$75 Plex Lifetime Pass

People are reporting that this code has expired

Just wanted to let people know that you can get a Lifetime Plex Pass for $75 using the code PLEXFORLIFE.  Not sure how long this will be live, but I wanted to share the code.

Here is a very good description of what Plex is: https://www.plex.tv/press/product-facts/

In a nutshell, Plex is a client/server application which stores, serves, and plays media on your devices.  The server is always free and, generally, you pay for the apps.  With a Plex Pass, apps are free as well.  The server can be installed on a Windows computer, a Mac, or a Linux box as well as a NAS.

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Chromecast
  • iOS
  • PlayStation
  • Plex Media Player (in the “TV” mode only)
  • Roku
  • Smart TVs & TiVo
  • Sonos
  • Xbox One
  • Samsung Smart Hub (v2.006+, third-party)
  • Windows and Windows Phone

Major perks of the paid subscription are…

  • Free Apps
  • Live TV and DVR: Pair Plex with network tuners like HDHomeRun devices to watch and record Live TV
  • Multiple Users: Share ‘parts’ of your library with friends and family
  • Parental Controls: Share age appropriate content with your kids
  • Mobile Sync: download media to a device for offline viewing
  • Plex Perks: Deals and discounts from Plex partners

Here’s a link to the Slickdeals thread where I learned of this.

 

Tablo TV DVR vs Amazon Recast

UPDATE: It looks like the Recast uses about the same power as the Tablo TV DVR…

http://www.aftvnews.com/amazon-fire-tv-recast-power-usage-while-idle-recording-and-streaming/

My friend Bill has just moved to New Hampshire and found an antenna on the roof of his new home.  He replaced the pre-amp and pulled in stations from Portland Maine, Boston, and Manchester New Hampshire.  I loaned him a TiVo Roamio and a Channel Master DVR+ so he could see how good broadcast television can be.  We have been been talking about Roku TVs as well as whole house DVRs like Amazon’s Recast and the Tablo TV DVR.

The Tablo team put together a really even handed comparison of the two devices here

Tablo TV DVR vs Amazon Recast

The bottom line (according to Tablo’s blog)…

  • Tablo is an open system supporting most streamers and services while Recast is a closed system designed to work with Amazon devices and services (see table below)
  • Some Tablo products have internal storage and all support external storage to 8TB while all Amazon devices have internal storage and none [currently] support external storage
  • Tablo supports six concurrent streams while the Recast supports two
  • A Tablo DVR includes basic guide and recording functionality, but you must purchase their premium service to match (and surpass) what is included with the Recast
  • Tablo (with the premium service) provides full out-of-home viewing and control while Recast is limited to mobile device playback
  • The Tablo DVR uses less power than the Recast due to streaming architecture

This table compares client compatibility…

That’s what Bill thinks, anyway.  I’m a little suspicious of the energy efficiency claims and Amazon has promised external storage will be available sometime after launch.

One of the devices missing from the table above is the Amazon Echo Show.  I open Plex on the Show to watch recorded programs.  It’s kind of a pain since you have to open the browser and type in the plex.tv url each time you want to watch something.  So far, I have not been able to get live tv from my Extends.  I really would like to watch live TV on my Shows, so this is a big plus for the Recast as far as I am concerned.

The Tablo TV DVR scales better since adding a second DVR does not require adding a second service (and you cannot add a second Recast at all).  You can attach up to 8TB of storage to a single Tablo TV DVR

Amazon only supports one Recast per account.  For me, that is very disappointing.  Amazon has really disappointed in consumer electronics from their phones to the Echos and now the Recast.  There is no reason to assume they will eventually get it right.

The comparison really does not address cost.  Cost is very important.  If you want an appliance with no monthly fees, the Recast wins.  The retail cost of a 500GB, two tuner Recast is $229.99 and will be $179.99 on Black Friday.  Use an Amazon credit card to pay and your OOP is $171.  The 1TB, four tuner model is $279.99/$219.99/$209.  The Tablo TV two tuner DVR is $139.99 BUT you will spend another $50 on a 1TB disk and you really need to shell out another $150 for all the features the Tablo blogger was talking about.  So, $340.  Get a refurb for $119.99 and you are still talking $320.  The Tablo TV four tuner DVR is $199.96 BUT you will spend another $50 on a 1TB disk and you really need to shell out another $150 for all the features the Tablo blogger was talking about.  So, $400.  You can get the older two tuner Tablo TV DVR for $89.99 which would end up costing $290.

So, Bill, if cost is not an issue, get the Tablo TV DVR.  It is simply the better DVR.  Go ahead and get the four tuner unit, spring for the Lifetime Service, and get a really big disk.  If you are not ready to throw $500 at a DVR, then get a Recast.  Don’t bother with the four tuner model because the box is not robust enough to support four tuners.

