Apple TV Or Roku (Or Other Streaming Devices)?

Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
Recently I went to a Coinstar to cash in my jar's worth of coins collected over the last year or so. I was optimistic in hoping I would get at least $40 out of it, but was pleasantly surprised to learn I ended up getting $95 from the stored up change.

I was looking into nabbing an Apple TV for myself. My family has one in the living room and it's proven to be a really functional box, so I figured having one of my own would be plenty convenient.

But then I was informed by one friend that I should look into getting a Roku instead.

I don't really have any experience with other streaming devices, but the Roku 3 and Apple TV are both priced similarly (the Roku 2 is even cheaper). With that, I decided to educate myself on which of the two streaming devices was the better value, or any other options I'm not aware of.

Firstly, these are the services I would want to use with the streaming device:

1. Netflix

2. YouTube

3. Crunchyroll

4. Hulu (possibly, depending on how I like the trial)

5. Amazon Prime Video (not a dealbreaker, but would be nice. I know it's not available on the Apple TV)

As for what I want out of the box, the two most important things for me would be:

1. Picture Quality (1080p or something close. If one has more compression/artifacts than the other, then not interested)

2. Streaming Quality (does one do a better job streaming without lag/chugging?)

Anything else, such as extra channels, customization or iDevice synchronization, would just be icing on the cake. Those first two things are the most important to me. Another big plus would be a device that always saved your progress on whatever video you were watching. I know Apple TV does that with Netflix, but doesn't seem to do so with YouTube (a big plus for XBMC, which I would exclusively use were it not for its lack of Netflix, Amazon and Crunchyroll integration).

So yeah, looking for the advantages/disadvantages between the two so I can make an informed decision.

Edit: I'm reading reviews and browsing the official site, and the one big plus in the Roku's favor is its larger amount of channels.

The question, though, is how many of those are free. I only plan to subscribe to a couple of services at best, so if all those other channels require additional subscriptions then I'm not interested.

The lack of a YouTube channel is also disconcerting, but if neither Roku nor Apple TV saves your progress on where you left off in a YouTube video, then it's no big deal. In that case, XBMC would still be my predominant venue for YouTube as well as Giant Bomb (which doesn't seem to be a part of either streaming box).

Professor Snugglesworth on

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  • syndalissyndalis Getting Classy On the WallRegistered User, Loves Apple Products regular
    AppleTV has a slick as hell UI that is seamless and easy to use. If you own any iOS devices or macs mirroring or pushing your screen to the TV is a snap.

    Roku does more stuff, but at a less polished level in my opinion.

    If you want more streaming services and easier streaming of content from your windows computer, get a Roku. If you have a bunch of iOS devices and appreciate a really well designed user interface, get an Apple TV.

    You won't go wrong with either.

    SW-4158-3990-6116
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  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    Well, performance would be the primary deciding factor in devices here. From what I've read, Roku definitely has more channels to play around with, but the majority of them are also available on XBMC. The primary reason I'm looking into getting a streaming box is to better play the content that currently doesn't work/doesn't work well with XBMC (namely Crunchyroll and Netflix). And again, the big advantage that XBMC has for those extra channels is that it saves where you last left off (especially great for Giant Bomb's hour-plus vids).

    I'll have to do more research, but in addition to not having YouTube support, Crunchyroll content seems to be stuck at 480p for the Roku 3. A big negative for me.

  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    I looked into this a while ago and from what I recall the main ones were roku, apple tv, boxee, google tv, and wd tv. I think Roku and apple tv had the widest selection of things you might actually want to watch, but I think all of them at this point have hulu/netflix which are going to be the main sources. Honestly you have a good list in the op you should just google all of the products and make a list of which ones have which services.

    The other thing to keep in mind is local file playback (if that's important to you). Most of the devices will only play a limited number of file types, and not all of them well. So if say all of your recorded/ripped video files are mkv you probably don't want an apple tv.

    Another option is going 3rd part software. You mentioned xbmc so I will just point out that the apple tv 3 has not been jailbroken yet so no xbmc. But I think there are other options like plex as well.

    If you have a desktop computer running on your network you can also get around some limitations of the streaming devices by using things like plex or playon to stream to your tv device.

    Finally you can go all in and do a full HTPC which gives you the most options, but setting up streamlined playing for all those options is pretty much a 24/7 job. I've heard good things about setting up a rasberrypi for this sort of thing.

    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    Those would be nice, sure, but again that would just be incidental bonuses. I can do all that stuff through XBMC, which I have directly connected to my TV (since my PC is just an HDMI cable away).

    So again, the purpose of adding a streaming box is to achieve the stuff I can't do through XBMC first and foremost. I'll have to do a little more research, but as it stands the strikes against the Roku (no YouTube, Crunchyroll content is at 480p, worse UI) are pushing me to go with the Apple TV.

    The other positive going with Apple is that their stuff rarely depreciates in value. In the event XBMC updates those troublesome channels to work perfectly, I could sell back the Apple TV at almost zero loss. Ditto if they come up with a new version.

