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Every weekend Kim Komando helps listeners across the country and around the world understand and expand their digital lifestyles. For the latest news from the digital world and answers to your burning tech questions about smartphones, tablets, e-readers, computers, cameras, the Internet, security or anything else digital, tune in to the Kim Komando show.

Kim Komando’s passion for all things digital – and decades of experience in the tech and computer industry – has made her the go-to guide for living in the digital world. Her weekly radio show and daily “Digital Minute” are heard on nearly 500 stations; millions more get tech guidance and advice at, read her weekly column on, and receive her email newsletters.

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Kim Komando: Best streaming boxes for getting the shows and movies you want

Limitless content. Watch whatever you want, whenever you want. All you have to buy is one little box, and the monthly subscriptions are up to you. After decades of flipping through TV channels, many of us find the promise of internet-based television too miraculous to pass up.

That’s why millions of Americans prefer streaming services — the leaner, cheaper version of televised entertainment.

Much of the streaming decision is dependent on what you want to watch. You’re not going to find “The Handmaiden’s Tale” on Netflix or FoxNews on Dish’s Sling TV. It gets confusing.

To help you out, I created something that I call, “The Streaming Service Channel Lineup Chart.” The whole idea is to let you find what you want to watch and then, match it to the service that offers it. Tap or click here to see the chart.

No streaming device is “best,” of course, because all the leading brands have their advantages (and disadvantages). Here are some facet options and a comprehensive breakdown for each one.

Apple TV 4K

PROS: Compared to its competitors, the Apple TV 4K currently has the best hardware available in a streaming box, designed to effortlessly handle 60 fps 4K, Dolby Atmos and HDR content.

It also has the cleanest and smoothest interface among the lot, delivering a minimal but polished experience all around.

Since it’s an Apple product, it also works great with iPhones, iPads, and Macs, and it’s compatible with Airplay content streaming, Apple Music and other HomeKit appliances.

If you’re already knee-deep in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV is a no-brainer. The 4K resolution will ensure its longevity, whether you have a 4K TV yet or not.

App-wise, aside from your purchased iTunes movies and music, it has all the essentials like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Plex, HBO, DirecTV Now, AT&T Watch TV, Sling TV, plus if you own digital movies across multiple services, they can all be synced via Movies Anywhere.

CONS: As you would have guessed, the Apple TV is relatively expensive. For much less, you can likewise stream 4K content from Roku and Amazon Fire TV boxes. The included Siri touch remote can also be clunky and unwieldy. Additionally, if you’re not into the Apple ecosystem and you don’t own any other Apple gadgets, you won’t be getting the most out of an Apple TV.

Price: $179 for 32GB, $199 for 64GB

Roku Ultra

PROS: Even with increased competition from the tech giants, Roku remains to be the most popular brand in streaming players. Why? It’s a service-agnostic platform, meaning it has apps from almost every content provider out there (except Apple and iTunes).

Roku has apps for Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Plex, HBO, DirecTV Now, and Sling TV (sadly, no AT&T Watch TV app yet).

Plus, it has hundreds of third-party video apps that offer free movies and TV Shows. If you want to access the most content from various services available, then the Roku is the one for you.

For the nitty-gritty specs, the Roku Ultra supports 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos and it’s even bundled with a pair of JBL earphones you can connect to its remote for wireless audio.

CONS: The interface can be slow, including the Roku Ultra, and the design is less attractive. Roku is clamping down on third-party apps. Since they update apps automatically, some of your installed apps can be deactivated without prior warning.

Price: $99

Amazon Fire TV Cube

PROS: If you’re building a smart home, and you’re attracted to voice-controlled electronics, you’ll be pleased to know that the Fire TV Cube has built-in Alexa functions. This means you can dim your smart bulbs, control your smart appliances, ask questions, set timers — pretty much anything a regular Amazon Echo can do.

You can also use your voice to search, play, pause, fast-forward and handle all the things you would typically do with a remote.

You can even turn an HDMI-CEC compatible TV on or off and adjust its volume. But don’t worry if you have an older TV; the Fire TV Cube also has a built-in IR transmitter so you can use it as a universal remote and voice control any TV, old and new.