Bienvenue au New Hampshire!

PS To DLFL who asked…

What does [‘Don’t bother with the four tuner model because the box is not robust enough to support four tuners’] mean and what is the evidence to support that statement?

It means you are limited to two streams regardless of which model you purchase. Combined with the fact that you can only have one Recast per account (also from the ARFYou can register one Fire TV Recast per Amazon account), this is very limiting…

from Amazon’s Recast FAQ

How many programs can I record at once? Can I record a program while watching another live or recorded program?

With a 2-tuner Fire TV Recast, you can either:

  • Record up to 2 programs at once,
  • Watch up to 1 live and 1 recorded program on different devices, while recording another;
  • Watch up to 2 recorded programs on different devices, while recording 2 programs in the background; OR
  • Watch up to 2 live programs on different devices at once.

With a 4-tuner Fire TV Recast, you can either:

  • Record up to 4 programs at once;
  • Watch up to 1 live and 1 recorded program on different devices, while recording up to 3 other programs in the background;
  • Watch up to 2 recorded programs on different devices, while recording up to 4 programs in the background; OR
  • Watch up to 2 live programs on different devices at once while recording up to 2 other programs in the background.

from the Tablo Blog Post

  • On-the-fly transcoding requires A LOT of processing power, so every Recast device is limited to 2 concurrent viewing streams, regardless of whether you have a 2 or 4-tuner model

2017: An Important Year for Cord Cutters

2017 was an important year for cord cutters. For starters, there are more of us. According to eMarketer, there will be 22.2 million cord cutters ages 18 and older this year – up 33.2 percent over 2016. In addition, the so-called “cord-nevers” – consumers who have never subscribed to cable or satellite TV – will top 34.4 million in 2017. That’s 56.6 million U.S. non-pay TV viewers.

In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted core elements of the ATSC 3.0 standard as the foundation for voluntary implementation by broadcasters and manufacturers of Next Gen TV. 2017 saw the arrival of ATSC 3.0-capable broadcast products and technologies as well as the announcement of Phoenix as a ‘model market’ for Next Gen broadcast television. Sinclair Broadcast Group announced it intends to “fully deploy ATSC 3.0 on Sinclair’s stations nationwide.” ATSC 3.0 will not be important for a while (if ever), but it is here at last. For those not paying attention, ATSC 3.0 is a new version of the ATSC standards for television broadcasting created by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC).  ATSC 3.0 comprises around 20 standards covering different aspects including HEVC for video channels of up to 2160p 4K resolution at 120 frames per second, wide color gamut, Dolby AC-4 and MPEG-H 3D Audio, datacasting capabilities, and more robust mobile television support. The capabilities have also been foreseen as a way to enable targeted advertising and finer public alerting.

The dreaded Reverse Auction came and went and broadcast television is still fine. Much like Y2K, dread far exceeded reality. Some stations are moving, some are going away, but most of the dial was not impacted by the auction. Of course, the heavy lifting begins next year and the impact of lost bandwidth my make ATSC 3.0 implementation more challenging, but, so far, so good.

We lost some friends in 2017. Real Simple Software closed its doors. Their Simple TV DVR was an innovative whole house solution. Tablo TV got this niche right and RSS is gone. Channel Master has stopped production of its DVR+. The DVR+ was important for two reasons. With its PSIP powered electronic program guide, the DVR+ required no subscription or service, so it could be used in places without telephones or internet and will continue to operate as long as the FCC requires PSIP data be broadcast. At least as important, the DVR+ provided legitimate competition to TiVo. This year, TiVo sold the Roamio OTA with Lifetime service for less than $200. Hope you got yours because I do not think we will see prices like that again. Channel Master is going the whole house route with its Stream+ joining Tablo and SiliconDust (HDHomeRun) in an already crowded market. In 2017, my home became a TiVo home as we now have five Roamios and two Minis. BTW, that $200 TiVo and a $75 Plex Pass were my only television spend in 2017, so I really am enjoying Free TV.

Plex added support for live tv in 2017.  With Plex Live TV, you can watch and record broadcast TV. I expect this will be how ATSC 3.0 enters most homes.

OTT (streaming tv) became a real thing in 2017.  Vue, Sling, and DTVNow all offer legitimate alternatives to cable television.  You no longer have to pay Comcast to learn about Tiny Homes!

Net Neutrality is no more. I won’t comment on this except to say that it will likely impact quality of service and prices for streaming services going forward.

