Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Aereo: Live TV on the Internet.


My brother, JohnMac, a resident of Atlanta wrote this review of Aereo which allows you to watch local tv stations over the Internet. It's not available in the Chicago area yet.

So, a few months ago, I read an article about Aereo.com.  If you haven’t heard about them, Aereo provides you with the opportunity to watch your local tv stations over the web.  Aereo does this by providing each subscriber with access to their own individual antenna so as not to run afoul of the copyright police. 

Once I heard that they were coming to Atlanta, I pre-registered on the site a few months ago, then forgot all about it.  Today, I received my email to start watching in advance of the official 07/01/2013 launch date.

Creating an Account:
Signing up was easy.  If you happen to be a viewer in the Boston, New York or Atlanta area, you can create an account on Aereo’s website.   You can either use one of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), or you can create an account directly with Aereo.
Sign up took about 30 seconds. After that, I was ready to start watching.

User Experience:

Web Interface:
I chose to watch Aereo on Google Chrome.  The interface is clean, if a little confusing to new users.  Instead of taking you straight to the guide upon login, Aero takes you to the featured tab, which shows upcoming shows which I didn’t find very useful.  I mean, I want to watch live tv, and I want to watch it now.  But, no worries, just click on the “Guide” tab and you get a nice view of your local stations in grid format. You can scroll to the right to see programs that are on later in the day. You then have the option to click on this show in order to record.
I did not test the Iphone/Ipad app, Appletv or Roku apps. Curiously, Aereo is not available on Android. Hopefully, that changes in the near future.

Watching Live Tv:
 Chose a channel or show to watch and double click.  After about a 2-3 second delay, your program starts the buffering/play process.   Basic controls within the in-browser player include Stop, record, replay, skip as well as the standard volume control and full screen toggles.  In addition, you can tweet and Facebook share what you are watching via dedicated player buttons for either social network.  Live tv is a nice feature, but it’s not the killer app.

Picture Quality:
Picture quality on the High setting is good. Playback is smooth with very little noticeable stuttering, pausing, or buffering. Some compression artifacting is noticeable, but this is expected as they need to be able to stream the signal over the internet. Picture quality remained constant throughout my viewing test.

DVR Functionality:
Recording a show can be done with one click of the record button.  I tested this while watching a live tv show, then attempted playback.
To watch a recorded show, simply click on the “Recordings”  tab on Aereo’s website, find your recorded show and watch.  Again, playback of the recorded show was smooth with no perceptible slowdown or buffering.
Aereo gives you 20 hours of recording space on their online dvr.  While smaller than a typical cable or satellite dvr, this is more than enough recording time for me as I intend to use this as a backup to my Directv account.

Overall Impressions:
Aereo is really doing internet-based tv right.  They are a cord cutters dream.  Cost of this service is very affordable at $8.00 per month, selection is very good and the dvr functionality is a big plus.  I think I have finally found my backup to satellite TV. I’m not prepared to give up DirecTv just yet, but Aereo is getting me closer to that point.

Pros:
  • Ease of use
  • Competitive pricing
  • Near HD quality
  • Selection of channels - - It gives me some local channels that DirecTv doesn’t carry in the Atlanta market
  • Online dvr functionality with up to 20 hours of recording time
Cons:
  • Some compression artificating
  • Limited to 3 markets at the moment.
  • No Android option

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