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Initial Review: RabbitTV dongle

Discussion in 'IPTV Hardware' started by grunes, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. grunes

    grunes Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    This dongle helps you access a website full of links to free Internet Television (mostly watch-on-demand), movie and radio websites. The $10+$7 Shipping and handling fee includes 1 year of service. I found it in a store, which added $3 to the price, but dropped the $7 shipping and handling charge.

    See https://rabbittv.com for device advertising and description.

    AFAIK, You don't get access to any shows you couldn't get otherwise, but it helps find things a lot easier than if you want to play with search engines.

    You can use it on multiple devices (not simultanously), but only on PCs and Macs, and you have to plug in the dongle, and also log in with a username and password, that you choose. It sometimes takes a minute or so after you plug in the dongle to work.

    Naturally, you need a fast enough Internet link to view videos - I'd guess 1 or 2 megabit/second. (More if you are sharing the Internet link with other devices that are simultanously using it.) [Almost noone needs the 10 or 20 megabit/second data rates that a lot of companies try to sell you. More expensive than you need.] That could be pretty expensive if you use a wireless Internet connection (e.g., from a cell phone company). But if you have wideband Internet access from a cable or telephone company, it will probably be several times cheaper than the long-term prices for television service that cable and telephone and satellite companies expect. (Though not necessarily cheaper than their intro prices.)

    In principle you don't need to install the software - but it always installs a driver for the dongle. You have to work a bit to NOT install the software - which software just seems to bring up your current browser on the login website for RabbitTV, so it isn't that bad. You do need to install and use a recent Microsoft Media Player and Microsoft Silverlight and something else (from Adobe) that I forget - theoretically all privacy and security concerns, but pretty universal now if you want to use Microsoft Windows. No doubt some of the shows and movies require you to download special software, or update through THEIR website - which is always something questionable, if you worry about security and privacy.

    It is mostly easy to use - once you figure out that you get more comprehensive lists of available shows and networks by clicking on the "+" symbols at the right hand sides of the window, and that you have to use the browser "back" button a lot to get to previous menu levels.

    Not surprisingly, the choice of available free movies is limited, but it's still useful.

    The large advertised number of shows, networks and stations is a little deceptive, in that they are distributed among many languages, not just English.

    The most annoying thing is that the website has a lot of advertising for other products on it. There are a lot of deceptive ads telling you that you need to upgrade software or that you have a security problem, so you must download or use or buy such and such, as is true of many advertising websites. Just Ignore them, just like you would on Yahoo or Google's websites. As you no doubt know, most such products are unnecessary, and are in fact themselves malware and spyware. (I make do with just the free Microsoft Security Essentials. I also use ZoneAlarm Free, but that's too complicated for some of you to use.)

    They also have a lot of links to Hulu Plus (paid) TV shows, but I don't think they have a comprehensive listing of Hulu shows. Likewise, they list a fair number of paid movies too, that you can watch through Amazon Instant Video.

    AFAIK, everything is legal - no illegal streams of copyrighted shows and movies. (A lot of websites that provide similar links include legally questionable feeds.)

    One of the nicest things is that it has fairly comprehensive lists of shows and radio feeds from various networks and stations. Of course you can get a similar list (at least for TV shows) from http://video.tvguide.com/episodes.aspx, but Rabbit's web site is a lot faster. You can see them organized by genre, e.g., Sci-Fi, or by network.

    However, I have never tried the other paid services, like the $8/month Hulu+ and Netflix services. It is conceivable that if you buy Hulu+, you won't see much need for RabbitTV, as it has a lot of viewable shows too. I don't know if those include all the freely viewable networks that RabbitTV does, but I doubt it. (I do know that free Hulu has become increasingly hard to use from its own site, as the majority of the shows listed are not free. Likewise for the mentioned tvguide link.)

    Overall, it is probably worth it, if you want to watch TV or listen to radio over the Internet. Though some people may accuse you of paying money to be lazy. Then again, that is is exactly what the people who pay a lot more money for cable or satellite television are mostly doing.

    I think you can find enough good quality free programming this way for most people to willingly drop their cable or satellite TV service. Certainly if you also get Hulu+ and Netflix, you will be able to watch a lot more good quality programming than most people watch from cable and satellite TV, and it's all pretty easy.

