First, there's the cost of the device itself, which usually ranges from $49 to $199, depending on the unit. Internet TV devices can range from dedicated set-top boxes such as the Apple TV, Boxee, or Roku; gaming consoles like the PlayStation 3 or Wii; or many "smart" TV and Blu-Ray DVD machines.
Choosing a device is going to depend on one big criterion: does it have the services you need to get the content you want? If so, then you can start comparing and price shopping. Other features to use when looking at streaming devices:
- Connectivity to the Internet. Is it WiFi-only or Ethernet? WiFi works pretty well, but there's nothing better than streaming multimedia content over a dedicated Cat5 cable.
- Capability to play other content. Some devices have a USB port and software that will let you play additional content, such as home movies, on your TV.
- High definition/Sound. This is almost a given these days, but not always. Make sure the audio and visual quality is a good as your system can handle.
One thing you may also want to purchase, if you don't have one already: a good digital antenna. If you need to watch local channels (for news, weather, or sports), it's a must. These run around $100 to $150 for a good indoor antenna.
And then there's the almost invisible cost: the subscription for the broadband Internet service itself. You're going to need at least a mid-range broadband option to bring decent streaming into your home. If the cost of better Internet service will be more than the cable company charges, then all of this is for naught. Pay very close attention to the terms of service, too. If your Internet provider has any sort of a data cap on the monthly service, you could very well find yourself TV-less around the end of the billing period.
Once you have all the costs in hand, use the spreadsheet to add them all up. Don't worry that you will have an initial outlay for the new equipment you will be buying: focus on the cost per month.
If it's under the monthly cost of your cable bill, and you can watch most if not all of your existing shows, then cutting the cable may work for you. Go out and buy the devices you selected and get started. If there are monthly savings, then you can use those to figure out how fast your equipment expenses will be offset.
If the cable bill is still more of a bargain, or if you find there are too many shows you will lose, then don't worry, because this exercise hasn't wasted your time; it's proven that cable TV will work for you and you aren't losing any savings.
Either way, it's a win.
(Author's Note: Due to several inquiries in the comments, I have added an addendum detailing my own decisions and savings in my "Open for Discussion" blog.)