Fr Z with a question: TV, wifi, etc.

Whenever I ask the readership a question, I am amazed at the number of well-informed people pipe in.

Question about TVs.  Actually about those big monitors, which is pretty much what they are now.

As I contemplate some relocation issues, I am wondering if there are good, fast “wireless” TV/monitors which don’t need a cable, coax or cat-5, from the wall or satellite box, etc.

I am thinking I won’t get “cable” at all, just internet.   After all, with cable there are “57 channels and nothing on”, as the song goes.  More like 357, and I don’t mean “magnum”.  You can subscribe to channels and get news on youtube, even live events.   And I don’t watch much news anyway, lately.  It’s all just too… dreadful.

The idea is to have the monitor on a large rolling stand.  There will be need for a power cord, of course.    Without having to have a specific cable connection, the whole thing could be easily relocated to another wall power plug.

I would probably attach a UPS on the bottom of the stand.  Any components (e.g., a region-free blu-ray player) I want to plug into the monitor would go on the stand’s shelves and would draw their power also off the UPS.

Fast router for fast wi-fi directly to the “TV”.

Any thoughts?  Have any of you been down this path?  Minimum speeds?  Hardware?   Get my own router?  Use the internet provider’s router?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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26 Comments

  1. haskovec says:

    I would say for sure skip on cable not worth the money. It will depend on your internet provider if their hardware is decent or not. Some Cable Internet providers will let you buy a DOCSYS 3.0 modem so you can choose the hardware you have other providers like AT&T Fiber make you use their hardware (which is junk so I put a network in that routes around it).

    For the TV portion personally I recommend an Apple TV plugged into the Monitor (if you aren’t an Apple person than a nice Roku). It has been the best TV experience I have found. The issue with shelling out money for a “Internet Smart TV” is they tend to put underpowered hardware in there and rarely update the software so after a few years they don’t work well. I prefer to go cheaper on the TV and put the money into an Apple TV4k.

  2. dafrenchman says:

    Allo,
    Sounds like you should get a SMART TV…. or just had a TV stick to any TV with HDMI….
    Roku TV stick, Amazon FireTV stick, Google chromecast.

    All of those can be controlled by your phone, Screencast, Roku and Amazon have a remote.
    All of them are powered by the tv. So less wires.
    Wifi will be needed.

    Hope that helps.

  3. dafrenchman says:

    Oh and do you need a regular router or a travel router?

  4. Julia_Augusta says:

    You can buy a monitor and connect it to your laptop or iPad via a cable. The monitor won’t be connected to the wall and you can move it around your house. Whatever you can watch on your computer/iPad, you can watch on the monitor. The monitor doesn’t even need to have a wireless chip inside.

    There are monitors that do have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and are Apple Airplay enabled. If you have an iPad or any other Apple device, you can stream it to the wireless monitor via Airplay.

    As for Wi-Fi, you will want one of the new Wi-Fi 6 routers. TP-Link Archer makes good routers. I have one at home and the range is really good. I did not need to buy a mesh Wi-Fi router, which you may need if you are moving to a big house with many rooms.

    Your ISP will provide you with a modem but you will want to buy your own Wi-Fi router because the ISP Wi-Fi routers tend to be the cheapest and not the latest model. But you need to update the firmware of your router from time to time.

  5. Julia_Augusta says:

    You could also just get the new Apple 24” iMac. Put it on a stand and you can wheel it around the house. It’s got Wi-Fi and you can watch everything on it without needing “TV”. It will be available in May in several gorgeous colors.

  6. mamajen says:

    What you’re describing is pretty common now. Many people do streaming only for TV. Any “smart TV” will have WiFi and built in software that will connect to most of the well known streaming providers and channels.

    You might not want to get too smart, as there is some concern about what hackers might do with built in cameras and microphones that come with some TVs (but I suppose there’s similar risk with computers.)

    There are also “smart” DVD players that can connect to WiFi and stream to your TV if you’d rather not have a WiFi TV. Actually, I’ve just looked up the DVD player you’ve linked to, and that one is smart. If you had that, you wouldn’t need a WiFi TV. You’d just stream from the DVD player. I have a similar Sony model and it works great for streaming (although no Disney+ support yet, so I also have a Roku stick).

