What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 7 )

It’s now a year since I wrote Part 6 and my wife and I have lived in Ecuador for 4.5 years.  This post is largely subjective based on my usage and mistakes in Cuenca. The commentary is also geared to people moving to Ecuador for the first time.

This advice is meant for those on a limited budget and not bringing a container to Ecuador. I am going to start with the most important device and work by way down to the small items that you can’t find or that are expensive in Ecuador.

Computer: When we first moved here I rented space in another person’s container and brought down a desktop computer with a 24″ monitor and and oversized keyboard. I sold that computer in less than a year and that is why I am recommending a laptop or notebook computer.

  • I have a Macbook Air – Moderately price and extremely simple to use
  • Chrome book -Inexpensive and uses mostly cloud storage
  • Microsoft Surface Pro – combines a tablet and computer and an affordable price

Tablet: When we first moved I owned an iPad 2. I have since sold that I my tablet of choice is an iPad Mini 2 with a portable bluetooth keyboard. Other viable choices are:

  • Kindle Fire Tablet 7 – Extremely affordable at $50
  • Nexus 9 Table – A contender to the iPad that uses the Android OS
  • Samsung and Asus also have affordable and powerful Tablets

Smartphone: Personally, this is my most used piece of electronics. I now own the Google Nexus 6. I have a $32 a month data plan that gives me the convenience of being connected all day but also the ability to connect via magic jack to my business contacts and family back in The States. I also use my Smartphone for:

  • Maps and Navigation
  • Free Worldwide texting via What’s Ap
  • Photos- I sold my DSLR and now use my Smartphone as my only camera
  • 4K Video
  • Podcasts – PBS, NPR and tech shows
  • HBO, Netflix
  • Social Media
  • Audio Recording
  • Skyping and Magic Jack
  • Remote Controls For TV

I highly recommend the Google Nexus but would also highly recommend the iPhone

Streaming Boxes: These hockey puck  devices will be your night time companions if you enjoy watching movies and TV series. You can’t go wrong with the ones below:

  • Apple TV Version 3 – $150
  • Roku 4 – $130
  • Amazon Fire TV $100;

Basically you can watch TV series and movies with these devices connected to your TV. They also have the added advantage of wirelessly connecting some of your devices ( computer, iphone tablet ) wirellessly to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a VPN (virtual private network) Router. I use the Sabai Cisco router because of the excellent technical support. I go to great lengths to describe the challenges of watching TV/Movies in Ecuador. I recommend using the search facility on this blog and typing in “VPN” and you will see several posts with recommendations.

All three device have voice search and the Roku and Amazon devices have lower priced stick versions that have less power but basically give you the same services.

Printer: This is the first year I am not recommending a printer. Unless you are using the printer for business then it’s easier and cheaper to put your document on a thumb drive and bring it to and easily available copy shop.

Camera: This is the first year I am recommending using a Smartphone instead of a point and shoot camera.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.35 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage)
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bringing data to be printed
  • VPN subscription  – I use Strong VPN and it’s about $8 a month
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.
  • Router: I use a Sabai VPN Cisco router $130. A much needed device in Ecuador if you’re going to watch movies and tv programs outside of Ecuador.

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Watching TV In Cuenca 2015

Last year I posted my 2014 TV watching experiences. This year I have added the Amazon TV Fire Streaming Box to the Roku 3 (1st ed.) and the Apple TV (720p). Below are some of the additional benefits from last year

  • Amazon Fire TV has a dynamic voice search and phone app to search and control your TV
  • Amazon Prime continues to add original production (Transparent) and added HBO series
  • Netflix also produces original productions (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black)
  • HBO NOW is available for the Apple TV and shortly for the other two streaming devices. Well worth the $14.99 monthly subscription
  • The new Roku 3 has a voice search and has the most add channels of the 3 streaming boxes.

So which is the best box? If I were to advise you on one box it would be the new Roku 3 with voice search. Why? The Roku 3 has the most channels including Amazon Prime.  If your budget is flexible and you have the HDMI ports for the other two I would definitely purchase them.

  • Fire TV has the best voice search and the most memory
  • Apple TV has Airplay to easily project your IOS device to your TV

There are also stick versions of the Fire TV and Roku available

  • The Apple TV (1080p) is now $69
  • The Fire TV is $99
  • Fire TV stick (limited memory and expansion) $39
  • Roku Stick(limited memory and expansion) is $49.99

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Sunday Morning- What’s On TV In Ecuador?

