Cancelled your Cable and TiVo Service? Spblat assesses the options - AVS Forum
View Poll Results: Your top pick in the $100-or-less media box category?
AppleTV 3 6 23.08%
Roku 3 10 38.46%
WDTV Live 1 3.85%
Roku LT 0 0%
Google ChromeCast 0 0%
WDTV Play 0 0%
Something Else 9 34.62%
Voters: 26. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 26 Old 08-26-2013, 02:28 PM - Thread Starter
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After thinking about it for awhile I've cancelled my Comcast and Tivo service, because more and more we're watching stuff that comes from Netflix or Hulu or...other sources. Someone asked me for my thoughts about the $100 boxes out there and since the answer is more than 140 characters and I don't blog anymore, I thought I'd post them here.

AppleTV
I have an ATV3 and I like it.

Pros:
  • Great interface.
  • Nice expanding selection of apps, including Hulu and Netflix.
  • Great for families with lots of iWhatevers. Integration with the music, TV and Movies you have in iTunes (if any) works very well. Airplay lets you share videos or photos or web pages. Some nights we take turns presenting our favorite YouTube nonsense from our phones to the big screen.
  • I believe Apple has something big to announce over the next few months in the TV space. I don't think it's an actual television yet but...something neat.

Cons:
  • No Amazon Prime streaming.
  • Limited format support and no DLNA support: local files have to be transcoded and streamed via iTunes.
  • You might just hate Apple.

Roku 3

I tried a Roku 3 and I returned it even though I think it is very cool for most folks.

EDIT Nov 2013: I love the Roku. Because of its wide support for streaming services, and with the amazing Plex, it's now what I use more than anything else.

Pros:
  • Nice interface.
  • Lots of apps, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, many others.
  • Neat Wii-style motion-sensing remote is well suited for video games. Angry Birds Space comes free.
  • Clever gimmick lets you use the included earbuds connected to the remote for private listening.
  • Roku seems to be succeeding, which means more apps and continued innovation.

Cons:
  • If you want to stream your own files (like a collection of DVD rips), you need a Plex server, not just a DLNA server. And the Plex server has to transcode the files Roku can't handle, like MKV. This is why I returned it: I have a Synology NAS in the garage that serves up files at high speed but a) I don't want to deal with the transcoding quality loss and b) the Synology doesn't have the horsepower to transcode anyway. This is my esoteric reason for returning the Roku. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about here and you're not much of an Apple fan, then the Roku 3 is probably a very good choice for you.

Sony BDP-S590

I mention this because I happen to have one. It's your run-of-the-mill $100 blu-ray player with Internet features.

Pros:
  • It plays blu-ray discs and they look amazing.
  • It supports Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming.

Cons:
  • Its streaming features are clunky and annoying. Hate the GUI. XMB is so 2006.
  • It has native support for lots of file formats and it handles DLNA streaming pretty well, but it sometimes reboots out of nowhere when playing weird files. Other files it can't play at all.
  • In many cases when streaming an MKV over DLNA it will simply stop when you try to pause or fast forward/rewind a video. The only way to get forty minutes back into the file you were watching is to start over!

WDTV Live

I got one of these yesterday and despite its shortcomings it's a keeper with my AppleTV because of my particular preferences.

Pros:
  • DLNA streaming of the files in my garage works like a champ. Has none of the shortcomings that plague the above devices.
  • Streams 1080p MKV and M2TS files with crazy stuff like Dolby TrueHD or DTS audio without transcoding.
  • It seems to be receiving periodic firmware update attention.

Cons:
  • It doesn't seem to handle lossless 7.1 DTS audio over DLNA. I'll check again tonight.
  • Sometimes does this thing while rebooting where it blinks the whole display in seizure-inducing green until you reset its HDMI connection. I may swap it out in hopes this is a defective model.
  • The UI is not good. Made by a hard disk company and it shows.
  • Out of the box it needs two (or three?) sequential firmware updates, taking about an hour.
  • It's facing stiff competition. I predict WD doesn't have a future in the TV business.