Reading over my notes, I guess 2017 wasn’t a very important year for television. Most people still rely on cable tv for entertainment, TiVo is once again the only player in the consumer DVR business, SiliconDust is still the gold standard for whole house streaming, Roku remains the most popular streamer, and you can still receive television via an inexpensive antenna. How about that.

Please comment if you are aware of an important development I missed.

The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel

Just wanted to let everyone know that Roku has introduced a new channel featuring ad supported movies and programs.  Kind of a soft launch.  You need to add the channel from the channel store.  Movie selection is great.  Quality is very good.  Ads are unobtrusive — though plentiful.  Oh, and it’s free.

If you have a Roku, it is certainly worth a look.

The Roku Channel joins Crackle, SnagFilmsTubi TV, and Vudu as very good FREE options for streamers.  If you can recommend other FREE streaming movie channels, please post in the comments.

PlayOn Makes Roku Great Again!

MediaMall has quietly added a DirecTV Now channel to its PlayOn application.  This channel works well.  DirecTV Now subscribers now have an OTT DVR.  Yea!

Roku users are still waiting for a DirecTV Now app, but have always had the PlayOn ‘private channel’.  This morning I plugged in a Roku 2 XS and am happy to announce that Roku now has a DirecTV Now app.  It works great.  PlayOn also has apps for Sony’s Playstation, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Nintendo’s WII so anyone should be able to watch DirecTV Now.

Happy streaming!

Review: Sony Vue

When WBZ went off the air this weekend, I figured I would trial Vue which includes WBZ in Boston.  I sampled the Ultra Slim package which is $64.99 a month and includes HBO and SHOWTIME live and on demand, thousands of hours of movies from EPIX Hits, FXM, MGM and more, plus local sports and popular live TV channels — more than 100 channels (their description).

I’m using Vue on a first gen Fire TV stick which has the same interface as the PS4/3 and a Roku 2 XS which has a simplified tile interface.

I trialed Vue to watch an NFL game because my local broadcaster was having problems.  I was disappointed to discover that Vue uses an  over-the-air source.  FiOS and Comcast were unaffected by the broadcast problem and are immune to weather issues, for the most part.  On a couple occasions, I have had channels break up continuously — kind of a large block mosaic with chunks of the screen not updating properly — but, for the most part, stream quality has been excellent absent any kind of buffering or noticeable degradation.  The Roku spontaneously rebooted on one occasion.

If you have not had cable for a while, it is surprisingly bad.  At 6:00 am, AMC, Discovery, DIY, E!, Food Network, Esquire Network, truTV, HGTV, Comedy Central, National Geographic, FX, FXX, WEtv, POP, Travel Channel, TVLand, Spike, and NBC Sports Network are all running infomercials.  NESN is off the air.  20% of the ‘dial’ has no programming!  My local channels are limited to WBZ (CBS) — so no Fox Football or Sunday Night Football or Thursday Night Football.  No local ABC, Fox, NBC, or PBS.  No Bounce, Buzzer, Comet, Decades, Escape, GetTV, GRIT, Heroes & Icons, ION, Laff, MeTV, The Works, or ThisTV.

That’s the bad.  There is plenty of good.  At the Access level ($29.99/month), you get national sports, cable news plus, AMC, and nearly 50 other cable channels.  For another $5/month, you get regional sports channels.  For $65/month, you get the full cable experience including HBO and Showtime.

On both the Roku and Fire TV, the user interface is slow.  There are a lot of programs to browse, but you can set up favorites.  After a couple days, I found the ‘recent’ channels row pretty useful.  I also found myself using the search function a lot.

Typical Vue Screen on a Roku

Typical Vue Screen on a Roku

The Roku experience is a very pretty and modern looking tiled interface.  I hate it.  The tiles contain too little information.  Often, you get season, episode, and the first couple words of a title — not helpful if you are browsing Friends (The one…).  There is no indication of start or stop time.  You have to drill down using the suddenly very slow interface to see if a movie is just starting or ending.

Sony Vue on a Fire TV Device

Sony Vue on a Fire TV Device

On the Fire TV, things are much better.  For starters, the tiles are bigger and contain more information.  There is also a grid style guide (though the guide only seems to have a vague idea of what time it is).  There is an Explorer mode which filters listings — Movies, PG, etc.

Fire TV Stick App Includes Grid Style EPG

Fire TV Stick App Includes Grid Style EPG

What’s the verdict?  I think PS Vue is a pretty slick supplement to over-the-air programming.  The Access level of service will satisfy cable news junkies.  Sports enthusiasts will find Core gets the job done.  Assuming $50/month for high speed internet, $90 to $115 per month for five concurrent streams is a lot less than many spend on cable.  I recommend the Fire TV stick, but Vue works just fine on your Rokus — even the older models.