Android tv box vs roku

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There are plenty of Web video services that would look great on your HDTV, and there are several media hubs that can put them there. If you want to access online content and your HDTV or Blu-ray player doesn’t offer integrated Web services (or it doesn’t have the services you want), you can take one of three routes: Apple TV, a Google TV device, or a Web-service-based set-top box à la Roku. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. The products we’ll outline below are all different, and the best solution for watching your iTunes movie library isn’t going to be the best way to watch Netflix on a budget. If you’re ready to get into the Web streaming game, read on.

Apple TV
Apple’s $99 set-top box supports 1080p playback and can access the iTunes store so you can watch movies, play Internet radio, use a handful of services like Netflix and YouTube, and, if you pay $25 per year, access your entire music library including ripped CDs through iTunes Match. If you use an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, its most compelling, exclusive feature is Apple’s AirPlay wireless streaming. With AirPlay on the Apple TV, you can stream photos, video, and music stored on your iOS device to your HDTV.

Apple TV isn’t perfect, though. While AirPlay makes it a great accessory to an iPhone or an iPad, Apple TV’s video services beyond Netflix, YouTube, and the iTunes library are pretty sparse. You can’t use Hulu Plus or any of the other major video services through the Apple TV, and even though the box runs on iOS, it has no support for apps, and offers very little in the way of expandability or customization.

Google TV
Google TV is to Android what Apple TV is to iOS, which makes perfect sense because Google TV is powered by Android, just like Apple TV is powered by iOS. The Logitech Revue set-top box, Sony’s Google TV-integrated HDTVs and Blu-ray players use Google TV, and set-top boxes and other products are expected from LG, Vizio, and other HDTV manufacturers later this year. The Logitech Revue is no longer available from Logitech itself, but you can still pick one up online from Amazon and other vendors.

Google TV uses apps downloaded from the Android Market, offers a full version of the Google Chrome Web browser, and generally handles like a tablet on your HDTV, with a keyboard and touchpad to control it rather than a touch screen. You can look up movie information on IMDB, listen to your music library through Google Music, and even just sit in front of a digital fireplace with the Classy Fireplace app.

All that power comes with a fair amount of inconvenience: The interface isn’t terribly polished or cleanly integrated across different apps; Google TV apps are as hit-or-miss as standard Android apps; and to fully take advantage of Google TV you need a wireless keyboard remote

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Service-Based Set-Top Boxes
The $200 Boxee Box is a powerful service-based set-top box with more similarities to Google TV boxes than Roku-type products. Boxee offers tons of services, including 1080p video streaming from Vudu, a Web browser, and live television programming if you pick up the Boxee Live TV USB tuner. Its interface isn’t nearly as polished as the Apple TV, though, and its apps aren’t as varied as Google TV’s selection.

Besides Boxee, other service-based set-top boxes are simpler than Apple TV or Google TV, and they can also be less expensive. Roku is the best-known brand of streaming-media boxes, and the $50 Roku LT stands as our Editors’ Choice in budget media hubs. Roku arranges different services as channels, and lets you access Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more specific video channels like Crunchyroll, Funny or Die, and G4. They don’t deliver as many networked-media features as the Apple TV and they don’t offer a Web browser or a lot of apps like Google TV products, but they’re simple to set up and let you jump right into watching online video services without much effort.

Other boxes include Western Digital’s WD TV Live Hub, which serves up plenty of video services and solid support for viewing media from a built-in hard drive, or over your home network. The Netgear NeoTV NTV200 doesn’t have the networked media support or storage, but makes up for it with plenty of content channels and a low $50 price.

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