Technologizer

Can You Cut the Cord and Still Have a Big, Beautiful TV?

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I love the idea of dumping cable TV in favor of the wealth of video that’s now available online. I’ve been thinking about it for years.  I just haven’t done it. Mostly because much of the TV I watch is live news, usually on all-news channels–something which is still primarily the domain of cable. But I never stop toying with the idea and looking forward to the day when it makes sense.

For my latest TIME.com Technologizer column, I reviewed a new 55" Sony Bravia LED-backlit HDTV. It’s a huge upgrade over my own TV, a 42" Vizio which I’ve had for five years. The Bravia’s far larger and has a much nicer picture. And unlike the Vizio, it’s an Internet device right out of the box, with one of the best selections of Net entertainment I’ve seen in one place. (It’s got Netflix and Amazon and Hulu Plus and CinemaNow and Pandora and Slacker and several Sony services…and other less well-known stuff by the bushel.)

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The set lists for $3400; I suspect that almost everybody who buys one plugs it into cable or satellite, and Blu-ray or DVD as well. But it provides access to so much stuff from the Web that the idea of skipping cable and streaming all your content on demand isn’t the least bit implausible. In fact, if you eliminated your cable TV bill, you might be able to plow some of the savings into a bigger, better TV like this one.

One catch: If you stream HD video, you may run into bandwidth problems from time to time, as all those lines of resolution choke your broadband. (I did–although oddly enough, the very best-looking service I tried, Vudu, which I got via my PlayStation 3, streamed like a champ.) Cable and Blu-ray aren’t without their downsides, but they aren’t dependent on the quality of your Internet connection and home network.

The stereotype of a cable-cutting consumer remains a young person on a tight budget–someone who’s got a modest TV, or maybe no conventional TV at all. (In the era of Netflix and Hulu, it’s perfectly possible to watch a lot of TV without owning a TV.) But I wouldn’t be surprised to see those folks increasingly joined by cable cutters who aren’t all that price-conscious. The kind of people who might buy really nice television sets.

As for me, I’m sending the set I borrowed for review back to Sony. I’ll put my Vizio back in its place, and hook it back up to my TiVo and cable service. I swear, though: one of these days when I blog about cutting the cable, it’s going to be because I finally pulled the trigger myself.

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