Gaming consoles have become the ultimate home media centers. Now, in addition to playing the coolest new games, many consoles allow you to watch videos, stream live TV, listen to music, store and view your photos, and more.
Not all consoles are created equal, however. Before you spend your hard-earned cash on a new console, check out which cable options are available in your area, then review our list of the best consoles for streaming live TV.
The Xbox One is designed as a comprehensive entertainment center and can easily stream cable TV. It even has a built-in app called OneGuide, which curates TV shows and lets you navigate through your favorite channels with ease. All you have to do is connect your set-top box to your Xbox with an HDMI cable and follow a few on-screen prompts. OneGuide then allows you to create a list of favorite shows and displays trending TV shows based on where you live.
You can watch channels like FOX and NBC with the Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner upgrade — it costs extra, but it lets you pause and rewind live TV from your console and has popular streaming apps pre-installed.
Sling TV, which gives you access to live TV and channels like ESPN, AMC, and HBO, is also available for $20 a month.
The Xbox One is currently retailing at $349.
The PlayStation 4 doesn’t stream cable TV or connect to your set-top box. Instead, Sony offers a streaming app called PlayStation Vue. Standalone channels are available nationwide, but multi-channel plans are currently available only in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, and Miami.
The service runs from $50 per month, which is more expensive than Sling TV and traditional cable. However, Vue boasts a wide range of features that aren’t available anywhere else, including an incredibly fast and intuitive user interface and a revolutionary Cloud-based DVR system, which stores TV shows for up to 28 days. You can also get local TV channels, which is very rare for a streaming service.
While there are currently no plans to roll out the multi-channel service nationwide, most of the larger U.S. cities will eventually have access. The gaming system also comes with popular streaming apps pre-installed.
The PlayStation 4 currently retails at $349.
As newer consoles enter the market, last-generation consoles are cheaper than ever — so if you miss out on a next-gen console, you still have a chance to grab a good bargain.
Not only does the Xbox 360 provide ample streaming apps, there are also several apps that are specifically designed to stream live TV. All these apps are available on the Xbox Marketplace and require an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Some of the apps also have individual fees.
The Verizon FiOS app provides a number of channels, including HBO, Cartoon Network, and CNN. Time Warner Cable’s app comes with more than 300 channels (depending on your cable package) and provides access to live TV, though video-on-demand content is not accessible through the console.
The Nintendo Wii U is a popular gaming console for good reason, but if you’re looking for a console that can stream cable, the Wii U may not be your best bet. The console originally offered a TV streaming service known as TVii but has since discontinued it. There are currently no plans to offer the service again.
The console does come with a variety of popular streaming options, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video on Demand, but live TV and cable are out of its reach.
The Wii U retails at $299.
Before you make any new gaming purchase, take a look at which cable providers are available in your area so you can decide which console will work best for your purposes. Once you’re plugged in, get ready for some late-night — or midday (we’re not judging!) — binge-watching.