    Here we have cable broadband internet (standard speed, allegedly up to 200mbps) and I purchased my own combination cable modem/router (Motorola/Arris Surfboard). I didn’t want the rental fee or the clutter of a separate router. Some experts say combination devices are not the best, but I’ve been happy with mine. It is located close to the TV.

    We’ve never had an issue streaming with our equipment and the regular cable broadband.

    I like to check wirecutter.com when I need to buy new tech.

  7. knappkj says:

    I always remind folks to think about security and privacy when making tech purchases.

    For instance, many/most smart TVs are surveillance devices for big data collection. However, you can still get a big TV that doesn’t have a ‘spy’ camera and microphone built into it –avoid these.

    Also, for routers, some routers today have decent security built into the product and are still fast. I own a Synology RT2600AC, fast with nice security features.
    https://www.lifewire.com/best-secure-routers-4140134

    An UPS is a great purchase Fr Z — smart.

  8. Josh Beigs says:

    For the router, I would definitely suggest you use your own router, instead of renting the ISP’s for $5 or $10 a month. Most ISP’s have a site where they’ll list makes and models of routers and modems that they certify as being compatible with their network. There’s no technical reason you couldn’t go with one not on the list, but if you ever need tech support for connectivity issues from the ISP, it’s pretty likely they won’t do anything further once they note that your device isn’t officially supported. Finally, I’d suggest buying a dedicated modem and separate router, rather than a router/modem component. Makes it easier to isolate issues, and if one goes out, you can replace just that part instead of the whole thing.

  9. Lurker 59 says:

    SMART TVs are wastes of money as they are redundant components once you start adding any sort of streaming player. The hardware for streaming devices, which are cheap and inexpensive, will be upgraded multiple times over the life of your SMART TV, the hardware of which becomes quickly slow and out of date.

    TV/MONITOR — Get the dumbest TV with the best picture that your money can buy. Ignore ALL features but picture quality and having HDMI Audio Out.

    SOUND BAR — Get an all in 1 sound bar and mount it under the TV on that stand. I am a big fan of the Yamaha ATS-1080 (Costco variant) / YAS-1080 and following generations that use Dolby DTS:X. They really fill larger room well.

    Media — Amazon Fire Stick for media consumption with Sling App. With your setup, I would consider strapping a ChromeOS device (Chromebook/ChromeStick or some HomeBrew) to it in addition or instead and use a Logitech K400 keyboard (unlike other wireless keyboards these have considerable range and a built in trackpad)

    Router — Don’t use or rent WI-FI routers from your ISP. Provide your own. What you needs can depend on your living situation (needed coverage area and construction). I highly recommend TP-Link’s Deco lines if you need area coverage and expandability. If the distance between your modem and TV/computer is all within a 1-2 horizontal room radius, a good TP-Link or Asus single router would be fine. Really anything $50-$80 that is a Gigabit Dual Band Radio (2.4 and 5 ghz) will work. You really only need something more expensive if you are running a lot of devices or are running bleeding edge wifi tech.

    UPS — Not needed. You are not running anything that cannot lose power and UPS are intended for you to safely power off your hardware / switch to backup generator not keep running until the power comes back on. A good surge protector is all that is needed here.

  10. jflare29 says:

    If I understand you correctly, you’re basically looking at streaming internet on a TV? For example, if you wanted to watch YouTube, FSSP Mass, EWTN, or other internet-based content, you could do so, but on a TV, not computer.
    If that’s it, I might suggest using a broadband modem, a router with wifi capability, a short tower pc, and a large-screen TV connected to the pc via HDMI. Use your TV as the pc monitor, access whatever website you need, and go from there. ..And, of course, once at the website, use the full screen capability. …For certain events like Easter or Christmas Mass from the Vatican–usually on EWTN–I have done precisely that on my pc. Works quite well.

  11. JustaSinner says:

    As I type this I’m watching ‘New Tricks’ on Amazon Prime with a system you’re inquiring of. Have a 55” LG SmartTV WiFi’d to our WIFI router from ISP. It’s 5G, so more than fast enough for streaming shows/channels. No additional hardware needed. Has a surround sound built in..$393 at WalMart. I connect my CAD Station to it via DVI/HDMI and it’s dual use. Put your PC on the cart and it’s a mobile system.

