Help the Luddite Upgrade his TV: Firestick, Roku, ?, etc

Hi folks - I’m considering adding streaming video to my current old-fangled TV setup. The title for this OP shot my wad on knowledge about this stuff. So … I’m looking for advice / experience. It’s easy to Google up a lot of marketing materials that are selling so hard they leave out all the facts and all the background info that everyone (except me) already knows. Maybe y’all can help.

I have a non-smart HDTV connected to Comcast’s DVR connected to Comcast’s XFinity cable video service. I don’t actually use any of the Xfinity magical VOD stuff; I just watch the cable channels in my basic cable subscription using my old-fashioned DVR remote festooned with buttons. Only about 4 of which buttons I actually use. I watch 99% of my stuff timeshifted so I can skip the commercials. The TV has 2 unused HDMI inputs and one USB port although I don’t know the capabilities of the USB port.

I also have Comcast supplying my internet service over the same cable. Because I live in a condo building I’m stuck with Comcast for both internet & for the basic cable subscription. I don’t object to them, but it does mean I can’t switch to another ISP, nor cancel the cable TV part of their mandatory bundle to save a few bucks.

I watch sports, including non-US sports, documentaries, travel, & cooking. I have zero interest in movies, the hot new must-watch whatevers, and cannot imagine what degraded state of humanity thinks binge watching anything is desirable.

I don’t have, and don’t want, any kind of “smart speaker” interface to automate my life by giving it to Google or Amazon. This may not be relevant, but I don’t have, and really don’t want, an Amazon Prime subscription, but am willing to be persuaded otherwise.

I am interested in learning more about what streaming data sources are out there, specifically for sports, with some curiosity for things like Hulu (?) so I can watch some vintage TV for the nostalgia value. I’m clueless about the whole rest of the universe of stuff that may be out there that I might be interested in if I knew it existed.

The specific reason I’m considering getting something like this now is that MLB.TV is available for free to T-Mobile phone subscribers like myself. Which is great if you have a streaming rig to watch it on. “Watching TV” on my phones, tablets, or PCs is right out; If I’m gonna passively watch something it’ll be on a big TV.

So now I need to understand what device(s) I’d need to buy, what subscription(s) I’d be stuck signing up for, etc.

Anyone who’d care to educate, tell me what works for you, tell me what to avoid, etc. would be much appreciated.

I think your options are one of either a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Firestick. I have an Apple TV and Roku, and my recommendation would be to go with the Roku. It’s cheaper, it’s easy to use, and is going to have everything you need.

You don’t need to subscribe to anything to have a Roku. There are plenty of free apps to download that have streaming content. You can certainly improve upon that by getting a Hulu subscription, or Netflix, or Amazon Prime, etc.

Also, make sure you activate your T-Mobile subscription - I believe the last day for that offer is today.

I just replaced my old Roku with this new one

There is no setup fee, despite what you may read, and it’s dead easy; just plug it in, connect to the HDMI port and use your TV/Comcast remote to change to the HDMI channel you’ve connected it to. Once you do that, you can search for different streaming channels (free or paid) with the Roku remote. If you want Hulu or Netflix or some other paid service, just go online with your computer and sign up. Then go to your TV, download the channel, and sign in (it will remember your login information from then on).

The Firestick and the Roku are just delivery vehicles for content. They each have some free stuff, but if you want premium offerings you’ll of course need to pay.

At the moment, they’re functionally identical to one another. I don’t think there are major content providers on the Firestick but not Roku and vice-versa. MLB.TV appears to be available on both.

I bought my Roku because Hulu dropped support on my TV, and it was ultimately a great move. It’s very quick and responsive and the interfaces are a breeze.

This is the one I have.I got it on sale or I likely would have gotten the model Chefguy linked above.

The XFinity operating system offers a good chunk of what you get via Roku or Firestick built in. We got rid of our Roku because it was unnecessary to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, and it has interfaces for many (but not all) of the popular streaming systems. Not sure about the MLB option, but check first to see if you even need anything other than what you already have.