I didn't mention the Internet features being built into most TVs nowadays. My Panasonic VT50 has Internet streaming features that are too lame to mention and I have no experience with what other manufacturers are building in. My intuition is that Samsung probably has a decent set of features on its recent TVs but I have no actual clue on that.

So what do you think? Anything to add, clarify or correct?
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post #2 of 26 Old 08-26-2013, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spblat View Post

My intuition is that Samsung probably has a decent set of features on its recent TVs but I have no actual clue on that.

I can verify that with my own. They have most of the biggies, Netflix, VuDu, Hulu-Plus, Amazon, and others like Youtube, etc., and that was what was loaded by default. A lot of shows show up on the web, too (of varying quality, so it depends on how tolerant you are), so I'd recommend something with a web browser.

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post #3 of 26 Old 08-26-2013, 04:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

A lot of shows show up on the web, too (of varying quality, so it depends on how tolerant you are), so I'd recommend something with a web browser.
This is why I like AppleTV. Browse with iPad, find show, mirror to TV with Airplay. I've not yet seen a TV box with a browser that wasn't awful.
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post #4 of 26 Old 08-26-2013, 04:11 PM
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The Samsung browser isn't bad (it's not great, but it's usable, similar to Firefox down to the tabs.) I'm sure the iPad browser is leagues better.

But I was more addressing that video streamed on random webpages vary in resolution, so if you're picky, watching stuff in the browser may not be for you, but if you're a resolution slob like me, it's a boon. cool.gif If it's flash, it should play in the Samsung browser.

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post #5 of 26 Old 08-27-2013, 03:45 PM
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I wish they would have sold the new 12 GB PS3 Super Slim for under $100 as it is the best for Netflix however not so great for Amazon Instant.

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post #6 of 26 Old 08-28-2013, 07:14 AM
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I voted something else, because you just can't beat the flexibility of a PC. The last PC I bought for streaming purposes was $50 on ebay, so it's well within the budget. It has no limitations whatsoever. You can play any file, go to any streaming site, torrent, whatever floats your boat. Add an OTA tuner plus Windows Media Center, and you've got yourself a nice DVR, at least for the major networks. Granted you'll probably want to spend more eventually, but think of what you're saving by not having cable or Tivo. Heck, if you're already streaming files over DLNA, that means you already have a PC. All you have to do is connect it to your TV and get an IR remote dongle for it.
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post #7 of 26 Old 08-28-2013, 01:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I agree the flexibility on a HTPC solution is great. I did that for a long time, had a Mac Mini alternating between Plex and a few other packages. It was pretty cool. Remote control was an issue, and lots of tweaking was (and continues to be) involved, so I think HTPC is not a good option for mainstream people who just want a $100 box that works without significant customization or effort.
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post #8 of 26 Old 08-28-2013, 02:07 PM
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But none of the other options has a decent browser, which is essential for streaming absolutely everything. If you just want a few streaming services and some file streaming, I'd agree any of your options is good enough for the average Joe. But you've completely cut the cable, so you need access to everything, not just a couple of good streaming services and a ton of bad ones. So you're stuck using a PC. And to use a browser on a PC, you're stuck using a keyboard/mouse and/or app in addition to a remote for easy playback outside the browser. I don't really see any other choice unless you can get buy with just Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

A compromise would be keep your HTPC as your server and use a Raspberry Pi running XBMC (and Bluecop especially for cable TV replacement) connected to your TV and controlled entirely by an IR remote. I've done that in the past with good results.

Bottom line is there is no cheap streaming box that can almost replace cable TV at the moment.
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post #9 of 26 Old 08-30-2013, 09:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdavej View Post

Bottom line is there is no cheap streaming box that can almost replace cable TV at the moment.
Agreed. Since writing the above I've returned my WDTV Live and tried out the NSZGS7‎ GoogleTV gizmo from Sony. It's going back too because its format support is worse than the WD and it can't be controlled using my new Harmony Smart Control (which I love). And I've revisited the Internet features on my Panasonic VT50. It does satisfactory Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Streaming, plus its DLNA playback is better than I remember. It does a perfectly good job on all my rips and MKV files. Its only weakness compared to the WDTV Live is that it can't handle Dolby TrueHD found in some of the demos I like to play with. But even so, the WD couldn't handle lossless DTS formats and those formats are rare online anyway so I'm back to using MultiAVCHD to make a demo volume my Blu Ray player can play from USB and I'm over it.
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post #10 of 26 Old 08-30-2013, 11:07 AM
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Why do so many of you care about playing files from your PC to device since you need to leave the PC on too do that. You can just view it on the PC then.