  12. NB says:

    The other commenters are right about a smart TV. I’ve been pretty happy with 4K TCL Roku TVs as they pretty much do everything for a really attractive price, and those prices have continued to fall (global chip shortage notwithstanding). Even 4K Samsung smart TVs have gotten very much affordable. Or, if you inherit a non-smart TV with an HDMI port, you can use an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick/Cube and do the same thing.

    I’ve put together a few setups very similar to your own described situation, one even was a 75″ 4K TV for a parish, others were for corporate/educational settings. I used ONKRON stands from Amazon and they were pretty sturdy. I see there are even more options now. The UPS is a great idea, as is the DVD player on the shelf. The Wi-Fi chip in any mainstream mid-grade TV such as those TCL or Samsung should be able to keep up with any Internet-based streaming option you throw at it.

    Yes, the TVs are very much like monitors now, except for screen refresh rate. You think it won’t matter to you at first, but it may. I used a 43″ 4K TCL Roku TV as my primary monitor for awhile instead of 2 24″ LCD monitors side-by-side. It was pretty cool and was sharp as a pin. Had the real estate of a stock trader using 4 monitors.

    Skip the cable package from the traditional cable provider and maybe catch Tucker on YouTube while he is still allowed to post his highlights there. Sign up for YouTube TV or AT&T TV Now or Hulu or something if you want to continue to watch FNC and similar live cable TV without having a contract, wired set-top box, and additional fees. You will certainly save on the set-top-box rental over time, even if the live TV streaming prices have crept up over the past few years to match what the traditional cable providers are charging. This keeps you flexible if you need to move again and/or are travelling a lot.

    EWTN streams live for free over any device with the exception of some licensed movies etc.

    I believe OAN is available via KlowdTV.

    I don’t have time to watch barely anything anymore, especially live, so I catch what I can on YouTube (other than LifeSiteNews, who were “Cancelled.”).

  13. NB says:

    Minimum speeds? For what you are doing, if it’s coaxial cable Internet, I would recommend you get a minimum, minimum of 100 Mbps down and 10Mbps up, and that’s… cutting it really close. Your livestreamed Masses might not make it, and it might get a little tight when trying to co-host some kind of livestream or podcast. But it would work. 5Mbps up? No. Honestly, even if you had 75Mbps down, you would probably be just fine, but in order to increase your upload speed on cable Internet you often have to jump up to their highest or second-highest tier to get something like 20 Mbps or 35 Mbps. At that point you often have 650Mbps or 1000Mbps download speeds, which are awesome, but overkill.

    If you get a fiber connection you could get away with 75/75 minimum. I am really happy with my 200/200 fiber connection.

    As for the router/modem itself: It all depends.

    If you are going to move somewhere on the East Coast or wherever you get Verizon FiOS, get it. If you are getting just FiOS Internet (which I really like, and at $39.99/mo. for 200Mbps/200Mbps you can do amazing things), you can just plug any consumer-owned router into the ONT (optical network terminal) and live your life. If you are getting FiOS *and* FiOS TV (their cable package), you have to either purchase or monthly rent one of their routers so as to feed channel guide information to their set-top boxes, which you also have to rent monthly (as with any other provider). This last part is rather dumb when no one else I know does this, but we can come back to the cable TV part later.

    I will say that Verizon’s new white WiFi-6-compliant G3100 routers are absolutely beastly and dispel the old adage about ISP routers.

    If you move to an area where Spectrum is offered, they usually include a cable modem as part of the monthly with no cost difference if you elect to use your own modem. You are responsible for using your own router. I believe Spectrum has moved to all no-contract pricing which is great, but sometimes their bundled ads are a misleading.

    If you move to an area/site with Comcast, and you are not getting their landline home phone, I recommend using your own modem, such as the good-old Arris SB6183, or their newer units such as the Arris Surfboard 8200 (really pricey but more futureproof). I have had good luck with some cheap TP-Link modems and a few Netgear at some sites too. I do not recommend purchasing an all-in-one cable modem/router/Wi-Fi unit from Arris or Motorola unless you have to for some reason.

    Of note, Comcast’s Midwest region, which stretches from the Twin Cities to TX, has had 1.2TB data caps, contracts, and higher prices than the East Coast for years. Comcast’s East Coast customers are just getting the data caps for the first time ever, in the middle of a time where so many people are trying to work/study from home, no less, but the prices are still lower on the East Coast and there are fewer contracts.