FYI, I have a Comcast X1 cable box and it has some streaming services built-in. If that’s the same box you have, look under Apps. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock (owned by Comcast) and some others (including some sports services) are available without needing another device. I don’t know if there is some advantage to streaming via a Roku or a Firestick.

Don’t know how familiar you are with and blackouts but you can’t watch your teams’ games if you live in the team’s market. Not even this year. Go here and put in your zip code to see who you won’t be getting.

The one issue with Roku and Amazon are they are trying to leverage their power to get concessions out of content providers. Right now both HBO Max and Peacock are locked in a battle with them and neither are on Roku or Amazon devices.

I have a (ancient) Roku, as well as an Apple TV for the main TV (though I have no other Apple products aside from an iPad), and Chromecasts on all my TVs.

AppleTV and Chromecast seem to be the most platform agnostic (which ironically is what Roku was originally sold as before the recent hubbubs) - with just their individual video services not available on the other - so no AppleTV+ or iTunes on Chromecast and no Google Play Movies on Apple TV.

Though for JUST MLB TV, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick should be fine - and they can be had really, really cheap.

I’m pretty tech savvy, and my Chromecast is a pain in the ass. I don’t like navigating by phone/laptop, as I prefer to having something on TV while I fiddle on my phone. Chromecast gets in the way of that. I’m not sure that would be my recommendation to a self-professed luddite.

But yes - the platform wars that Roku and Amazon are putting up are annoying. I get a free subscription to HBO Max, and I can’t get it yet via Roku, and it’s a pain.

I gave a Chromecast to my parents who aren’t super tech savvy and they figured it out quickly. But they didn’t mind using their phones as a remote. There are some advantages to that - that you can have something streaming on your TV as you browse your phone to see if you want to watch something else. On a streaming box, you can’t multitask that way - if you are searching, you are searching only.

Thanks all!

Ouch! That would totally be my style to procrastinate to the day after the offer ends. THANK YOU LOTS!

After spending an hour fighting with signing up I finally succeeded. Yaay free baseball! Of course you can only sign up on your phone, not on their website. Of course you need to first install T-Mobile’s advertising app. Of course it’s not integrated with their regular customer service app. Of course my password to mlb had expired and of course …

FYI the offer actually ends on Aug 4th.

After investigating it appears all the Xfinity streaming options requires the X1 subscription. Of course Xfinity’s website is full of advertising for X1 but makes it impossible to actually find out what it includes or what it costs. Or even to buy it sight unseen. Sigh!

For me that’s just the Marlins. Who’re lame enough that missing them is no biggee. They’re on Fox Sports FL as much as I need them.

Excellent tip though.

@Chefguy & @Johnny_Bravo

Thanks. That’s a winner. Not sure which yet, gotta finish fighting with Amazon’s website now. Did I mention my PC is also about to die of old age?

You don’t need a PC for a Roku or Firestick. They plug directly into the HDMI port in your television and then connect to your wifi.

Got it.

The issue with the PC is it takes about 3 minutes to load a modern script-heavy web page. So buying a single item on Amazon is a 30 minute process.

I was just about to do a complete tech refresh when COVID closed all the stores. I still need some in-person business tech services that I can’t get until some suppliers reopen locally.

At least the water supply is off in our building today. And the phone won’t quit ringing. It’s a very frustrating day here.

Thanks everyone for your help.

Well if your impetus for a streaming box is MLB, based on the news today (and since you are a Marlins fan, you have probably heard of it) that may be moot for 2020 :D.

Sadly you’re very probably right. I do have several of this week’s games recorded on my DVR yet to watch.

Actually the last couple of months have been some of the most fun baseball on local TV. They hand-pick games from the last couple seasons where the Marlins win and rebroadcast those pretty much as-was. They don’t exactly admit they’ve been cherry picking, but the Marlins win/loss record on my DVR is suspiciously close to 1.000. Their actual 2018 & 2019 records were in the high .300s. :wink:

A few months ago, I was looking to replace my 8-9 year old Apple TV. I bought a TiVO Stream, and I’ve been really happy with it.