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At a dinner party, I’m definitely not one of those people who proudly proclaims, “oh, we don’t have TV” and go on a well-meaning diatribe about how it’s the root of all social degradation. I’m steadfastly loyal to Grey’s Anatomy, Empire, and Queer Eye — the holy trinity of must-watch TV in my book. I’ve gone to all technological lengths to ensure that I don’t miss the latest episodes from my trifecta of faves.
Yes, I read novels and hang out with friends and fam IRL, but for me, watching TV can be a form of self-care. If you’ve done it right, you’ll be accompanied with a bounty of snacks and ice-cold beverages to savor in between commercials. How is that not a do-it-yourself therapy session? (Please don’t replace this ritual with actual therapy.)
The thing about modern-day television, though, is that it’s not just a pair of rabbit ear antennas and three channels anymore. While diverse, the barrage of options in streaming, cable bundles, and smart devices can overwhelm even the tech-savviest viewer. Whether you’re eyeing the market for a flashy, new screen or just want to make sure you never miss the latest Great British Bake Off episode, here are TV, cable bundle, and streaming devices and plans that won’t let you down.
Similar to most smart tech, TVs are improving every year. Sure, if you wait until next summer, there might be fancier TV models with slightly more features. But the improvements are typically nominal and with that mentality, you’ll be waiting year after the year for the “best model” for the rest of your life (or until inventors replace TVs with holograms).
If you’re resisting the urge to splurge, the TCL 55S405 will be the best bang for your buck. At less than $400, this smart LCD/LED TV offers pristine image quality and is comparable to that of models that cost over a grand. There’s a built-in Roku OS, which means you won’t have to buy a separate streaming stick (more on that soon).
For a smaller and cheaper option, check out the 32 inch TCL 32S305. Tend to lose your remote often? With the TCLs, you can give up your hobby of searching between the couch cracks for hours and instead download the TV’s phone app. Or, if you’re a big spender, you can go sans remote with LG’s OLED — flashy, cinematic TVs with voice-control and built-in Google Assistant.
You might not be ready to cut the cable cord and go all in with streaming. I don’t blame you: I’m obsessed with hyperlocal news coverage and programming — and some of those really niche channels aren’t always offered via streaming. Plus, if you’re shopping around for internet and a phone line too, you’ll most likely get a better deal if you “bundle.”
That being said, the best cable/internet/phone provider for you will depend largely on what’s available at your zip code. I have the Spectrum TV, Internet, and Voice Bundle, which starts at $29.99 per month for the first year (pro tip: Before committing, ask the rep how much you’ll pay after that). Another option is Verizon’s Fios (fiber-optic network) Triple and Double Play Bundles, which offers internet, network TV, and/or home phone for up to $79.99 per month for two years (again, ask the rep the cost after that time frame is over).
Maybe you’re ready to leave your giant TV and cable/satellite behind, but still want access to your beloved shows. In that case, streaming live entertainment via SlingTV on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone is the best route. SlingTV gives you access to channels like ESPN, Comedy Central, and Food Network for 20 bucks a month.
For those who want liberation from cable or satellite bills, but love streaming Netflix and recording live TV, check out TiVo’s Roamio DVR (no monthly service fee) or the Roku streaming device. Remember, if you choose to join Team Stream, you’ll still need monthly subscriptions for Netflix or Hulu as well as access to internet.
Natalie Pattillo is a multimedia journalist based in New York City.