    Apply similar standards to RCN as Comcast (buy your own modem).

    If you move to an area with AT&T Fiber, I believe they mandate that you use their gateway/router in conjunction with their ONT. Not idea, but livable. You can still piggyback onto that unit.

    If you move to an area with Frontier fiber optic, chances are it used to be owned by Verizon FiOS but was sold off at some point. I am sure many of the same technical rules that were true with Verizon FiOS still apply.

    Google Fiber? Yay, and yes, hello, Big Brother/Big Tech, but they all are.

    Starlink? Thanks to Elon, you can probably move anywhere now. The r/starlink Reddit page is pretty neat to watch.

    LTE? TMobile has a pretty great option right now for unlimited home LTE Internet for something like $55/mo. Will that have what it takes for your live Mass streaming? Probably not as great, but you never know. Verizon is slowly rolling out its 5G-to-the-home at a good price as well, but it keeps interfering with my Gates RonaJab. Just kidding. (I am not getting any of these vaccines).

    DSL? ………

    Everyone has a horror story about every ISP, of course. Your results may vary greatly even with the same provider no matter where you live.

    You can always piggyback your own router on top of any ISP-provided router (as long as your own router uses a different LAN IP scheme) and in many cases this will be fine, with some exceptions.

  14. NB says:

    Router:

    I am all about Ubiquiti Networks stuff these days, even if it isn’t perfect. Been using it for years. Not for the un-techy, but it’s the cheapest way to get enterprise or enterprise-ish grade stuff that just works and is very scalable. The “real” IT professionals here might tsk, tsk, and refer to Ubiquiti as the Wal-Mart of business networking gear. I would agree, but then again, Wal-Mart gets the job done, even if Target does it in a more refined and pricey manner. My ideal solution is a Ubiquiti Networks Dream Machine, or a Ubiquiti Edgerouter X coupled with a Unifi AC Long-Range access point (AP-AC-LR). The latter is cheaper and has a longer Wi-Fi range on its own, and I would argue it is even more reliable, but requires more time-consuming setup.

    I think you would have fun with the Dream Machine (also known as the UDM). You can go down the rabbit hole really easily with Wi-Fi and networking gear like you can with ham radio stuff, and have a lot of fun on the way.

    If you are going the prosumer route, which would probably do you just fine as well:

    Ubiquiti’s own Amplifi line, also very good. Recommend the Amplifi High-Density Home Wi-Fi router. Is about half the cost of the Dream Machine.
    Netgear Nighthawk R7000 or greater (an old favorite)
    Linksys…anything over $100, as long as it has good reviews and has gigabit Ethernet ports is probably good enough.
    Maybe a TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 compatible router? This may the somewhat cheaper but possibly less robust option.

  15. Father Z may actually need a UPS if he appears on a live TV or radio program remotely, which is common these days. We wouldn’t want him to cut out in the middle of an important interview.

    I do second the notion of cutting the cable though. That money goes directly to the purveyors of garbage to further fund their efforts at destroying our culture, even if one does not watch the garbage. A lot also goes to overpaid professional athletes, many of whom are also complicit in the destruction. The whole concept of cable TV is basically obsolete in any case.

    As for the TV, I imagine that most large screen TV’s these days have a wireless network capability built in. That said, I wouldn’t want to rely on it for anything important or anything that would be annoying if it doesn’t work right. I made sure I wired my home. I have no trouble, but all my sister and father and clients using wireless networking do is complain about the wireless quality. My mother is wired, and she doesn’t complain nearly as much. When I researched my podcast on wireless networking, I discovered that a wireless access point is limited to power of a tenth of a watt. Now I know why everyone is always complaining. I’d get a long wire if possible. I know no one wants to hear that, and it may not be practical in a given case, but that’s my experience for what it’s worth.

  16. NB says:

    Lurker is right about the UPS unless you want the show to keep going on via Wi-Fi while you unplug and relocate the TV.

