review of the Boxee Box but I don't see that as a viable option right now due to cost of the equipment. I have concluded at this time that, if I am going to buy a dedicated unit, I can save money by purchasing a Roku box or go "all-out" and get a Mac Mini with a more viable open-source software option now that the Boxee software has been deprecated.

I would really appreciate the community's input here. Do any of you have better suggestions for how we might handle this? My resources are not unlimited and the primary goal is to save money. I know we will give up certain things (live Tigers games) but there are compromise solutions I am willing to make there as well (pay for online radio streaming, go to the bar when I want to watch one on TV).

Thanks for your consideration and for having such a strong community.


  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian
    edited June 2012
    Just a thought, since sports is usually the problem I bump into when it comes to considerations like this - MLB TV lets you buy an online package to watch all MLB games. It's not necessarily the most cost efficient, but if you spread it out monthly it's much less than a cable bill.

    ESPN 360 is on specific internet carriers, as well, which provides a healthy dose of everything. CBS will broadcast the March Madness tournaments, etc.

    There's options, and I'll give you that they're rather thin at the moment, but they're there.
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    Thank you for the suggestion. The only drawback is the blackout restrictions on local games, which is primarily what I watch. Thankfully I am two miles from Comerica Park (where my team, the Detroit Tigers, play) and there are many bars around the corner with cheap beer and the game on.
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    If you built your own home theatre PC, you could pipe Hulu/Netflix/Amazon Instant into it, and include a TV tuner with an antenna so you could get the local broadcast games.

    I can't remember if the Tigers are broadcast on the 2/4/7/9/20 channels, or if they're on Fox Sports Detroit (basic cable).
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    Thrax, thanks for the home theatre PC suggestion. The Tigers are on FSD so unfortunately streaming them in any way is out, as well as catching them over-the-air.

    To your knowledge, is there a cost advantage to building a custom home theatre PC versus the cost point of a Mac Mini? With the obvious exception being the operating system differences.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    I built a great XBMC system for around $400, I believe, and I'm pretty sure you can do better than that price-wise. The Mac Mini, per a quick search, is still starting at $600. Somebody will correct me if I'm mistaken, but the Mac is actually more machine than you need to run a good HTPC system. Mine is a Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3 mobo, which is an AMD Fusion board (E-350 proc with HD 6310 graphics), and paired it with some RAM and a small case. Size HDD according to your needs (can you stream from another computer, for example?), and you can get in well under $600. The mobo's going for $120 on Newegg, RAM's like $40 for 4GB; that leaves you another $400 for a case, PSU, and hard drive. No sweat.
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    Snarkasm, thanks for the input. My challenge is that I built a machine once and had hardware compatibility issues so I was definitely turned off to the idea, but a savings of $200 or more is very enticing.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    We can certainly help you with putting together the right system, so don't let that deter you.
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    Thanks Tushon, I think I'll be leaning heavily on the community for help with that later this summer.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    Hey @mojodean, welcome to Icrontic! Glad to see you here :)

    Let me just interject to reassure you that with the help of people here (and if it gets really bad, me because you're local), you are absolutely capable of building your own PC and saving some serious cash and getting a better system.

    You're in great hands here :)
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    edited June 2012
    @primesuspect, I'm not particularly local to Taiwan so you will have to come back to Detroit eventually. :)
  • doabarrellrolldoabarrellroll San Jose, CA Icrontian
    Seriously, between Netflix, Hulu and whatever else can stream you'll be fine. Check out GoogleTV boxes from Sony. The interfaces are way better at a marginal cost.
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    @doabarrellroll I've heard them recommended before but I have also see a lot of complaints about Google not taking an active support roll in the Google TV OS. Do you have experience otherwise?
  • There are some great deals on Socket FM1 mini itx boards and APU's to build a more than capable HTPC with. Should save to build your own vs. a mac mini. There are a few free media center options running on Linux, I understand XBMC is good, you could even consider mythbuntu.
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    @Cliff_Forster thanks. One concern I have with going the Linux route is that I want something somewhat simple to manage, hence the considerations of a Mac Mini with Plex on it, or a Roku.

    Please understand, I'm not trying to find objections to everyone's great suggestions. My goal through this is to lean on you all to find the best option for my wife and I and the goal is to transition out of DirecTV and into something else that is somewhat easy to use.

    What media center software are icrontians primarily using?
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    XBMC and mythbuntu both have some followers here. I personally have only played with them as my PC is <10 feet from TV so it is just plugged in via HDMI and I watch movies/TV shows from there.
  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Icrontian
    edited June 2012
    On the pathway of build your own. (after rebate less than $100 buys you ample mobo, CPU and Graphics for your application) (Ram $26) (case and PSU $80)

    So you can see, figure $100 for a reasonably large Hard Disk for recording video, I'll assume $60 or so for blu ray drive, so all total you could be in business for less than $400.

  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited June 2012

    Smaller mobo, (edit: virtually) fanless (edit: this thing is very quiet), no rebates to deal with, still room for 4 or 8GB of RAM, still just as good at video decoding.
  • @Thrax - Sweet, I like it.
  • mojodeanmojodean Detroit, Michigan Member
    @Thrax, awesome. So Theoretically I could buy that, plus the RAM and case/PSU @Cliff_Forster suggested and be on my way (needing an HDD and a Blu-Ray drive, of course)?
  • @Mojodean, you could do even smaller on the case since it's a mini itx board, save some space on your shelf. This should do nicely.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    For what it's worth, this is the case I'm using with that mobo, and it's brilliant. External power brick, like a laptop; small, quiet, cool-running.
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    I use the Sugo SG-05B. Love it.
  • doabarrellrolldoabarrellroll San Jose, CA Icrontian
    The point with Google TV is that the Android platform is open source, as well as, it can most likely be unlocked.
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