Though competition has stiffened with the growing quality of Android tablets, for most, the Apple iPad$499.00 at Apple Store still reigns supreme. The unbeatable app selection and fast performance make it an incredibly versatile device. But when you get down to it, one of our favorite uses for the tablet is media consumption—namely, watching TV shows and movies on that gorgeous 2,048-by-1,536-pixel Retina display. Throw in the iPad’s robust battery life and obvious portability, and you’ve got a top-notch, on-the-go entertainment device.
The iTunes store has a fairly comprehensive selection of content to feast your eyes on, but it’s not the only game in town. There are literally thousands of apps out there looking to satiate even the most voracious media consumer. Whether it’s a standalone app or an iPad-optimized website, the choices are endless, and can be a bit daunting. And if you want to watch TV and movies from your own collection, there are apps for that. There are even services that let you watch live TV on your tablet.
The iPad is quickly becoming the de facto screen for your TV and movie needs, but to get the most out of the tablet, you’ll want to grab some apps that really put that Retina display to work. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to watch TV and movies on the iPad, so click through to find the next source for all your video binges.
Price: $7.99 per month for streaming-only plan
The Grand Poobah of streaming movies, Netflix is also one of the best and most complete iPad video applications. The constantly growing library has full seasons of TV shows like Friday Night Lights and Mythbusters, and a huge collection of movies ranging from mob dramas like The Godfather to light-hearted animated films like Up. The app also lets you manage your DVD and Watch Instantly queue, and syncs your progress to the Web so you can pick up on a bigger screen when you get home.
Price: $9.99 per month
Hulu Plus subscribers get access to back catalogs of TV shows, and access to free apps for the iPhone and iPad. Hulu has a huge collection of shows from a variety of networks, streams in 720p HD, and will even sync your spot in the show with the Hulu Web site so you can pick up right where you left off when you’re back at your computer.
Crackle, Sony’s video network, lets users stream free, ad-supported Hollywood television shows and uncut movies (as well as original content) from Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Classic, and TriStar Pictures. There’s a nice variety of classic and contemporary content here, making it a solid iPad app for anyone who would like to kick back with their tablets and watch a program without needing to open their wallets.
Price: Free with HBO subscription
If you’ve ever fancied watching any one of Home Box Office’s more than 1,400 shows while away from the big screen TV, HBO Go is your application. The free download lets you tune into Eastbound and Down, Real Time with Bill Maher, True Blood, and others on the iPad’s glossy 9.7-inch display.
Amazon Instant Video
Price: Free with Amazon Prime membership
Netflix and Hulu Plus are the standard-bearers for streaming video content, but Amazon video isn’t far behind. It offers a comparable selection of free and a la carte TV shows and movies that you can watch right on your iPad. Best of all, access is free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
Price: $8 per month
It might be embroiled in a legal battle with TV networks, but Aereo is still offering up its live TV streaming services in select markets. The $8 per month nets you two remote TV tuners and 20 hours of DVR storage, letting you watch and record live, over-the-air TV directly on your iPad.
Plex is more than just a way to stream video—it’s a free, full-fledged media system for your Mac (and for new LG TVs). It streams content from the Web, as well as from your computer, and it connects to your iPad with an app that lets you stream everything from your local music and movie collection to video from sites like Hulu, The Daily Show, and I Can Has Cheezburger, right to your iPad.
Price: $14.99 (app), $179/$299.99 (Slingbox)
The Slingbox$298.00 at Buydig.com has been around for a while, doing the same thing really well. This gadget plugs in to your cable box, and broadcasts your programming to the Internet. With a Web browser, you can access your own cable box from anywhere, and watch your own TV without being at home. The SlingPlayer app ($14.99) makes it incredibly easy to watch TV from the Web—anything you can watch at home, you can watch on your iPad via Slingbox.
Price: Free (app), $99.95 (EyeTV Mobile dongle)
Watching live TV on your iPad is a pretty compelling idea, and a surprisingly easy one. TheElgato EyeTV Mobile$98.98 at eBay is a $99.95 dongle for your iPad that displays and records live TV, turning your tablet into a television and a DVR. You can schedule or watch recorded shows right from your iPad. You’ll need both the dongle and the app to get TV your iPad, but it’s a very compelling solution.
TWC TV/Xfinity/Dish Hopper/ DirecTV
Price: Free with cable subscriptions
Many of the streaming options here are about cutting the cable, but for those who are content with their cable subscriptions, there are a number of apps that are must haves if you also have an iPad. Apps from big cable providers like Time Warner Cable, Xfinity, Dish, and DirecTV let you control your DVR and watch the same live TV on your iPad that you get on your TV at home. It’s a no-brainer for subscribers.