    He is also right about how quickly outdated a smart TV can get now when you can just replace/upgrade the Roku, Amazon Fire, etc. plugged into it which makes it “Smart.” However, my counter to that is that non-smart TVs are harder and harder to find so just get a smart TV anyway, and when it stops being smart, just plug a newer Fire stick or similar into it. (Or stop buying Samsung TVs with their proprietary nonsense and get Roku…..) I’m just being cheeky, Lurker clearly has your best interests at heart too.

    None of this stuff lasts anymore than a few years now. It’s all junk and either breaks in a few months/years or becomes obsolete the moment you take it out of the box.

  17. moon1234 says:

    For a large TV, pick one that you enjoy looking at first and foremost. Cheap is not always best. Almost all TVs today have some type of built-in streaming. Don’t pick your model based on built-in “Smart” functions.

    Time will make these features in-operable. No money is supporting years old apps on an out of date platform built-in to the TV. Pick a third party streaming device that supports the services you are interested in using. Be that Roku, Firestick, Apple TV or just a plain computer with a wireless keyboard and mouse. All a webcam to the last option and you have a nice video conferencing solution in addition to a TV.

    I would not worry too much about bandwidth from an ISP. Anything that is 20Mbps down and 10-20Mbps up will be more than sufficient for a single person who is watching TV or video conferencing.

    For WiFI you can “rent” that function from your ISP for $5-10 per month or purchase your own. Many people say buy your own. BYOD for WiFi is somewhat dependent on your technical capabilities. If you prefer to just have it work then pay the ISP. If you are comfortable setting these items up then pick your device and away you go.

    Sony and Samsung make good panels, just stay away from the bottom tier models. I recommend a Roku ultra streaming device. They support screen mirror from Windows PCs, MacOS via AirPlay and Android via Miracast. They are about $80 and can be found in almost any big box store. Plug it in and use it via WiFi or Ethernet.

    Don’t overthink it. First and foremost pick a good looking panel. Color accurate, decent brightness, good motion accuracy (No judder, motion blur, unnatural smoothness, etc.), good off center picture, etc.

    One thing to also think about as a downside of “Smart” TV platforms is that almost all of them have built-in advertising now. You will see ads in the guide and most likely in the “Smart” interface. For this reason I suggest using a third party streamer where the ads are more easily blocked.

    Good luck and have fun with the shopping!

  18. I’ve learned a lot from these comments.

    THANK YOU.

    Regarding the monitor/screen itself, apart from “smart” or “dumb”, any recommendations? LED? LCD? OLED?

  19. adriennep says:

    We are quite happy with an older 40 inch TV with Roku box and an HDMI port to stream from my iPhone as needed (with Lightening to HDMI connector). And though we have our own WiFi router, I am frankly more concerned with the effects of cancer from all these radio wave frequencies…hence we turn off the router at night. Electronics never in the bedroom. And really, isn’t a bigger TV just a bigger opportunity for sin? Certainly it is call to more distraction in life, and who needs that? We feel the need for media fasting now, not for supporting the evil Google/YouTube BigTech axis.

  20. adriennep says:

    A 4.5k Retina display from Apple all the way. In June their latest iMacs (which are spectacular) will have larger models, maybe 32 inch. But even the 24 inch at that quality would be great. So the desktop computer can become the “TV,” eliminating separate devices in a living room with stunning screen quality, 1080p camera, and awesome sound. Plus there’s your desktop instead of in an office. Watch their demos of the new “center stage” feature from the built-in iMac camera for your video cast needs. They almost designed this for podcasters. I trust Apple with the privacy issues, especially with Siri type stuff.

  21. mrjaype says:

    In our house, our TV is internet capable, but instead we use a small bare-bones computer made by us.shuttle.com. This is connected to our TV; the TV becomes a giant monitor. Using a wireless keyboard/touch pad combo, we find this much more easy to use, search, and navigate than the remote control that came with the TV.

  22. Lurker 59 says:

    @ Fr. Z — Regarding the monitor/screen itself, apart from “smart” or “dumb”, any recommendations? LED? LCD? OLED?

    Depends on your budget and the media that you are consuming. Yes, one can get an 8K TV with 3D capabilities but there is next to no media out there for such devices. There really isn’t much 4K content either and there is the real issue that if you are back far enough from the screen, your eyes cannot tell the difference between 1080p and 4K anyway. Happens quicker than you think. That said, there is often little price difference between a 4K and a 1080p, though I would still recommend 1080p and putting the money into a better brand/panel type than into 4k, all things considered.

