Want a new TV? Our guide has everything you need to know ahead of Black Friday sales

 

 
 
 
 
Staying at home has never been more entertaining, and the monthly tab could be less than you spend going out for a movie and a popcorn.
 

Staying at home has never been more entertaining, and the monthly tab could be less than you spend going out for a movie and a popcorn.

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Staying at home has never been more entertaining.

You can tap into a virtually endless supply of music and put your feet up to watch entire seasons of The Walking Dead, or your favourite movies.

And, not counting the cost of your online or TV connection, the monthly tab for all that entertainment could be less than you spend going out for a movie and a popcorn.

Of course, that’s after you shell out for your new $4,500 65-inch curved 4K TV.

Is it time to upgrade your TV? How do you choose the streaming service that suits you best?

So you’ll have a chance to prepare before the shopping frenzy that is Black Friday, we bring you some answers to those questions.

When do you know if it’s time to change your TV?

First, how old is it? If you bought your TV before 2000, you’ll see a striking difference in today’s models, even if you buy at entry level.

What is the resolution of your TV? If it is 1080p, you may be OK to stay with that for a while longer before upgrading to 4K. But if your screen resolution is 720p or less, you’ll probably appreciate an upgrade. With the price of 4K TVs dropping, you may find one as low as $1,000. However, if your home theatre requires a 70-inch-plus screen, get ready to shell out upwards of $10,000 or more.

Is your TV fat or super skinny? Even if it has a flat screen, if you can’t hang it flat against a wall, chances are it’s an older model that has seen better days.

How big is it? If you bought a 32-inch because it was so cheap, but you need binoculars to see the puck when the Canucks play, perhaps it’s time to upsize. The THX, which sets standards in audio visual entertainment, recommends you find the optimum size by dividing the size of your screen by .84. That means you’d have to sit just over three feet away from that 32-inch TV (the measurement is on the diagonal). If your couch is just over six feet away, THX recommends a 65-inch TV. That’s probably larger than you expected and price may play a part in your decision to buy smaller than optimal. The good news is that TV prices are always going down, so that 4K TV that is outside your budget this year may come within reach next year.

How smart is your TV? Smart TVs can connect directly to the Internet, although there are lots of set top boxes, such as Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and others that will let you connect to online services such as Netflix. Also if you have TV service such as Shaw or Telus Optik TV, they’ll offer streaming services as part of their menu.

Curved or flat screen? We had Samsung’s 65-inch SUHD curved TV to try out for a couple of weeks, and felt it was a much more immersive experience than a 55-inch model. Viewing was better at extreme angles than with our a TV, although some critics say the difference isn’t enough to pay a premium for the curve.

Streaming services

There are a number of services, including U.S.-only ones such as Hulu or the U.S. version of Netflix that some Canadians access by using a VPN blocker — a controversial practice in which they use a virtual private network to mask their location, allowing them to sign on for services not available in Canada. However, we’ll look at three main ones in Canada.

CraveTV, by Bell TV, is $4 a month, and focuses almost exclusively on television shows. So far it is only available through a subscription with your television carrier. That changes in 2016 when CraveTV will be untethered and available as a stand-alone service, like Netflix and Shomi.

Shomi is a service launched jointly by Rogers and Shaw that also started out as only available to TV subscribers, and was expanded to a stand-alone service for $8.99 a month.

The pioneer in video streaming in Canada, Netflix, starts at $7.99 a month, although you pay more for HD and up to $11.99 a month for four screens.

While such services were predicted to spell an end to traditional programming, a report entitled The Growth of the Network Media Economy in Canada, 1984 — 2014, by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project, concluded that such services “do not appear to be cannibalizing the revenue of existing media, but expanding the size and diversity of the media economy overall.”

“To be sure, watching television the ‘old fashioned way’ is on the decline, but this is largely being offset by changes in how people watch television,” the report said. “In this regard, watching television over the Internet and via mobile devices has largely resulted in television viewing time to remain relatively consistent over time or even to rise.”

The biggest factor in picking a streaming service is the availability of the titles you’d like to see. Netflix has become a powerhouse content producer, with exclusive hit shows like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None or Keith Richards’ documentary Under The Influence. These titles usually are not affected by regional restrictions, so if you like Netflix’s exclusive productions, you’ll want to aim for that. It’s high quality programming.

Crave and Shomi have more HBO and “pay TV” content than Netflix, so if you want to get your HBO fix without subscribing to HBO, these are good services to look at. Crave also has some Amazon content, including the Michael Connelly series Bosch, based on his best-selling novels. Both Shomi and Netflix have a one-month free trial so you can have a marathon viewing session to figure out which one you can’t live without.

Can one person on my home watch a movie and another a TV show on the same service at the same time?

With Netflix’s cheapest service, $7.99/month, you can only watch on one device at a time; $8.99/month gives you two streams; $11.99/month up to four. Shomi lets you run two streams at once.

How much data are they using? Does it cost extra?

Streaming video on your mobile device won’t run up your cellular data use as long as you’re on Wi-Fi. However, if you’re on cellular, watching video can cut into data quickly — make sure you are tracking your data usage if you’re watching streaming video on your phone or tablet.

On your TV, read the fine print — or not so fine print. Carriers have imposed data caps on most plans — although you can pay extra for an unlimited plan. If you go over your cap, you may have to pay extra. Many viewers won’t reach their cap but we know it happens — we have.

Telus says streaming video through Optik TV uses between .2 and 0.9 GB per hour. Shaw says using Netflix will consume 3.5 GB for a two-hour HD movie, and 1.46 GB for a 30-minute TV show. Rogers says Shomi uses around 2GB/hour when streamed to a laptop, 1.4GB/hour to a smartphone or tablet and around 2.6GB/hour when streamed to an Xbox.

If you have a television subscription, check with your provider. For example, if you access Shomi using your Shaw (or in Eastern Canada Rogers) set top box, that data won’t count against your data cap.

 
 
 
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Staying at home has never been more entertaining, and the monthly tab could be less than you spend going out for a movie and a popcorn.
 

Staying at home has never been more entertaining, and the monthly tab could be less than you spend going out for a movie and a popcorn.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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