Cord Cutting Update 2020 - How I Do It

I'm a notorious cheapskate who loves to watch TV but who hates to spend big bucks to do it.

The way that I get the most for the minimum has changed, over the years, so this is my current favorite way to get it done.

What you'll need:

  1. Amazon Fire Stick that includes the "Mirroring" option. I use the inexpensive "4k" stick. If you long-press the Home button you'll see if it offers the Mirroring option.
  2. A Windows 10 laptop. (Apple may work but I'm not an Apple person, so I don't know, for sure.)
  3. A cellphone with (preferably) an unlimited data plan. (Hotspot plan not required.)
  4. Pdanet+ app (costs around $10)

Step 1: Install the Pdanet+ app on your phone and install the client app on your laptop. Connect them with the WiFi Direct option. This should work whether or not your phone plan includes hotspot functionality.

Step 2: Turn on your TV and switch to the HDMI input that hosts your Fire Stick. The Fire Stick does not need to have a connection to the internet. In fact, I prefer that it doesn't. Hold the "home" button for a few seconds until a menu comes up that offers you the option for "Mirroring" and select it. Your Fire Stick will be ready to mirror a connection from your laptop.

Step 3: On the bottom right of your laptop screen click on the dialog box and then select "Connect". It should show you your Fire Stick. Select the Fire Stick and you should now see your computer screen displayed on your television.

Step 4: If you want to get rid of the annoying looking box at the top of your screen just click on the pushpin and it will disappear.

With this setup you can watch anything you want and have it show up as on-device data on your phone. You can use Pluto, Netflix, Locast, SlingTV, or whatever you want.

The next thing you'll need to worry about is bandwidth. Some video services don't allow you to select video quality. Instead, they try to use every bit of bandwidth they can grab. If that puts you over your soft cap then you could get deprioritized and you may experience buffering when the towers get congested.

Let's set up our laptop so that we can control bandwidth, in the future:

  1. Open Chrome browser then press F12 to open the DevTools window.
  2. Click on the down arrow next to where it says "Online" (you might have to click on "Network" first) and select "Add" at the bottom of the window. This is where we're going to create custom profiles to use in the future.
  3. Click on "Add Custom Profile" and create one called "1Mbps" and give it a maximum download bandwidth of 1000 kbps. I've also created two others called "0.8Mbps" and "0.5Mbps". After you've created them you can exit that window.

Now, when you stream video from a source that tries to gobble as much bandwidth as possible you can hit "F12", then the down arrow next to "Online", and you can select the amount of bandwidth that you'd like to use.

I don't need super mondo high def for anything I watch. I do most of my streaming in SD/480p. As such, I can usually come in just under the 50GB soft cap for T-Mobile, each month. That keeps us under the radar and nobody messes with us.

If you stream at 1Mbps you'll use a maximum of 450MB per hour. (Probably around 480p.)
If you stream at 0.8Mbps you'll use a maximum of 360MB per hour. (Probably around 360p.)
If you stream at 0.5Mbps you'll use a maximum of 225MB per hour. (Probably around 240p.)

I'm estimating those 240p/360p/480p observations based on recollections of video that I've watched in the past where I knew what the resolution was at the time. I've noticed that Netflix and Amazon Prime are able to deliver surprising resolution at ridiculously low amounts of bandwidth. You can easily get away with using 0.8 with them.

Note 1: When you select a throttled profile you need to MINIMIZE the DevTools window, not close it. If you close it, it will go back to full bandwidth.

Note 2: The throttling only affects the one tab that you have open. If you open another tab in Chrome it will be at full bandwidth.

Note 3: If your DevTools window appears docked to the side of your screen, rather than as a separate window that can be minimized, you can change it by clicking on the "three dot menu" in the DevTools window and change the docking behavior.

I usually try the 0.8Mbps setting, first. If it makes the streaming service puke then I go to the 1Mbps, which seems to work with just about everything.

It sounds like a lot of steps but, after you've done it twice, it only takes seconds.

My laptop is always already connected to my cellphone and my TV is already on and in Mirroring mode. All I have to do is click "Connect", then click on a bookmark to start streaming, and throttle the bandwidth with F12 if the streaming service doesn't have a "Quality" setting.

Try it. You might like it. :slight_smile:

I also use a simpler setup where I have the Pdanet+ app installed on my Fire Stick and connect it directly to my cellphone.

It works great for streaming apps that let me control the video quality but it lets apps like Pluto, Hulu, and Motortrend use almost 2GB per hour.

So I only use the no-laptop setup for things like Prime, Netflix, and Sling, that allow me to control bandwidth usage.

Note 1: PdaNet+ will only work on newer Firesticks, like the 4k, that use Android 6. The older Gen1 and 2 models with Android 5 won't support WiFi Direct connections.

Note 2: You'll need a Bluetooth keyboard to enter your serial number to activate the app on the Fire Stick.

I'm not a cord-cutter-- but there's tons of useful info in these posts. Thanks, Chelle!

I have a Firestick 4K waiting for a need-- I bought it on one of the sales when it appeared that our older stick had died. A reboot/reset got it working again, though. I understand the 4K is better on nearly every front, but I don't think it will pair with the game controller I bought on a lark, but have never fired up....