    There is also the question of lighting conditions and needed viewing angles. Your more expensive panels are going to handle off center angles better as well as brighter lighting conditions. But if you are center in pitch black an inexpensive LCD TN panel will be quite beautiful.

    Everything has its place and it is about fitting things to your conditions. As an example, some people really like the look of glossy screens but then install the TVs right across from a window or some other light source. They might like a glossy but what they need is a matte.

    FYI — I do think that spending thousands for a high end panel is a waste of money. It is better to buy midrange and wait a few years for the high end to fall in price to midrange and get a new TV. I like OLED/QLED but don’t think they are worth the money at all. You would be happier sinking the money saved into other components.

    Another consideration — if you are watching 60fps and/or lots of sports content, you should pay attention to the refresh rate (higher is better) and response time (lower is better) for the TV. If you are hooking it up to a PC/Laptop/Xbox, make sure that the response time is under 5ns (2ns ideally) native or has a “gaming mode” that can be switched on.

  23. Lurker 59 says:

    @NB

    One should never buy a SMART TV because it is a SMART TV. If it happens to have SMART TV components in it, fine, but it should never be part of your decision making process as those components will never be used once you attach an external internet capable device. I’d argue that the only thing one should pay attention to with TVs is picture quality. Everything else, quality + price, is better met by an external device.

    @Andrew Saucci

    A separate UPS would need to be modem at the wall outlet, as well as everything connected along the wifi path, AND the ISP would need to maintain power from their end.

    @adriennep And really, isn’t a bigger TV just a bigger opportunity for sin?

    In the matter of sin, I would argue that a Thomist would suggest that the sin would be in choosing an incorrectly sized TV for the space as that would be a violation of prudence (too small) or temperance (too big).

    Upstream/Downstream Speeds. 5Mbps per device concurrently watching HD/1080p content. 20-25 Mbps per device concurrently watching for 4k content. This is rule of thumb, but proprietary compression makes it less than this. Upstream needed speeds for live streaming are actually the same, but keep in mind that there is overhead needed as there is other traffic from your device than just the video/audio stream. But you don’t need to pay for business tier internet to get higher upstream speeds if you live in an area that is just 50Mbps down 10Mbps Up for residential. That is fine for HD Live Streaming, 4K isn’t needed unless you have the subscriber base that allows you to afford that, and there is nothing that says that you cannot record at 4k and upload it over time as content.

    Hacking WebCam / Data Privacy — People tend to be concerned about the wrong things here. Nutshell — If you are concerned about being hacked, get a firewall (most ISPs’ modems have built in firewalls, if you can, access the device and make sure it is configured to your needs) and monitor your traffic.

  24. JonPatrick says:

    We pretty much only use the Amazon Firestick and watch the shows we can get via Amazon Prime for which there are quite a few good ones out there. We ended up with a plan from Spectrum that also gives us the basic cable channels plus 10 channels of our own choosing because the package was not much more than just internet alone. This allows Mrs. JonPatrick to watch Fox News which she admits is not what it used to be but there are a couple of shows on there such as Hannity and Tucker Carlson that have not given in to the Zeitgeist. Most of the stuff made for Prime is junk, although there is one show I am watching “Bosch” about a LAPD detective, it is pretty raw and the language is bad even by ex military standards but it is pretty well done. But through the stick you can access a lot of shows via IMDB (although they have commercials), YouTube etc. I also have Britbox which gives me a lot of British detective shows like Inspector Morse, if you go in for that sort of thing.

  25. swvirginia says:

    A lot of good advice here. I’ll try to simplify it:

    –You don’t need a smart TV (more expensive).
    –Buy a large monitor with good picture quality. I just bought a 28″ 4K Samsung monitor for $300 direct from Samsung
    –Buy a Roku, Sling, or AppleTV box. All will allow you to stream directly from your router. They plug into the monitor with a single HDMI cable.
    –Done.

    The AppleTV box is wonderfully simple to use. You can add all of the streaming services you have (e.g. Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc) plus any other news/entertainment services (e.g. Newsmax, Fox, etc.) and have access to all of them with one very simple handheld controller.

    The Sling and Roku boxes are similar, but AppleTV really has a very refined interface.

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