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Everything You Need to Ditch Cable on a Budget

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A cut coaxial cord and a Fire TV streaming stick.
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Ditching cable for streaming is easier than ever, even if you’re a sports fan or a sucker for live broadcasts. But as streaming prices rise to cable-like levels, the question is no longer “can you replace cable with streaming,” it’s “how can you ditch cable on a budget”? Here are the free services, streaming bundles, and OTA equipment you need to cut the cord without breaking the bank.

Start with ayour smart TV, which will quickly grow slow and unreliable, an affordable streaming stick will work at full speed for years and cost very little to replace.

Roku Express and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick Lite are two of the best budget streaming sticks, clocking in at just $30 each. Both streaming sticks come with tons of free on-demand content and hundreds of free live TV channels through The Roku Channel and the Fire TV app. And of course, they support all of your favorite streaming services.

If you own a 4K TV, consider buying the Chromecast with Google TV, Fire TV Stick 4K, or Roku Premiere. They cost a bit more than the Roku Express and Fire TV Stick Lite, but that’s the price of 4K HDR streaming! The Chromecast with Google TV is a particularly strong option here, with a personalized interface, Google Assistant support, and an all-in-one “watch list” that compiles shows and movies from all of your streaming services.



Roku Express

The affordable Roku Express grants instant access to all your favorite streaming services, plus tons of free content through The Roku Channel. Grab one now and ditch cable.



Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick Lite opens a world of streaming services and free content through the Fire TV app. If you’re a Prime subscriber or an Alexa user, Fire TV might be the the low-cost streaming solution for you.

Pluto TV

Why pay full price for streaming? There are dozens of free streaming apps with on-demand content and live TV channels to satiate your thirst for new content. And when you need a premium service like Disney+, there’s usually a bundle, extended trial, or discount to help you subscribe without emptying your wallet.

Crackle: Crackle was one of the first streaming services to offer free, ad-supported content, and its rotating selection of hit shows and blockbuster movies is almost always worth your time.
  • Pluto TV: Pluto TV is the sleeper streaming service of your dreams. It offers a cable-like live TV experience with contributions from AMC, MTV, and dozens of other networks. Plus, Pluto TV contains a couple thousand on-demand shows and movies, including Star Trek, The Nanny, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and other titles that you rarely find outside of Netflix and Hulu.
  • Peacock: NBCUniversal’s Peacock is a tiered streaming service with free and paid content. You have to sign up for an account, but you won’t mind once you start watching Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec without paying a dime.
  • Tubi: Like Crackle, Tubi offers a rotating selection of shows and movies and always has one or two blockbusters.
  • IMDb TV: Amazon’s IMDb TV has a killer selection of shows and movies, including Malcolm in the Middle, Mad Men, and Degrassi. Prime TV content will sometimes find its way to IMDb TV, so keep your eyes peeled!
  • Xumo: Like Pluto TV, the Xumo streaming service packs dozens of free channels into a cable-like experience. It’s great for news, sports, and documentaries.
  • Plex: Plex now features nearly 150 free TV channels, including some killer options for anime fans, music nerds, and kids.
  • Prime Channels: Not many people know about this, but Amazon has tons of free live TV channels for Prime members. A Prime membership isn’t free, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re already a Prime subscriber.
  • While these free services offer an impressive amount of premium content, they lack some new shows and movies, and of course, they’re all ad-supported.

    don’t have to pay full price. Here are some ways to save money on all the big boy streaming platforms:

    • Bundle It: You can save a ton of money signing up for streaming bundles instead of individual services. “The Disney Bundle” includes Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ for $14 a month (or $19 if you want Hulu with no ads). With it, you save $5 a month or $60 a year.
    • Annual Plans: Nearly every streaming service offers a 10%-20% discount when you pay for a full year up front. Of course, you only want to do this with services that you use all the time. Canceling other services when you aren’t using them could save you a lot more than 10% or 20%.
    • Student Discounts: Some streaming services, like YouTube Premium, offer massive discounts for students. There’s also the “Spotify Premium with Hulu” bundle for students, which packs together Spotify, Hulu, and SHOWTIME for just $10 a month (that’s $16 a month in savings).
    • Partnered Deals: Some phone carriers and credit card companies offer free streaming subscriptions for their customers. Verizon customers can get Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for free, and some AT&T customers get HBO Max for free.
    • Limited Time Discounts: Most streaming services go on sale at least once a year, especially around the holidays. If you don’t want to wait for a discount, you could try hunting down some discounted gift cards for streaming services.

    None of these savings options are as cheap as, you know, not subscribing in the first place. But they’re still better than paying full price. If you want to save even more money on your premium streaming services, try “rotating” your subscriptions—canceling the ones you don’t want so you pay for as few services a month as possible.

    1 BY ONE

    Sometimes, it’s better to be old fashioned. Free over-the-air TV provides a cable-like live TV experience, with local channels, news, sports, and even some heavy-hitters like ABC and CBS. And funny enough, free antenna TV has better picture quality than cable!

