Watching TV anytime, anywhere is now possible. No, I’m not talking about Tivo. Instead, we’re talking about watching Television on your laptop – that’s right, the 8lb computer you carry with you to Starbucks. It’s a lot easier than lugging your TV to a coffee shop to catch The Office on Thursday nights.
There are several options for watching TV on your laptop:
Downloads – This is probably the most ubiquitous TV timeshifting solution to catching your favorite TV shows when you want on your laptop. iTunes started the trend, offering downloads (currently at $1.99) hours after the show airs. The quality is good, the show selection is good, and the technology is easy. And of course if you want to see your favorite shows really small, you can always put them on your video iPod!
Amazon followed the trend by recently adding TV shows to their download store. Amazon has an advantage over iTunes by now having the shows of NBC, of which Apple will no longer carry new episodes after the current contract expires. So if you are interested in seeing My Name is Earl, The Office, Scrubs, ER, and other NBC favorites, head to Amazon.com.
Online Streaming – Several networks now offer shows for online viewing. NBC, for instance, offers several shows (including the Thursday night lineup) right after the West Coast airing. NBC, notably, offers shows with only one “made for the internet” commercial between segments, earning them advertising dollars and saving you time (the one hour season premire episode of The Office clocked in at 41 minutes online). Missed Dancing with the Stars? It’s on ABC.com. Check the network site of your favorite show – most of the more popular shows are online after broadcast, and more are added all the time. My question is when is House going to be offered online? Only watching it one time isn’t enough to catch all the good lines!
TV tuner card – For the average computer user, it’s is much easier to get a TV tuner card to work with Windows Media Edition. For a laptop, simply hook up to your USB port, configure the included software, attach your cable and a/v connections, and you are set. This is good if you want/have to watch TV in a room that doesn’t have a TV, or the picture is better on your laptop – otherwise you might as well hunker down on the couch in front of the actual TV.
One good use for this method is if you are watching what TV execs like to call a “Dishwashing Show” – you are in the middle of doing something else (in this case, work on your computer), but you want to listen in on your show and check in every once in awhile. A ball game that you aren’t paying rapped attention to would be a good example of this.
Check out the PlusTV USB 2.0 Analog Stick ,(which is currently $25 with good reviews at Buy.com). It also records shows for you. At that price, you can’t go wrong.
Slingbox – Ah, Slingbox. Everyone has heard of Slingbox, but I don’t know that many people who have it. Slingbox works by streaming your TV signal to your laptop, where ever you are. You connect Slingbox (which looks, appropriately, like a box) from your TV connection to an Internet connection in your house (your cable/satellite or desktop), which then broadcasts it to your laptop, where ever you are. DVRs, cable, and satellite boxes can be controlled from your location (aka flipping the channel). You can only broadcast to one computer at a time (so you can’t broadcast a show to all your friends’ computers when you meet at Starbucks), but you can set it up to broadcast to different laptops at different times. The Slingbox software works on Windows, Macs, and certain mobile devices as well (such as smartphones and PocketPCs.
Slingbox current retails for $189 at Amazon.com.
MobiTV – MobiTV is a cool concept. MobiTV turns your PC, laptop, and even your cell phone into a TV. You don’t have to install any hardware or software, just sign up for their service. While fairly geared towards the mobile phone market, it’s a great way to watch TV on your laptop without having to install anything. Among the channel line up that MobiTV offers are Fox News Channel, The Weather Channel, Fox Sports, A E;, Fashion TV, Oh! Oxygen, and Biography Mobile. A great choice if you are a news junkie!
They offer a free trial at http://www.mobitv.com/ – check it out.
Life is busy and you don’t always have time to sit in front of the TV and watch your favorite show in peace. Kids run around, the phone rings, or you may have to work late. But you don’t have to be caught scratching your head next week trying to figure out what you missed – have your TV come to your laptop.