Cord Cutting Quick Start Guide: These 3 things are all you need to start watching TV online

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For many of us, cutting the cord on cable and watching TV exclusively on the internet can be fairly intimidating. There are so many devices to consider, so many shows and so many ways to get those shows on the internet, that we end up paralyzed with fear of the unknown. But the truth is, all it takes is about $10 to get started.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. An HDTV with an HDMI connection (I’ve never seen an HDTV without one)
  2. An internet speed of at least 3mbps or above (use this to test it)
  3. A laptop with an HDMI connection (most windows machines less than 5 years old have one)

If you meet all three of these requirements, all you need to start watching TV on the internet is a simple HDMI cord to connect your laptop to your TV. Once you’ve connected your laptop screen to your TV it is simply a matter of knowing what websites will give you the content you want to watch. Hulu, Neflix, and Amazon are great places to start looking if you want to pay a few bucks a month for your shows. That covers just about everything you could want to watch except sports (see our more in-depth article on getting rid of cable for that).

If you want to go the “ethically murky” route, you can watch everything those providers will give you free at SolarMovie or just about any other movie streaming site. Just make sure you have a good ad-blocker (free) installed on your browser before you visit those sites.

Once you’re sure you can watch what you want to watch entirely over the internet, you can go ahead and slash your cable bill. Consider yourself cable-free and enjoy your new freedom.

Now if you don’t have one of those three things listed above, this gets a little more complicated but I’m going to try to break it down as easily as I can. I’m going to group you into your constituent parts. All you need to read from the next few paragraphs is the section that applies to you.

Situation #1. You have a Mac without an HDMI connection

If this is you, you’ll need to buy an HDMI adapter for your Mac.

Situation #2. You have a laptop or a TV that is too old and does not have an HDMI connection

You have a few options at this point. The first is to buy a new TV or Laptop that probably needs to be upgraded anyway…but then who am I to judge?

Aside from that, your computer probably still has a VGA connection. If your TV has one too, then you can just buy a VGA cord and probably never know the difference between that and an HD picture.

If your computer has only a VGA connection and your TV has only HDMI or only A/V connections, then it’s simply a matter of finding the right adapter. A quick Google search with [insert your laptop connection here] to [insert your TV connection here] adapter in it should pull up what you need.

Situation #3. You don’t have a laptop, but you do have a TV (HD or otherwise)

Your best option is probably to get a Roku and pay a small monthly fee for Netfilx, Amazon Prime (yearly fee only), or Hulu (or all of them). There are other options out there for you, but they all require some tech savvy. If you’re without a laptop, I’m assuming you’ll want something with minimal tech savvy requirements. Roku, as far as my research is concerned, is definitely the best device for the tech UN-savvy.

Another perk to Roku is that it has an A/V connection for older TVs, so you don’t have to buy an adapter. A/V and HDMI cables come with the unit as well.

Situation #4. You don’t have a TV, but you do have a laptop.

Easy fix. Either buy a TV with the appropriate cables or just watch TV on your laptop.

Situation #5. You don’t have an internet speed of 3mbps or above

This one is a little tougher. The FCC says that all you need to stream HD quality videos is 4mbps. But in my experience, you can stream anything you want at about 3mbps. It’s all a matter of how long you want to wait for your shows to buffer or download before you can watch them. Most of you in this category will want to stream your TV (watch without downloading like YouTube) due to the tech savvy required in downloading.

If you’ve ever noticed that your YouTube videos pause and then start up again every 5 seconds or so, that is how the rest of your internet TV will be like. YouTube is generally the fastest of the video players so anything you watch outside of YouTube will be even slower.

Now, if you have the patience to pause a show and let it load the video (buffer) then you don’t need a faster internet connection. If you don’t like waiting at all, you may need a connection more along the lines of 10-25mbps.

It’s important to note here, however, that internet service providers will often try to “ask you some questions” about your internet usage and upsell you to a speed you don’t really need based on the fact that you “stream video.” Please don’t listen to them. If you’re between 5-10 mbps, you’ll be fine.

So in conclusion, if you can wait for your TV and movies to buffer, you may not need to upgrade your internet. If you can’t wait, go with a connection between 10-25mbps. If you can deal with waiting a few times out of the day, but not all the time, go with a 5-10mbps internet speed.

Situation #6. You don’t have a TV, a computer, or internet

You may not want to waste any more time reading this book. Or you may want to buy enough materials to put yourself in any of the 5 situations above and go from there. At the very least, you need one of two set ups:

  • Internet, a TV, and a Roku
  • Internet and a computer

If you can’t commit to either of those, don’t read any further. Enjoy your life in the great outdoors. I genuinely wish I wasn’t addicted to TV so I could join you.

That should have covered just about everyone. If I missed you, or if you have any questions about getting started quickly,

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