One of the neat things about the iPad is just how many cool ways you can use the tablet. And this extends to watching TV. Busy lifestyles come in all shapes and sizes, from frequent travel for work to parents who often find themselves at soccer or ballet practice. And luckily, there are a number of good options that will allow you to watch TV on your iPad, so you never have to worry about missing your favorite shows or not being able to see the big game.
Most of these devices work by intercepting the television signal from your cable box and then broadcasting it through your Wi-Fi network, which can allow you to access your shows from anywhere in the house and while on the go via your iPad's data connection. But one interesting option literally turns the iPad into a portable television, and for those who don't want to spend the money on expensive accessories, sometimes an app is all you need.
One of the most popular options for watching TV on the iPad, Slingbox's SlingPlayer works by intercepting the television signal from your cable box and then "slinging" it across your home network. The SlingPlayer software turns your system into a host that allows you to stream the television signal to your iPad across both Wi-Fi or your iPad's 3G/4G data connection. With the Slingplayer app, you can tune in, change channels and watch any TV show that you could watch at home. You can even access your DVR and watch recorded shows.
Beyond being a good way to watch remotely, Slingplayer is also a good solution for those who want access to the TV in any room in the house without wiring cable outlets everyone or springing for multiple televisions. One downside is that the iPad app must be purchased separately and adds a good chunk onto the price of the device.
Cost: Boxes starting at $179 for the Slingbox and $14.99 for the iPad app. Compare Prices for Slingbox.
Similar to the Slingbox, Vulkano Flow works by hooking the device between your cable box and your television. The signal is then spliced, with one signal going on to your television and another signal going to your home network. This allows the Vulkano Flow to broadcast as signal that can be picked up either via your Wi-Fi network or through your iPad's data connection. While not quite as popular as Slingbox, the Vulkano Flow provides a cheaper solution to 'slinging' your television signal across the Internet.
The higher end Vulkano Lava also adds features like recording live TV to the mix. Like the Slingbox, all versions of the Vulkano can access your cablebox's DVR, though it can sometimes be a little tricky getting this feature set up via the Vulkano Player iPad app.
Cost: Boxes starting at $99.99 for the Vulkano Flow and $12.99 for the iPad app. Compare Prices for Vulkano.
Belkin is the latest manufacturer to jump into the market, and their @TV is priced in between the Vulkano Flow and the Slingbox SlingPlayer. It includes all of the same basic features of the other two products, including the ability to pause and/or record live television.
One feature oddly missing from @TV is an HDMI connection. @TV only uses component or composite cables rather than the higher quality HDMI.
Cost: Boxes starting at $149.99 with no charge for the iPad app.
Unlike the other solutions on this list, EyeTV Mobile doesn't intercept your cablebox's signal and send it across your home network. Instead, EyeTV Mobile is an accessory that adds a TV tuner to your iPad. This allows you to watch live TV without hooking a new device into your home entertainment system. And because it is an actual tuner that you hook into the 30-pin connector on your iPad, you aren't even using your data connection -- so there's no need to worry about using up all of your data watching TV.
EyeTV Mobile isn't available everywhere. It works by receiving a signal from Dyle TV, which provides coverage in various markets across the U.S. You'll need to check the coverage map to see if your area is covered by the service. And while Dyle has promised to remain subscription-free for 2013, there's no promise that a subscription won't arrive in 2014.
But for those looking to simply watch TV while away from home and don't want to deal with the hassle of setting up one of the other solutions, EyeTV Mobile is both less of a hassle and the cheapest overall solution.
Cost: EyeTV Mobile retails for $99.95 and includes a free iPad app. Compare Prices for EyeTV Mobile.
Cable TV / Network Apps
An alternative to hooking up hardware to your entertainment system or plugging an antenna into your iPad is simply downloading apps available from your cable provider or major networks. Many major providers like Cox TV, Time Warner Cable and DirectTV offer apps for the iPad that will allow you to watch TV, though not all support the full range of TV offered by your subscription and not all offer the ability to stream over 3G/4G.
...And More Apps
Beyond official apps from your cable provider or premium channels, there are a number of great apps for streaming movies and TV. The top two most popular choices are Netflix, which offers a nice selection of movies and TV for a relatively low subscription price, and Hulu Plus, which doesn't have quite the same movie collection but offers some television shows still within the current season.
Crackle is also a great option for streaming movies and doesn't require any subscription fees.
Did you know you can stream movies from your PC to your iPad for free? Home Sharing allows you to stream anything from your iTunes collection to your iPad -- including music. Find out how to set up Home Sharing.