    Setting up OTA TV is incredibly easy. Just buy a digital antenna, screw it into your TV’s coaxial jack, slap it on a window, and hit the ground running. You can even watch OTA TV through your Xbox or PlayStation with the help of an external tuner. (TVs have built-in digital tuners, but game consoles, projectors, and old tube TVs do not.)

    Of course, you might want to check which channels are available in your area before committing to OTA TV. If you live in a remote area, you should also consider using an outdoor antenna, as an indoor antenna may not pick up a wide selection of channels. If you want to add DVR and a channel guide to your OTA TV experience, grab an OTA box like the TiVo Bolt.



    1 BY ONE Digital Antenna

    Screw this digital antenna into your TV and gain instant access to tons of free channels, including ABC, CBS, PBS, and local sports.

    Setting up a Plex server takes a bit of time and effort, but once it’s done, you can stream your shows, movies, and music on any device—even devices outside your home!

    To set up a Plex server, you first need an always-on device that can run the Plex Media Server software and hold all of your files. An NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is the easiest and most popular choice, though you can use cheaper devices like the Raspberry Pi 4 or an old laptop.

    You also need a large storage device, like an external hard drive, and of course, a collection of digital movies and shows. If you have a large DVD or Blu-Ray collection, you can use a DVD or Blu-Ray drive to rip the files from your discs.

    Those who plan to stream to multiple devices at a time should also consider signing up for Plex Pass, a $5 per month that waives the Plex app’s download fee and grants access to exclusive features, live TV, and DVR functionality.

    Tech

    What to Look for in a Desktop Computer

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    Vector art of a young man programmer working on computer with code on screen
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    Desktop computers give you an at home setup that’s often more powerful than a laptop and a lot easier to upgrade over the years. Purchasing a desktop PC can seem incredibly intimidating, especially if you’ve never purchased one before. Here’s everything you need to know to help you make an educated purchase decision and find the right desktop PC for you.

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    You might think there’s only one type of style, or “form factor” as it’s commonly called, of desktop PC—the traditional tower PC. Although that’s the most common, it’s not the only form factor. And it might not be the right form factor for you.

    When thinking about which desktop type is right for you, the biggest thing you’ll need to consider is how much space you have to work with. Then, you’ll also need to decide between buying a pre-built PC and building your own.

    not as complicated as it might seem. It’s a little bit like putting together pieces of a puzzle. Plus, building it yourself will save you a little bit of money.

    Seasontime/Shutterstock.com

    You’ll also need to consider what you from your computer’s internals. If you want to play beefy games with beautiful graphics and no lag, you’ll need to invest in heftier, more expensive internals. If your main purpose in a desktop PC is to run work programs or use it for schoolwork, your internals don’t need to be as intense but there are still minimum requirements you should consider.

    CPU has four or two cores, respectively. The more cores your CPU has, the more efficient your desktop PC will be. If you can snag at least four cores in your CPU, this is best for most people. If you need to use your desktop for gaming or any more intensive programs, you may want to invest in a CPU with more cores.
  • Windows: If you plan to use your Windows desktop PC for simple tasks for work or school, you don’t need a super powerful CPU. You should aim for a current-gen Intel Core i3 with 4 cores or an AMD Ryzen 3 processor with 4 cores. If you want a bit more power or you just want to future proof your desktop PC, you could spring for an i5, i7, Ryzen 5, or Ryzen 7. Lastly, if you mainly want a desktop PC for gaming, you should consider buying an Intel Core i9, Intel Xeon, or an AMD Ryzen 9 CPU.
  • macOS: In the future, Apple desktops will no longer be powered by Intel CPUs, but instead by Apple’s very own silicon M1 CPUs. If you’re purchasing a desktop PC from Apple, you don’t have much say over the CPU you get, but historically, Apple’s in-house CPUs have been pretty powerful. Depending on which size desktop you choose, you could either be getting the M1 CPU with 8 cores or a 10th-gen Intel i5 with 6 cores or i7 with 8 cores. Eventually, Apple will completely move away from Intel and all of its computers will be powered by its own in-house processors.
  • Chrome OS: Chromeboxes typically come with a mini PC form factor. The most common CPU brand you’ll see for Chrome OS mini PCs is Celeron. Really any CPU from Celeron is great for Chrome OS, especially if your main purpose for your desktop is simple work or school tasks. You could, however, spend a little bit more money for an Intel Core i3 or even i7 with some mini PCs.
  • Linux OS: If you want to install Linux on your desktop, follow the above recommendations for Windows OS desktops. These two operating systems function similarly with the same CPUs.
  • Although choosing your CPU is a huge decision, you’ll also need to decide on how much RAM and storage you need as well. Though the CPU is like your desktop’s brain, it still needs the right support from other components to run as smoothly as possible.

    choosing a storage option, you’ll need to choose between a hard disk drive (HDD) and a solid state drive (SSD). Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option:

    • HDD: An HDD can usually offer you more storage, but they’re slower than SSDs. A lot slower, in fact. But if you’re on a budget and storage is your priority, you might consider going with a larger size HDD.
    • SSD: SSDs are your best option for storage if you can afford it. They are so much faster and will help your desktop load programs at lightning speeds. You might not be able to get as much storage for an affordable price, but you’re paying for speed when you get an SSD over an HDD.