All three PCs are off when not being used. Leaving them on all the time does not extend life nor does turning them off cause wear. Leaving them on all the time does waste electric.

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post #11 of 26 Old 08-30-2013, 12:53 PM
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Let's see PC screen is 19" and office chair. TV screen is 53" and comfy throne. Hard choice. biggrin.gif
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post #12 of 26 Old 08-30-2013, 02:10 PM
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My laptop screen is only 17" 1080p. My older computer Dell monitor is 24" 16:10 1920x1200 so pictures and videos look great.

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post #13 of 26 Old 08-30-2013, 08:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reddice View Post

Why do so many of you care about playing files from your PC to device since you need to leave the PC on too do that.
I can't speak for others. But I have a little Synology box in the garage that all the computers in my house use for various things: it's our family's file server and the home theater's DLNA server. So it's always on anyway.
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post #14 of 26 Old 09-01-2013, 09:02 AM
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Greetings All

I too vote for the HTPC, I cut my cord about 5 years ago and the versatility of having every thing in 1 box I find so convenient.

I don't have to worry if there is an APP for that, 1 remote (projector and sound system), small wireless mouse and keyboard. and that's it.

My computer has a HDTV OTA tuner (computer is now a DVR), BluRay drive with Cyberlink software (player and 3D), a boat load of removable storage ( only my wife and I in the house so no need to network, on the rare occasion we want to watch something in another room, we just move the storage device).

We have Netflix, Amazon, OTA channels, free Hulu, free Xfinity, the various network websites (wife loves Project Runway, Lifetime streams it the day after airing).

In my opinion (I know everyone has one) a HTPC puts a world of viewing at your finger tips, On occasion I'll go through a Proxy Server to watch the BBC on their BBC Player, try that with with a smart TV.

I've tried many different things (waiting for my Chromecast to be delivered) but always go back to the HTPC, a HTPC with an OK internet connection (I'm @ 3Mbs DSL) and a LED projector what else would you need.

Going with a HTPC (@ $500, the cost to build my latest one), has all the smarts are in 1 box, you don't need a smart TV (and projectors are dumb) or a BluRay player, a HTPC is all in 1 box.

I do have a Roku (small flat screen in spare bed room), I do have a tablet (@ 55 yrs with fat stubby fingers, it is not easy to use), as does my wife (she is on it all the time). a couple of laptops (haven't turned mine on in almost a year), even with all those devices all our media is viewed on a projected wall through a HTPC.

Now lets get to the cord cutting, just for price comparison in 94 I had Direct TV and a dial up 9,600 modem on AOL paying by the hour (remember those days) and my monthly bill was well over $100. Today, FairPoint $35, Netflix $8, Amazon Prime $8, so today I'm paying half of what I was 20 years ago and I have many more choices as to what and when I watch something.


Well that's my 2 cents worth:)




AFM
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post #15 of 26 Old 09-12-2013, 05:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Conrad View Post

Let's see PC screen is 19" and office chair. TV screen is 53" and comfy throne. Hard choice. biggrin.gif

I have a 46" pc screen. That is what the ht in htpc means, home theater.
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post #16 of 26 Old 09-15-2013, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhufnagel View Post

I have a 46" pc screen. That is what the ht in htpc means, home theater.
LOL. Yeah, I have no interest in watching videos on my PC or phone or ipad or whatever. I watch everything on the HTPC connected to my 55" TV, aka, Home Theater PC. Get a universal remote, and it works just like my old cable/satellite DVR, only better.

