More content, more features, less cost – these are the benefits most TV viewers are searching for when they enter the world of streaming television. And each of the major devices on the market claims to have all of these things. But do they deliver? Today we’ll review two products: Apple TV and the Roku 2 XD, and see how well each lives up to its promises.
What Both Have
In a word, lower cost. Users have access to services like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, with crystal-clear 1080p resolution. Want support for 5.1 surround sound? They have that too. For those on the go, they support mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, though with varying degrees of quality. And both allow users to use their phone as a remote to launch apps and browse videos.
What Roku XD Has
At a suggested retail price of $80, the Roku falls in behind its big brother, the XS, in terms of both features and price. On its own, however, its still offers excellent value for its price point, and is considered by many the “best buy” of the lineup. Users have access to Netflix, Vimeo Plus, and HBO Go, in addition to lesser known services (have you ever heard of Crunchyroll?). And, with its 3 ounce weight and vanishingly small size, it’s virtually unnoticeable in a modern entertainment center.
The user interface is simplicity itself, making navigation quick and easy to learn. It’s smaller than the Apple TV unit, for those who care about such things. Streaming from either a Mac or a PC is possible with the addition of Plex. It offers in excess of 500 channels, with a huge variety of entertaining and informative content. And, if you’re a fan of Crackle, Pandora, or Netflix, it even has quick launch buttons for each.
Some potential negatives include the fact that a credit card is required, even if you don’t intend to buy premium services. Also, for some reason the designers didn’t see fit to include an ethernet port – something we can’t quite understand.
Unveiled in march 2012, the newest version of Apple’s device looks just like its predecessor, but has been upgraded to include 1080p play. For Mac enthusiasts, it offers flawless integration with everything Apple, including iCloud and I Tunes. Attach it to your existing iMac and you’ll have a computer/TV all in one.
Those who are not so closely tied to the Apple iUniverse still have access to Hulu Plus, Vimeo, Amazon Instant Video and Netflix. Overall, however, Apple TV offers most of its unique benefits to those who are devoted Mac device users. For the rest of the world, the $20 higher MSRP doesn’t offer more bang for the buck in any way that we can see.
Apple TV’s primary advantages lie in how well it ties into other Mac-related services. If you’re into this, then it’s probably your best choice. If not, you will probably be perfectly happy with the Roku box, and have a little more cash in your pocket as well.
Category: Streaming TV