    (If you haven't figured out how to use a large screen TV as a computer monitor to your PC or Mac, that may be worth it too. There are instructions on RabbitTV's website. It is easiest if your computer and TV have HDMI ports, or if both have VGA ports. Forgot overpriced cables sold at big box stores - look for cheap cables from places like http://www.monoprice.com and http://www.bluejeanscable.com , which work just fine.)
    1 person likes this.
  2. Nick

    Nick Retired, part-time PITA DBSTalk Club

    Apr 23, 2002
    Excellent review and report. Thank you.
  3. grunes

    grunes Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    I gave some mis-information about data rates.

    Hulu at http://www.hulu.com/support/article/166380 says

    "We recommend a downstream bandwidth of at least 1.5 Mbps for a smooth playback experience. You can test your downstream bandwidth at www.speedtest.net. Once there, click on the green Begin Test button to initiate a speed test. Once complete, your downstream bandwidth is displayed in the "Download" box near the middle of your screen." [Mbps = megabit / sec]


    In addition, http://www.chacha.com/question/how-much-data-per-hour-does-hulu-plus-use says "On Hulu, one hour of standard definition video streaming uses .21 GB of data, while high definition uses 1.07 GB per hour." The latter is 2.4 Mbps with no overhead - almost 3 Mbps with 25% overhead.

    In addition, once in a while (like yesterday here), Comcast's (and other ISP's) Internet service stops working, because they play for a day or so with their nameservers. So Internet TV isn't completely reliable. I notice this maybe 2 or 3 times / year - more often than is true Comcast cable TV service.

    [The same problem would apply to other uses of the Internet, like email, web-browsing, voice-over-Internet (e.g., Skype, MagicJack - which substitute for phone service).]

    If near complete reliability is important to you, that could be an issue.
  4. DJ Rob

    DJ Rob Godfather

    Jul 24, 2003
    It says it can receive ABC, NBC, CBS, and other cable channels... are those the live feeds, or just their "catch up" shows on their web sites?

    They say the device has an annual licence fee you have to pay each year... what is the cost for the 2nd year and thereafter?
  5. grunes

    grunes Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    I'd like to update this review.

    I originally really liked this service. But Since my post, 2 years ago, RabbitTV (now confusingly called RabbitTVPlus, though http://rabbittv.com still works) has become much less useful, and their ads made me think things that weren't true:

    1. They continually send me emails, sometimes more than one/day, saying my account is about to expire, even though I have signed up through the next 4 years. I find this extremely annoying. (What is actually expiring is the ability to renew at a special price.)

    2. The email notices indicate that you can get a free HDTV antenna. But there is a shipping and handling fee comparable to the value of the antenna - more than the value of the antenna if you realize that a simple bare wire antenna of reasonable length, placed high (e.g., in the attic), would probably do much better.

    3. Their sign-up price has gone from $10/year to $2/month - a huge increase. And their ads appear to imply that their relatively low price includes subscriptions to premium services and channels - but it only provides links to their programs. It does include free-trial links for those services and channels - but those are available elsewhere, and transition to paid services if you don't cancel them in time.

    4. As with Hulu, most of their listings aren't free anymore. You have go through several point-and-click cycles to find out whether it is free. You have to select a program or series, then select the free watch options. Then you find out whether any of the options are for full episodes, or just for ads, or short cuts. And they count as "free" channels that are only free if you have subscribed to them through a cable or satellite TV company. (You typically log in through your cable or satellite company, and then you can watch some episodes of the series on-line at no extra charge, beyond what you had to pay for the cable or satellite subscription.)

    5. They have many ads for software and services that you don't really need to watch many of the listings on RabbitTV. That isn't new - it was always an ad subsidized service. But what annoys me is that some of them, like TV Fanatic, may mess up your browser in various ways, and might impact computer security.

    6. Since I've paid for it for the next 4 years, I still sometimes use it. But a combination of an free hulu account (the one you can get without paying a monthly fee - I forget how you sign up for it), and http://www.tvguide.com/videos/episodes (also free), is almost as good, sometimes better.
    1 person likes this.

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