I also agree 95% with Afineman. Where I disagree is using the PC for disc playback and Netflix. Standalone players are cheaper, easier and have better PQ, IMO. But my HTPC makes a great DVR, file streamer, video/picture/music library player, web browser, etc. A decent universal remote can make playing media from any source (PC, BD player, streaming box, etc.) a seamless experience.

And you don't have to spend $500 or more. The PC you already have will probably do the job with a little addtional hardware/software. Or a second hand PC plus a few upgrades. I paid a whopping $50 for my HTPC on ebay and a couple hundred to add storage, RAM, tuners, etc.
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post #17 of 26 Old 09-16-2013, 12:12 PM
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I have a 13 year old HD RPTV so no HDMI in and 1080i only. I do have an HDFury that connects with the BD player but now a lot of the other players such as Roku won't do 1080i out. So really cutting the cable switch I am about to do with Comcast would cost me a new TV with HDMI. If I cut entirely it is possible with the savings to pay the set off in 8 months. Funny thing is I have a 53" set and the 55" LCD sets always look smaller. But a new set would give me all kinds of extra options including playback from my Android tablet.
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post #18 of 26 Old 09-16-2013, 02:24 PM
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Well if you have no other choice, then doing it all on a PC makes more sense. You're not going to notice the loss in PQ on an old RPTV like that anyway.
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post #19 of 26 Old 09-17-2013, 01:55 PM
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The 13 year old RPTV look great. Bob over in the CRT section here re-soldered the power supply about three years ago and it looked better than when it was delivered. There is overscan on it and I was planning to have him shim the tubes to get rid of it. However the horizontal resolution is only ~1000 pixels or probably 1024 and the vertical is 1080 but with overscan about 960. A lot of people actually prefer the picture on these sets over digital sets.
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post #20 of 26 Old 09-19-2013, 08:27 AM - Thread Starter
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OP here. I have reached nirvana.
  • Roku 3 (yes I backtracked and grabbed another one) for all the online streaming services and the Plex client
  • Synology NAS
  • Linux box running Plex Media Server, Sick Beard and nzbget
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post #21 of 26 Old 09-20-2013, 04:08 PM
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Are you using the Synology's DS video channel?

Mike Scott (XBL: MikeHellion, PSN: MarcHellion)

"Think of the cable company as a group of terrorist (sic)." -- hookbill
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post #22 of 26 Old 11-18-2013, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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Are you using the Synology's DS video channel?
Nope. Synology hosts the media and Plex Media Server runs on another box, accessing that media over NFS.
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post #23 of 26 Old 07-04-2014, 08:08 AM
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Interesting disussion. Been looking for threads about cord cutting, not finding that many. Maybe just don't know which sub-forum to check.

Sorry...this'll be a long post. To some extent, i'm thinking on screen here.

I've had an HDTV since 2005. I almost never use it any more. Maybe I need to revisit. Some thoughts on HTPC:


* WAF - is a huge factor for me. She is technology averse, and wants it as simple as it can be. Even with a universal remote, she doesn't like it. (Recently, for some reason, my HDPC is not responding correctlly to the remote. For example pushing up, it goes up only one time...topic for different thread).

* PC Updates a PITA - Of course, my main problem related to that is I use it so infrequently, that when I do turn it on, it always needs an update. Irrespective, having to do the maintenance, virus software updates, etc. is an annoyance.

* Sleeping the unit - I prefer to not leave it on all the time. But, waking and having it work smoothly, is not a consistent experience. Again, maybe i just need to get things updated (it hasn't been 'not updated' since 2005..but it has been quite a while now). There again...more maintenance.

* Mousing - I don't see a convenient method to mouse when browsing. I have a Gyration remote/mouse, but it's not really very good.


Cord Cutting
For the savings, I am seriously interested in cord cutting. I have a ROKU3, and like it pretty well.

I'm currently playing all TV through an Epson 5010e to a 92 inch Firewawk screen. But, will be moving soon, and no longer using that. I plan to get a Samsung 75 inch UHD smart TV. So I'll be able to stream through that. Not sure what the browsing experience will be like.