As a bonus, since it’s connected to a display, it can also duplicate the features of Amazon’s Echo Show, the video-based version of Echo. With an Alexa voice command, the Cube can provide you with detailed weather forecasts, display lyrics to songs and show you live video feeds from Alexa-compatible security cameras.

As expected, Amazon content is front and center on all Fire TVs, but it also has the must-have apps like Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Plex, HBO, DirecTV Now, AT&T Watch TV, and Sling TV.

For video, the Fire TV Cube has support for 4K content, HDR, Dolby Atmos. Again, even if you don’t have a 4K TV yet if you’re in the market for a streaming gadget, a 4K capable streaming box is worth it.

CONS: Like its apps, Amazon’s Fire TV interface is cluttered with promoted content and is a pain to navigate through. Alexa Fire TV integration is often frustrating, and voice controlling a TV through the Fire TV Cube can be painfully slow.

Price: $119

Chromecast Ultra

PROS: If you’ve ever owned a Chromecast, you’ll know that they can be extra useful around the house. With this unobtrusive little gadget, you can cast or stream content from your iOS or Android smartphone or Chrome browser to your TV. You can even cast your whole desktop if you want to.

Ultra is not a traditional streaming box like the others, because the device doesn’t come with its own remote. Instead, your smartphone behaves like a remote for your Chromecast set up, and you can stream content from compatible apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Sling TV, Plex, and Vudu straight to your TV.

Better yet, you can also integrate Chromecasts with the Google Home and with HDMI-CEC compatible TVs, you can have good (but limited) hands-free voice control. At about $70, Chromecast Ultra is one of the cheapest streaming gadgets to cast both 4K and HDR content.

CONS: Again, no actual physical remote. You will always depend on your smartphone or tablet to operate it. Amazon Prime Video and iTunes are also unavailable, which will deprive you of a lot of content.

Price: $69

By the way, if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for how to cut the cord, tap or click here to download my ebook about it.

Technology Columnist Kim Komando
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8 proven ways to lower monthly internet, cable and streaming bills

You probably have other internet or cable service options available. If a competitor offers you a better deal, don’t be afraid to haggle your internet provider for a better one.

The average American will pay $32,400 for internet access throughout a lifetime. This number, calculated by researchers at, doesn't even include today's big dogs. I'm talking about your cable, streaming, cellphone, and other subscriptions.

When it comes to tech, there's no shortage of ways to spend your money. Why not use free software that's just as good as the paid versions? Tap or click for free alternatives to Word, Excel, Photoshop and more.

I also like to check every so often for lost or hidden money floating around that's mine. One of my national radio show listeners found $25,000 this way. Maybe you'll be lucky, too! Tap or click for the secret places to check for unclaimed funds.

And then there are all those monthly internet charges. If you’re paying full price for everything or you haven’t scanned your needs in a while, it’s time.

1. What do you really need?

When it comes to your home internet, speed definitely matters. If you browse the web and play Candy Crush on your phone, you’re a lightweight. You can get away with less bandwidth than someone’s who likes watching 4K movies every night.

Take a look at your monthly recurring charge. Make sure you are getting the speed and bandwidth you’re promised. I hear from people all the time who aren’t. Tap or click for my pro tips for doing a more scientific speed test you can report to your ISP.

When you first signed up for your cable TV, you probably got a great price. The providers like to throw in a bunch of free channels on a package deal. Unless you're paying attention, the free channels become pay channels after a few months or a year. Make sure that the channels you are paying for are ones that you watch.

It may be high time to ditch cable entirely and get a nice antenna to get local channels and more programming for free. You need to get the right antenna, or else you'll be totally frustrated. Tap or click here to see the difference between an indoor and outdoor antenna.

2. Look for hidden fees

Next, scan your bills for any overage fees or extras. If you’re going over your internet data cap, you may save money by stepping up to the next tier of service.

Be sure to compare your most recent bill with one from a year or two ago. Have prices gone up on anything? Are you paying to rent equipment each month? Are there any fees you’re not sure of? If so, call your provider and find out why.

