The Internet TV Battle: Apple or Roku

October 11, 2010 | by

Competition has made way for a tiny $99 box that will connect your TV to a wealth of TV shows, movies, pictures, podcasts and music by streaming them over the Internet.

As a matter of fact we have here two similar contenders who have arrived in the market with some spectacular promises: Apple TV and Roku’s XD-S both available at $99. These devices may well resemble each other but down to setup routines in which the hardest part is typing a WiFi password on an onscreen keyboard, they represent different ideals. Apple TV if thought of as a projector then Roku will probably serve as an antenna. The box’s functions are mostly an extension of its iTunes store and software. Roku delivers a growing variety of content sources, with no clear favorite among them. This leads to the fact that Apple TV can be easier to like upfront, while the Roku promises more lasting value. Apple’s device will work best if you only plan to watch shows on Fox and ABC – that’s because the sole U.S. networks to sign up for the 99-cent rentals Apple introduced with this device last month. Apple makes browsing and searching through its listings easier, aside from the occasional unwanted selection caused by the remote’s tightly spaced buttons. Using it over a Verizon Fios connection, shows appear in seconds that also free of commercials and in high definition, unlike the blurry “HD” of some Web video services. For people using slower access connections, the Apple TV can cache a show or a movie in its flash memory.

You have the liberty to Rent movies, starting at $2.99 for standard-definition titles and $3.99 for high-def fare in a simple way now. Apple brings you a selection of rentals, like those of every other video-on-demand site, suffers from the constrained availability imposed by Hollywood’s idiotic “release window” business model. You get TV and movie rentals for 30 days to start watching and then you have 24 hours to finish a movie and 48 hours for a TV show. You do also have the option to watch purchased iTunes TV shows and movies – and play back music and view photos – through a copy of iTunes on another computer at home.

But Apple isn’t fair enough as because it hides this “Home Sharing” option in iTunes’ “Advanced” menu – not the more obvious “Sharing” feature listed in its preferences window.

Well, what’s more, you can also afford to watch Netflix TV shows and movies, play short clips off YouTube and view photos from Flickr. To add to all this, there’s a Web-radio function, but it lacks a search function makes it useless.

If you are eying on buying an Apple TV today let me tell you it may well amount to a bet on its progress – that other networks will offer shows for rent, that it will connect to other media sites and that Apple won’t neglect this like its now-abandoned precessor.

On the other hand, with the aid of Roku’s boxes, there’s less need to hope for later improvements but also less present-day elegance to appreciate. Well, the Saratoga, Calif., company flaunts an impressive selection of sites in its Channel Store. A total of 87 channels include such name-brand sources as Netflix, Amazon’s excellent video-on-demand site, the Pandora Web-radio service, Flickr and Major League Baseball’s – exclusive with Roku.

So what do you think ? With whom should you go?


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