GREENSBORO, NC -- Sometimes, your cable or satellite bill can be more than your electric bill!
The product "PlayOn" promises that you can cut the cord from your local cable/satellite service enabling you to watch your favorite TV shows for almost free. Does it deliver?
Tech expert Kent Meeker tested it out at home and has his pros and cons to share with you.
"If you have the technical knowledge, it works. It will cost you in both time and money (and that's providing you have the necessary hardware to accomplish it)."
What is PlayOn? According to the website: PlayOn is software that you install on your Windows PC. It allows you to use your Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Roku, iPhone, Android phone or another supported device to access movies and shows from content providers like Hulu, Netflix, Comedy Central, CBS, YouTube, MLB.tv, your personal media, and many more. PlayOn is both browser and media server software, built into one. It browses content from various online providers, and displays that content directly on your TV, iPhone or Android phone.In a nutshell PlayOn provides you with software, for a subscription fee, to turn your home computer into a Media Server.
What will you need? (Kent's Recommendation)
Windows 7/8 computer running the latest updates
4 GB RAM
Intel i3 Processor (AMD is fine too)
100MB Hard Drive (unless you plan on recording...then you'll need MUCH more)
Internet Connection: 3Mbps MINIMUM
A lot of time and patience....even if you are proficient in technology (computers/networking)
How much will it cost you? The cost chart is attached to this web article, but it starts at $24 a year. Of course, if you want to record your shows, you will need more hardware and the charge goes up. Plus, you need to have subscriptions to Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix subscriptions (which all have their own mobile apps, for free, anyway). And, this is the introductory price.
You still have to pay for your ISP If you don't own a Smart TV, Roku, Chromecast, PS3, Wii, you're not going to be able to use it in your house.
Buy or Don't Buy? Buy.....for some people.
"Like anything else, it depends on how dedicated you are to this process. It's going to take time to set up and, honestly, you'll more than likely run into some problems. Yes, there are individuals that will have the whole thing up and running inside of an hour but, odds are, you won't."
The variables and points of failure are many:
Do you have a firewall? (It'll need reconfigured)
Is Windows up to date (It will HAVE to be)
Do you have virus protection? What kind? (It will have to be reconfigured)
Do you have an Apple Computer? (Sorry....you can use it at all as a Media Server with PlayOn. They don't support it)
And the questions go on and on......
It works if you keep at it.
It's neat when you get it to work. (Tell your friends how smart you are)
PlayOn's website is VERY informative and helps when you get stuck-- and you will.
Not free, subscription based (and you can do the same thing for free honestly)
You're one new Windows update away from it not working again. (Requires constantly keeping up with your machine)
You may throw yourself off a cliff or walk into oncoming traffic before you finish setting it up.
"They make is sound so simple on their website and, if all the planets are lined up properly, it is. I'm not saying it's a bad product. It's not. I just don't think this is something the average Joe could pull off in a few hours....or days."
The quality is pretty good once you get it working. Problem is, if their are a lot of people on your home network (cell phones, tablets, computers, laptops, etc) it bogs it down. You're also at the mercy of your cell carrier when trying to use the app through your mobile device. Again, too many things can go wrong and most people won't know where to look to solve the problem.
Notes for Techs:
* Before installing PlayOn onto your computer CREATE A RESTORE POINT. (If I hadn't there would have been a Windows 8 reload in my future.)
* Know your in-home network. Though it might not seem like this is something that will stop you, it can. Know how many computers/devices are on the network at any given time and take a look at how much internal bandwidth you are consuming. It'll go up once PlayOn is loaded. Periodically check your Router/Switch for collisions.
* Wireless 802.11G? Yeah, I don't think so. PlayOn doesn't play nice with anything but 802.11N as far as I can tell. If you have wireless G router either throw it out or steer clear of this software.
* Make sure your hardwired NIC is setup correctly in Windows and that your cable from the Router to the computer is good. (If you have a cable tester, use it.)
* Don't even try to load PlayOn on a desktop that only has access to the router wirelessly. You'll be disappointed all the way around.
* Would you like to load PlayOn on an iMac? Yeah, me too. Sorry, PlayOn has no love/support for Apple.
* If everything doesn't go right for you initially have patience. Digging through firewall settings, port settings, and antivirus configuration more than likely will be necessary.
* Set aside an hour or so to get everything working and prepare to spend more time getting everything 'just right'.
* There are a lot of variables to consider when watching videos that you recorded (not streaming). If they are stutter, lag, audio/video won't sync you'll need to check everything from a slow hard drive to router firmware updates. Treat this setup like you would any other Server you work with and you'll be fine.
All that being said, it is fun. Sure, we could do the majority of what PlayOn is doing for free (think Ubuntu) but this is cool too once you get it working.
Still don't think it's worth what they are charging though for those of us who could set up a media server ourselves.