When I lived in Oregon there was a routine for watching LIVE TV on a Sunday Morning. First it was CBS Sunday Morning with Charles OsGood followed by NBC’s Meet The Press. Well now that I’m living in Cuenca the routine has changed but the content has only got richer.

Before I go any further I should say that I have two streaming media boxes (Roku & Apple TV) connected to a VPN router so that my presence on the Internet is somewhere in the U.S.

I start the morning off with CBS Sunday Morning. This Sunday there were two especially interesting stores.

  • Top Secret World War II POW housed in Alexandria Va.
  • The history of the Queen Mary Cruise Liner  and the role it played in WW II

The great part of viewing TV programs on the Streaming boxes is that I can go back several weeks and view  programs I may have missed.

After watching Meet The Press. I viewed the week’s new TED TALKS. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). This week’s winners were:

  • Underground Parks in New York City
  • Children’s Literature
  • Amazon Rain Forest

The last two hours were devoted to watching the PBS Ken Burns Series “The Roosevelts”. An intimate story about Ted, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt.  I did not know that Ted was shot while making a speech and went on for an hour with a bullet in his chest.

I highly recommend owning a media box and a VPN in Ecuador. I discuss media boxes and VPN on my blog. You can conduct two different searches by using the terms “VPN” and “Roku”.

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Watching TV In Cuenca – Revisited

Technology changes every day and TV Watching in Cuenca is no exception. Last year I wrote this post. I have revised and changed some prices and and added a few recommendations. The revisions are in bold and the new products have *** before them.

 

In April of 2012 I wrote a post about our TV services in Cuenca. A lot has changed in 18 months. We no longer have DirecTV and now our TV viewing is based on the following services.

I have installed a VPN Router. For the non geeks in the audience my VPN router came fromSabai Technology

This router basically is configured with VPN software and every time I  turn my computer, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV my Internet presence is in Miami and not in Ecuador. This allows me to watch anything on the web, Netflix, Amazon, Hula etc as if I was living in the U.S.

You also need to subscribe to VPN software. I use Strong VPN as my service. Good customer support and very reliable.

Summary of Costs:

  • One Time Cost: VPN Router $150
  • Yearly VPN subscription $90
  • Monthly Netflix Subscription: $8 – Now $9
  • Yearly Amazon Prime Subscription $70 – Now $99
  • One Time Cost  Apple TV – $99
  • One Time Cost Roku Box – $90

My monthly costs including the amortized hardware is about $25 per month

Pros:

  • No configuration of VPN software
  • All your devices are connected
  • Full Netflix and Amazon Prime Video collection available to you >10K titles
  • Watch any TV website on the Internet

Cons:

  • Initial Expense
  • Yearly recurring fee
  • Slight loss of Internet connection speed

I highly recommend this route. We watch great BBC and American TV series with no limitation.

*** Amazon Prime is now better than ever. They have added all the HBO Season 1 Shows and many more movies.

*** Netflix has added more movies and solid original productions like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black

*** Amazon has come out with a Streaming Box similar to Roku and Apple TV called Amazon Fire TV. The initial reviews are excellent

 

On a separate note. A quick reminder that I do Skype consulting for those of you that are permanently moving to Ecuador. The charge is $25 and last night a happy future expat said that after the call she saved $150 by planning to bring certain electronics and eliminating others.

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 5)

My wife and I have lived in Cuenca for 2.5 years and my thoughts have changed considerably since I first suggested what Electronics to bring to Ecuador when you permanently make the move.  Feel free to check the past posts. The most recent (Part 4) being here

I’m going to assume that the majority of readers will not be bringing a container and will use their available suitcases. In the next couple of paragraphs I’m going to surprise some readers and friends with my new recommendations.

You Don’t Need A Computer

It’s not a typo. if you are not doing proprietary work (i.e. video editing, accounting, database work, programming) then the latest tablet with a bluetooth keyboard will suit you fine.  Although my preference because of my Apple background and equipment would be an iPad Air or an iPad Mini, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy and they are considerably cheaper than the iPad.  The iPad does have the advantage with the 1 Billion strong app store but I know several people in Ecuador that are very happy with their Nexus 7.