With the need for more time to research, I am thinking of a few concerns related to cord cutting:

* WAF, of course. ROKU is pretty simple, so WAF may not be that big a deal. But...
* Overall content: we certainly watch some cable specific content. TNT, History, Science, Discovery to name just a few. I know some of the content is available, but not sure to what extent, or how current.
* Adding the need to use a browser to get to content definitely makes things less convenient
* Speaking of convenience...having a menu of the shows we watch and unwatched shows collected in the interface (ie. the Hopper DVR Recordings) is so convenient. So there is a battle between the $ savings and the convenience.
* Multi-room watching: this is a big one. Unless smart TV / ROKU meets all needs, and willing to purchase new TVs for all rooms, this one could be the deal breaker
* TIVO - could possibly fill in for a fairly high percentage of the TV we watch (local stations), and make it convenient. It's a fairly expensive buy in, but could be paid for in about 7 months of savings by cutting the cord. But still have the other content issues.

I guess that's it for now. I've about talked myself out of cord cutting while writing this post. It'll be interesting to see what others think about this
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post #24 of 26 Old 07-05-2014, 04:51 PM
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I think most of your issues could be solved if you want.

- Remote and sleep/wake: A new dongle and better remote would likely solve this. I've had many IR dongles that go out to lunch after waking, but my Ortek is 100% reliable in this respect. Then if you use built in codes rather than learns (or a Harmony upgrade that hasn't been tuned properly), then it should behave as expected. Wifi or at least RF will also improve remote response and reliability.

- Updates: Turn them off. If it works, you never have to update again, with the possible exception of virus definitions.

- Mousing: Some love gyration, but I (and you apparently) hate it. Any keyboard with a touchpad works great for me as does any smartphone app with mouse functionality. Those are both far more accurate and easier to use than a gyration. I like the Logitech k400 and Hippo Remote myself.

- Missing Roku streaming goodness: Use both Roku and a PC. With a decent remote switching sources can be done with one button press. Then you get the best of both worlds. It's probably safe to say most of us who use a PC as a DVR also use some other device for streaming (and discs). Doing that also means you almost never need a keyboard/mouse for your PC.

There's still too much content I can only get on cable for me to cut the cord, although I've considered it many times. But my HTPC works flawlessly 99% of the time. The few issues I have from time to time are usually entirely my fault (installing new hardware/software, accidentally unplugging something, etc.).
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post #25 of 26 Old 07-07-2014, 03:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdavej View Post
I think most of your issues could be solved if you want.

- Remote and sleep/wake: A new dongle and better remote would likely solve this. I've had many IR dongles that go out to lunch after waking, but my Ortek is 100% reliable in this respect. Then if you use built in codes rather than learns (or a Harmony upgrade that hasn't been tuned properly), then it should behave as expected. Wifi or at least RF will also improve remote response and reliability.

- Updates: Turn them off. If it works, you never have to update again, with the possible exception of virus definitions.

- Mousing: Some love gyration, but I (and you apparently) hate it. Any keyboard with a touchpad works great for me as does any smartphone app with mouse functionality. Those are both far more accurate and easier to use than a gyration. I like the Logitech k400 and Hippo Remote myself.

- Missing Roku streaming goodness: Use both Roku and a PC. With a decent remote switching sources can be done with one button press. Then you get the best of both worlds. It's probably safe to say most of us who use a PC as a DVR also use some other device for streaming (and discs). Doing that also means you almost never need a keyboard/mouse for your PC.

There's still too much content I can only get on cable for me to cut the cord, although I've considered it many times. But my HTPC works flawlessly 99% of the time. The few issues I have from time to time are usually entirely my fault (installing new hardware/software, accidentally unplugging something, etc.).
I appreciate the input. Good info.

I may have to try to revive the HTPC.

I am likely in the same boat as you regarding dropping cable, or, in my case, Dish. I have to say I really like the Hopper.
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post #26 of 26 Old 07-07-2014, 06:10 PM
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Just went to check out Hippo Remote. Appears to be ony for i-stuff. I'm an Android guy. I'll see what I can find that works on Android.
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