    Also, consider how much storage you want. Depending on the brand you get, HDD sizes range from lower numbers of GB, like 250 or 500, all the way up to 2, 4, even 16TB. SSD sizes are similar to HDD sizes, but you’re paying about double or more for the same storage capacity. If the computer you’re buying or building has space for two drives, you can use an SSD as your main (system) drive and an HDD for your storage drive. Then you get the speed of an SSD with the capacity of an HDD.

    GPU is referred to as an integrated GPU. For most people who are using their desktop lightly for school or work, an integrated GPU is all you need.

    If you’re a gamer or you need crisper graphics for a school or work program, consider purchasing a dedicated GPU. This is an additional internal part that would go into your computer tower to boost the graphics power.

    If you purchase a pre-built desktop PC, pay close attention to whether it comes with just a CPU or an additional dedicated GPU. If you’re custom building your PC, check out our guide on choosing and installing your GPU.

    Pakito/Shutterstock.com

    If you think purchasing a desktop PC is over when you buy the PC, think again. There are quite a few peripherals, or extra accessories, that you’ll need to purchase to complete your experience. You may have a few of these items already, like headphones or a computer mouse, but some of these items might need to be completely new purchases for you.

    best computer monitors you can buy here.

    And you’ll also need to decide whether you want one monitor or a multi-monitor setup. Think about your desk space and how you want to use your monitors to help you decide to buy one, two, or even three monitors.

    The Best Computer Monitors





    Dell Ultrasharp U2719DX 27-Inch WQHD 2560×1440 Resolution IPS Monitor with Infinity Edge Bezels, Black





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    The Best Massive Screen Monitor

    AOC AGON Curved Gaming Monitor 49″ (AG493UCX), Dual QHD 5120×1440 @ 120Hz, VA Panel, 1ms 120Hz Adaptive-Sync, 121% sRGB, Height Adjustable, 4-Yr Zero Dead Pixels Manufacturer Guarantee





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    the Best Budget Gaming Monitor

    ASUS 24″ 1080P Gaming Monitor (VG248QG) – Full HD, 165Hz (Supports 144Hz), 0.5ms, Extreme Low Motion Blur, Speaker, Adaptive-Sync, G-SYNC Compatible, VESA Mountable, DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D , Black





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    The Best Monitor for Creators

    LG 27UK850-W 27″ 4K UHD IPS Monitor with HDR10 with USB Type-C Connectivity and FreeSync, White





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    mechanical keyboards, which will allow you to feel and hear each click and clack. There are backlit options that will help you find keys in the dark, gaming-specific keyboards, and keyboards with or without number pads on the side.

    Then, you can also decide between a Bluetooth, wireless, and wired keyboards.

    Don’t just buy the cheapest keyboard you can find on Amazon. Take your time to do a little research because you’ll be spending a lot of time typing on your keyboard. And trust me, you can feel the difference between a cheap keyboard and a quality one.

    quality computer mouse. Although there are a lot of subtle differences between computer mice, you’ll mainly be making your decision between a Bluetooth, USB-wired, and USB-wireless mouse.

    There are so many niche options for computer mice, including great ergonomic options and mice that are specifically great for gaming.

    quality microphone is essential.

    If virtual meetings are going to be essential for you, you should also invest in a quality webcam.

    a monitor stand. Monitor stands lift your monitor to a more ergonomic height to reduce eye and neck strain, while also giving you more storage space.

    There are different materials to choose from, like metal, wood, and glass, as well as different styles like a dual monitor stand or a monitor stand with extra storage. You can’t really go wrong with choosing a monitor stand, as long as you measure your desk beforehand to make sure it’ll fit.

    SpicyTruffel/Shutterstock.com

    Another major consideration when making your desktop PC purchase is the available ports. You need to make sure it has enough ports for everything you want to connect to it for your perfect desk setup. Plus, you’ll also need to make sure all your peripherals are compatible with the available ports on your PC tower.

    Wi-Fi has improved significantly over the years. So if you’re not able to reach an Ethernet port from your desktop set up, don’t worry. You will, however, need to make sure there’s a Wi-Fi card inside your desktop to allow you to connect wirelessly to your Wi-Fi router.

    few different types of USB ports, though the most common ones you’ll see on a desktop PC are USB-A and USB-C.

    USB-A ports include USB 2.0 and USB 3.2 ports; you typically use these ports to plug in your keyboard, a wireless mouse, a microphone, or other peripherals. Depending on how advanced your peripherals are, they may have a USB-C port connection.

    Just make sure that the desktop PC you purchase has enough ports to connect everything you want to.


    While that’s a lot to consider, hopefully you have a better understanding of what sort of things to look for when purchasing a new desktop computer.

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