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You Don’t Need A Printer

Most expats are retired. they are not working for a living anymore. Printers are bulky to bring and they are more expensive to buy in Ecuador. Initially we brought our Laser Printer with us when we first moved.  The paper jammed and I can’t find anybody that knows laser printers to repair the machine. For the past 6 months I have put anything I needed to print on a thumb drive and walk two blocks to a local copy shop and they print my documents in color or black and white.

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You Need A Smarthphone

The<$100 cell phones that you buy in Ecuador have inferior reception and transmission. I can always tell when I’m not speaking to someone on a Smartphone when there voice cuts out 3-5 times during a minute conversation. The benefits of a smartphone are numerous.

  • email availabiliy
  • Skype/MagicJack  ready
  • Spanish/English Translation
  • Web Access
  • GPS Map Apps
  • Great Camera

If you can afford an iPhone then you can’t go wrong. However, for what you would pay for 1 unlocked iPhone 5S you can buy 2 Nexus 5 phones. Data plans are about $35 per month. Half of what they are in the U.S. and you don’t get charged for incoming calls.

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You Need A VPN Router

For those people who want to have a seamless experience with their computer, tablets , Apple TV, Smartphone, or Roku Box then this is the easiest way to go. Yes, you can individually connect your devices via software to a VPN service (i.e. Strong, Witopia, HMA etc) but you can’t connect an Apple TV or Roku box any other way but through a VPN router. A Roku Box won’t work at all unless the device sees you with a U.S. IP address. I  extensively cover the benefits of a VPN router in this post

You Don’t Need A Point And Shoot Camera

Although I do own a Canon DSLR camera most of my shots are snapped on my iPhone. I have my iPhone all the time. I never miss a shot and I don’t have to lug a bulky camera kit with lenses around with me. I initially brought a Samsung point and shoot and now I don’t use it all. The iphone shots are great and you can also shoot video. The same can be said for the Samsung Galaxy and new Nexus 5 smartphones.

You May Need A Wifi Extender

We live in a 40 year old 2 story adobe house and need a wifi extender for the signal to reach from my office(router and modem location) to the second floor bedroom 40 ft away.  Wifi signals cap out at about 30 ft and don’t do well going through concrete floors or walls.

You Need A Roku Box

The Roku 3 Media Box is a little larger than a hockey puck. There are over 300 channels you can receive (with a VPN router). Netflix, Amazon Prime, NBC News, PBS, CBS News are just a few of the channels we can receive. If you have an investment in Apple equipment I also suggest you purchase and Apple TV for the Airplay facility as well as having access to the Itunes Store.

I look forward to your comments, and suggestions. There is no strict list of what you should bring. These items work well for my family. Your mileage may vary.  I’m available via Skype (at $20 per hour) to anyone who is considering moving down to Ecuador. During that hour I can suggest brands, vendors and installers that will save you hundreds of dollars and share with you mistakes that I made choosing the wrong equipment and ISP.

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Apple TV Or Roku Box?

Full disclosure.  All my family devices are Apple (Macbook, iPad, iPhone, iPod). I also worked for Apple many years ago and finally my television viewing is in Ecuador. If you have enough ports on your HDTV and the budget to connect both devices I think you should purchase both boxes. The total cost is less than $200 and you will surely get at least 3 years use out of both boxes giving a per month cost of about $5. Plus the Apple TV Box has the benefit of connecting all your devices without wires via Airplay.

The next statement is going to surprise most people who know me but if you only have a Windows machine or Android tablet then I suggest you buy only the Roku Box.  Here are my reasons.

  • Many more channels (Amazon Video, Blockbuster, PBS, CBS News etc) to view via Roku
  • Better UI( User Interface)  and Remote  than Apple TV
  • On the Roku 3 you have the ability to mute the TV and listen on Headphones connected to the Remote
  • Free online support via the Roku website
  • Ability to add a usb drive for extra movie viewing
  • ***MOST IMPORTANTLY – THE ROKU STREAMS VIDEO MORE EFFICIENTLY  ***

Be aware that the Roku box requires a VPN router which i discussed in length at this post 

Conclusion: I am thoroughly enjoying my Roku experience and am very pleased at the diverse channel selection available to me.

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