Your Wi-Fi router should be password-protected and have a strong level of encryption.

3. Get your own equipment

Monthly router and modem rental fees may seem small, but those dollars quickly add up. As a nice bonus, you can get better gear than your ISP provides.

When it comes to routers, Netgear, Linksys, ASUS, and TP-Link are all solid options. Make sure to get one with WPA-3 encryption, which is the latest security standard you can get.

If your Wi-Fi is crappy, you may want to consider stepping up to a mesh system for even better coverage. I have one, and it works like a charm to deliver strong Wi-Fi across my home.

It would be best for your internet speed and savings account if you bought your modem too. Just make sure it's DOCSIS 3.0. Here are my recommended modems for any internet provider.

4. Move on or ... say you are

You probably have other internet or cable service options in your area, and your current provider knows it. It pays to shop around. In all likelihood, a competitor will offer you a better deal, faster speeds, or both. Don’t be afraid to haggle, and make sure they don’t try to downgrade your speed, bandwidth, or options to reduce the price.

Do your homework ahead of time. Know what your provider's competitors offer and write down the intro rates you could get by switching.

Pro Tip: If you're not getting anywhere with a customer service rep, ask to speak with someone in the “Retention Department.” These folks are generally authorized to give you the best deals.

5. Look for bundles and promotions

Bundles can go one of two ways. In some cases, you end up paying for something you otherwise wouldn’t because you’re swayed by the idea of getting more for less. Don’t do that. The better option, of course, is to bundle together services you’re already paying for and saving a bit each month.

Check what bundles are available to you by visiting your cable company or ISP’s website or giving them a call. Don’t get sucked into paying for a landline if you don’t need one. Tap or click for my take on why it’s OK to ditch your landline for good.

You can get streaming bundles, too. Instead of paying for Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu separately, you can grab them all together for $13.99 and save about $5 a month. Not bad.

But why pay for any streaming services once you’ve already binged what’s available? Cancel the streaming services you’re not watching. You can always sign up again later.

6. Consider a bigger commitment

Here’s a streaming money saver. Pay for a year upfront and you will spend less than you would on a monthly subscription. Back to Disney+, you can pay $6.99 for a month-to-month plan or $69.99 for a year. That’s about $14 savings a year. No, it’s not a ton, but every dollar counts, right?

HBO Max charges $9.99 per month and $99.99 per year. Hey, that’s $20 off or two trips to Starbucks.

7. Get a break on your bill from the government

You can get a federal subsidy toward your internet bill. If you qualify, you can get a discount of up to $50 per month for broadband service and up to $75 if you live on Tribal lands. A one-time discount of $100 for a computer or tablet is also available.

This assistance also includes people on government benefits, but it goes beyond that. If you lost your job or were furloughed during the pandemic and make under $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers, you may also qualify.

Tap or click here for more details on the program, as well as full eligibility requirements.

8. Look for free options, too

Check out free trials to see if the latest streaming service is worth the money. Be sure to cancel before you're charged, though. After you sign up for the trial, add a reminder in your calendar with the date you need to cancel. Tap or click here for more money-saving tips on streaming, including info on all those free trials.

Mobile providers often throw in a streaming option or other service free for customers. A perfect example is T-Mobile's "Netflix On Us" program – free standard Netflix subscriptions to T-Mobile unlimited data plan subscribers with two or more voice lines. Verizon offers a year of Disney+ for free, too. Tap or click to see what else you can get for no extra charge.

There are also a ton of ways to watch TV and movies for free online. A word of advice: Don’t go searching Google for “free movies” or you will end up on scammy sites full of sketchy popups. We did the work for you. Tap or click for 13 safe sites to find free movies.

Want free TV?Tap or click for free alternatives to Netflix and all the rest.

Bonus Tip: She died. Then he turned her into an artificial intelligence chatbot.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player.

When tragedy struck, Joshua Barbeau decided to cope with the loss of his girlfriend by creating a chatbot based on her personality. In this podcast, I sat down with him as well as AI developer Jason Rohrer, who created a program you can use to create your own personalized chatbots for just $5. It’s creepy and insanely fascinating at the same time.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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