CNET's Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.
Cheeps! Today's deal is all about something old mixed with something new -- indeed, a marriage of sorts, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
You probably know of my fondness for PlayOn, which turns your PC into a DVR of sorts, allowing you to sling and/or save streaming video from virtually any online service: AMC, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Comedy Central and so on.
Just one problem, or, should I say, limitation: Although the PlayOn mobile app lets you stream this content from your PC, it doesn't let you download it for offline viewing. Your only option there is to manually transfer downloaded videos, a slow and laborious process at best.
PlayOn Cloud, which launched today, takes the PC completely out of the equation. Using a mobile app, you can choose items you want to "record," then download them directly to your phone or tablet. There's no subscription fee as with PlayOn proper; everything movie or TV show is a-la-carte.
Is this legal? Yep: PlayOn has been around for years. If it was violating any laws or terms of service, no doubt it would have been litigated into extinction by now. That said, PlayOn Cloud is currently a bit more limited than its desktop counterpart: It lets you record from just a dozen channels and services, though all the major ones are there.
To the cloud!
So it works like this: You install the PlayOn Cloud app (which is currently available for iOS only and an Android version is expected in early 2017) and then sign into the various services. Needless to say, you need to have an active Netflix subscription if you want to record from Netflix, a Prime subscription to record from Amazon, and so on. PlayOn is merely providing the download piece of the puzzle.
Then you browse or search, find something you want to download and spend a credit to buy that recording. Credits cost 99 cents each, and here's where we finally get to today's deal: For a limited time, you can get 25 PlayOn Cloud credits for $17.50 when you apply promo code cheapskate. That's a Cheapskate exclusive, gang, a deal you won't find anywhere else!
By the way, you don't have to limit yourself to 25 -- this effective rate of $0.70 per recording (instead of $0.99) is good for up to 100 credits.
When you nab the deal, you'll be prompted to create a PlayOn Cloud account, which will also net you five free credits. So in reality you're getting 30 credits for $17.50 -- though I should mention you can also get the five freebies without buying the 25. Just sign up for an account within the app. (Even current PlayOn subscribers get the free credits.)
Get HBO Now to go
This is currently the only way to download Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now content for offline viewing. And in the vast majority of cases, 99 cents is way cheaper than buying or even renting a TV show or movie. For example, "Deadpool" is currently showing on HBO Go. It would cost you $14.99 to buy from iTunes -- and it's not even available to rent. Episodes of Netflix exclusives like "Orange is the New Black" would cost you $1.99 apiece from iTunes (or $2.99 for HD).
One nice added perk: If you're getting TV episodes from a network, PlayOn can automatically skip the commercials while you watch.
The only real downside I've found is speed: As with the desktop version of PlayOn, your "recordings" are processed in real-time -- even though they're happening on a remote server. So a two-hour movie takes two hours to record, not including the time it'll then take to download to your device. That means you'll need to plan ahead if you're stocking up videos for, say, a long flight.
And there you go! I'm curious to know what you think of PlayOn Cloud. I did some brief testing during the beta and found that it works exactly as advertised. It's far more convenient than the desktop version, at least for taking your recordings with you. And I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure 70 cents per recording is better than 90 cents!
Bonus deal: I don't dislike the Microsoft Surface, I only dislike the price and the fact that it doesn't include a keyboard. But now we're getting somewhere: Best Buy has the Surface Pro 4 and Alcantara Signature Type keyboard cover for $599.99 shipped (plus tax). That's at least $300 less than what you'd pay elsewhere. This is the Core m3 model with a 128GB SSD, so not a powerhouse, but that keyboard is way snazzier than the usual colored ones. Read CNET's review of the Surface Pro 4 if you're still on the fence.