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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Bye bye, Fios boxes

We wanted a new(er) car

Hello, new over-the-air DVR box

PlayOn streaming

PlayOn needs a PC running

PC power use costs

PlayOn via the PS3

CBS on PlayOn

Internet video quality: It's no Fios

The challenge

The antenna

Antenna close-up

Antenna installed

Best-case scenario

NBC reception

CBS: No dice

Stay tuned

I decided to get rid of cable, which will shave $90-$100 off my monthly bill with Verizon. I was subscribed to the full package, which included pretty much every available HD channel on Fios, the Home Media DVR, and a second box. The transition to "free" TV may prove difficult.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
The money I saved on cable is enough to afford car payments.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
A DVR that can record HD channels via antenna, supplemented by streaming video via the PS3, will replace cable in my house.

I needed a TV solution that was easy and reliable. My first thought was the combination of over-the-air (OTA) HDTV with the Channel Master CM-7000PAL DVR. Provided I could get solid reception at my home nearly 40 miles from the main broadcast tower at the Empire State Building, we'd have all of the major networks with excellent video quality and not have to go into DVR withdrawal, or pay a monthly fee to TiVo.

Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Knowing we'd miss a lot of the shows that weren't available via antenna, however, I planned to use Internet video to fill in the gaps. The most content by far comes courtesy of PlayOn, a program that runs on a PC and allows streaming of Web-based video from Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, TV.com, CBS.com, and others to living-room-based devices like my PlayStation 3.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
One of the downsides of PlayOn is that you need a robust PC that remains on all the time.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
With my powerful PC, I figure it will cost about $9 per month extra in electricity. I'm investigating getting something more efficient.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Here's what PlayOn looks like at my house. It's a lot less familiar than the Fios program guide, but the wealth of content is truly impressive.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Since we can't get CBS reception via antenna, our only source of the network's programming is the CBS.com or TV.com Web sites, served up via PlayOn. (Editors' note: CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Here's an example of CBS on TV.com, which doesn't even look as good as standard-def on Fios. Other shows look somewhat better, and quality varies on different Web sites, but overall I'm really going to miss the crisp, pristine picture from Fios.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Getting the antenna installed at my house in the New York suburbs was trickier than the Internet portion. Part of the problem was my steep roof.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Solidsignal.com recommended a Winegard HD 7698P for my area. It took me a few hours to put the 14-foot monster together.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Here's where the free TV comes piping in.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
Poking out from behind the chimney you can see the antenna on my roof. This picture was taken before I raised the thing up the mast and pointed it properly.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
We do get a good number of channels via antenna despite the distance from the broadcast tower. ABC comes in beautifully.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
NBC from NYC is a bit more iffy, and sometimes cuts out completely. Luckily I can get the NBC station out of Connecticut much more reliably.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
We can't reliably get CBS, which is a major source of our weekly programming palette (I'm a Jets fan; she loves CBS daytime, "Medium," and Charles Osgood). TVfool pegs a "co-channel warning" as a potential culprit, and Wikipedia mentions a new transmitter permit for a "digital fill-in translator on channel 22" near my house, presumably to address the problem. Until it's built, however, we'll have to get our CBS fix online. (Editors' note: CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
I'll definitely miss this cable connection, but I won't miss paying for it. I'll be back with an update soon after we settle in with our new life of "free" TV.
Caption by / Photo by David Katzmaier/CNET
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