Does PDANet+ load on the Firestick 4K in stock condition?

For Prime, Netflix, Sling (that allow you to directly control bandwidth), is this done on a per-item basis (when you select to watch it), or is a master setting in app, or in an online account setting?

Yes. It's not in the Amazon App Store but you can sideload it. The only tricky part is when you use it for the first time and have to unlock unlimited use with the email address and last 4 digits of the serial number. You'll either need to use a Bluetooth keyboard or use connectors to hook up a USB keyboard to your Fire Stick. Once it's unlocked, it's unlocked for good-- so it's just a one time inconvenience.

Sling lets you adjust the video quality from within the app. Just click on the gear icon, go to "Connection", and you can watch with as little as 0.4 Mbps.

Netflix lets you adjust playback quality from your account. Log into your Netflix account, pick a profile, select playback settings, and then choose "low". It looks fine.

Prime can be adjusted by going to Settings, Preferences, turn Data Monitoring on, then choose "Good" for streaming quality. It will only affect Amazon videos.

Chelle wrote:
"Prime can be adjusted by going to Settings, Preferences, turn Data Monitoring on, then choose "Good" for streaming quality. It will only affect Amazon videos"

Is this in the Firestick menu? .

Yes. :slight_smile:

Instead of mirroring computer to firestick couldn't you just connect computer to TV via HDMI? Do you choose not to just as a matter of convenience?

Yes, you could, and yes, I do.

My laptop is usually on the coffee table, in front of me, and I wouldn't want to run an HDMI cable across the room.

For those seeking easy instructions on downloading apps to watch movies and tv shows on your firestick, I'd recommend watching Electric MD on Youtube. He's making easy to download everything you need via his own app. Couldn't be easier!

Here's one of his videos on youtube: - YouTube

Just a note to those who may not be aware (my guess is most here are, but.....)

Electric MD makes no distinction between fully legal ways to watch and illegal "pirate" apps which he is showing you how to sideload onto fire TV devices.
I'm kinda surprised his videos / channel haven't been taken down on YT, I think he started his own website in anticipation of it happening.

Chelle, do you have any input re how much bandwidth an app like cinema HD likes to suck up left to its own??

Note - I'm not trying to turn this into a copyright debate, that can just remain in the comments section of torrent freak etc.

I'm not sure. I think that, with those kinds of apps, you're given a choice of file size for a given video-- so that means that you can choose a large file for higher resolution or a smaller one for lower resolution.

There's so much free and cheap legal stuff to watch that the illegal stuff doesn't have the allure that it once had.

I've got Prime and would have it even if they didn't offer video-- because I buy a lot from Amazon. So that's kinda free, from a video standpoint.

I have $1.99/mo Hulu and $2/mo Motortrend.

I share a Sling Blue subscription with a family member, so that's $15/mo.

I also have an antenna that gets me around 25 channels.

And Pluto has suddenly gotten really good, as have Roku Channel and Imdb.

So I'm going to have to live to be 200 just to watch all the legal stuff that we've already got! :slight_smile:

You're entitled to your opinion and so do I and everyone else except unless you live in China, Russia or Turkey. There, if ones say bad thing about their government, can get ones thrown in jail!

Electric MD simplifies the process. Kodi is legal so is Downloader app. If not, I'm sure the greedy cable companies would have served, "cease and desist" to Kodi developers.

Had the cable companies aren't greedy and charging outrageous fees then maybe a lot of people still have their cable services. I found it ridiculous for cable providers to force you to have basic service to get their premium channels, and other outrageous practices that have people swear off their services.

My opinion is if you really want to help cable companies just add one or 2 zeros to your bills. If your bill is $200/a month, add a zero to it, making it $2000. Or if you feel a little more generous, add two zeros, making $20,000 a month. What if they can't accept the amount above the charge, no problem, just open 20 or 200 more accounts at where you live and problem solve. If you own stocks in cable companies, order a few more million shares. hahaha!

My general feeling is ones shouldn't download anything that they don't own or buy, just like don't open a trial phone plan to get the free phone then canceling immediately without giving the cell phone carrier a fair shot of getting your business in exchange for free phone. Use common sense and don't be greedy vulture!

Enough said!

SuccessOne writes "Electric MD simplifies the process. Kodi is legal so is Downloader app. If not, I'm sure the greedy cable companies would have served, "cease and desist" to Kodi developers."

Not sure if you were saying this tongue-in-cheek, but Kodi has indeed been under significant legal pressure, with changes as a result, as have Kodi developers.

Just one result for a google search for Kodi "legal pressure": Kodi Addon repositories are down after pressure from rights protection organization
I think originally Kodi's position was that they were only a platform, not a distributor of materials. This is true-- but like the original Napster, there's a potential massive legal risk for knowingly enabling the distribution of protected materials without some sort of due diligence, and post-Napster that prospect can give pause even to businesses that offer an improved process of access to legally-sourced media.

Putting aside your OT diatribe about the evil cable companies you clearly failed to comprehend what I said

I never said they were all "pirate apps". If you look hard enough you can find a few that aren't.

ElectricMD makes no distinction between the two.

Kodi is legal (& haunted by the love it receives in the "pirate" community). The Kodi "builds" discussed are full of streaming plugins that are not. No distinction.

People need to be aware of this.