  • Mei HikariMei Hikari Registered User regular
    I have a Boxee Box at home and it's starting to show its age. I'm about to go all out and spec out an HTPC and install XMBC on it.
    I'll mainly be streaming 1080p video from my media server, but I want the option to watch stuff on Netflix or Youtube.

    I just need to find a good HTPC remote.

  • hsuhsu Registered User regular
    edited August 2013
    I have had a Roku and an Apple TV. Gave the Roku to the parents, the Apple TV to a sister, and got a PS3 for myself. In actual use, I didn't really find much difference between the three for Netflix. Obvious, I got the PS3 because it handles blueray, games, and streaming.

    And that bring me to my FYI: these days, a Netflix streaming blueray player with built in wifi, costs the same as a Roku or Apple TV.

    hsu on
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  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    I decided to stick with the Apple TV. The predominant reasons were that Crunchyroll currently streams no higher than 480p on Roku along with the lack of YouTube support.

    The latter isn't a huge dealbreaker since, again, I like XBMC for YouTube because it saves where you left off. But all of the other extra channels that Roku has are available on XBMC anyway, so that just leaves getting a device that handles the stuff XBMC doesn't as of this writing.

    Maybe things will change in the future, and I'll end up wanting a Roku over the Apple TV. In which case I can sell it off and get most of the money back. Ditto if XBMC updates and plays those services as well, although I certainly like the convenience of a dedicated streaming player.

    I guess what I'm saying is that for the time being, the Apple TV is a better advantage for me.

  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    I'd also suggest taking a peek at Google's new Chromecast thingie. Netflix and Youtube are built in, plus anything you can play in a Chrome browser tab. I haven't had any problems with it so far; at $35 it was practically an impulse-buy just so I wouldn't have to keep plugging my laptop into my TV.

  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but streaming from your iDevice would open up the possibility of video compression versus directly playing it off a channel app, right?

    That coupled with the more cumbersome approach to using your iPhone/iPad as a remote as well as draining the battery ultimately put off the Chromecast for me. It's probably a great bargain device, but it probably falls way behind the Apple TV and Roku.

  • Dr_KeenbeanDr_Keenbean Dumb as a butt Planet Express ShipRegistered User regular
    It's my understanding the when using chromecast you do not 'push' the content from your device as you would with airplay. Instead your device tells the chromecast 'hey load this YouTube video/Netflix thing/webpage' and your device simply acts as a remote, using substantially less battery.

    I don't have mine yet to verify but I've been reading lots of reviews looking for more info.

    PSN: Dr_Keenbean LIVE: Dr Keenbean Battle.net Drkeenbean#1951
    urahonkySeidkona
  • urahonkyurahonky Dayton, OHRegistered User regular
    Correct, Dr_keenbean that is one of the pluses or negatives, depending on how you look at it.

  • WeretacoWeretaco Cubicle Gangster Registered User regular
    edited August 2013
    Mei Hikari wrote: »
    I have a Boxee Box at home and it's starting to show its age. I'm about to go all out and spec out an HTPC and install XMBC on it.
    I'll mainly be streaming 1080p video from my media server, but I want the option to watch stuff on Netflix or Youtube.

    I just need to find a good HTPC remote.

    I'm currently pondering a box for this from zotac.
    http://www.zotac.com/products/mini-pcs/zbox/amd/product/amd/detail/zbox-ad06-plus-1.html with a ram upgrade is my current thought. Comes with a remote but I'd be running xbmc on it so I can run apps to control it with windows phone, ios, or android with ease.

    Other option is
    http://www.zotac.com/products/mini-pcs/zbox-nano-series/zbox-nano-xs/product/zbox-nano-xs/detail/zbox-nano-xs-ad13-plus.html

    Weretaco on
    Unofficial PA IRC chat: #paforums at irc.slashnet.org
  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    It's my understanding the when using chromecast you do not 'push' the content from your device as you would with airplay. Instead your device tells the chromecast 'hey load this YouTube video/Netflix thing/webpage' and your device simply acts as a remote, using substantially less battery.

    I don't have mine yet to verify but I've been reading lots of reviews looking for more info.

    That's definitely true for Youtube/Netflix at least. I'm not exactly sure about the mechanics of dragging a video file from your hard drive into a Chrome tab, playing it, and Chromecasting that tab; I don't know how that would work, if not by pushing the content. I think that maneuver only works with the non-mobile version of Chrome though, so battery is less of a concern.

  • WulfWulf Disciple of Tzeentch The Void... (New Jersey)Registered User regular
    My Apple TV has been very good to me, especially since it is effectively my 'Cable Box'. Youtube works great, CrunchyRoll works great, I can access any series I bought on iTunes right from my TV, and anything I have in my iTunes library is right there for my perusal, be it the digital copies of movies, or my music. The fact that I can control it all with my phone or my universal remote is nice too. My folks use the Roku, and I personally never could get over the input lag.

    Everyone needs a little Chaos!
  • AlectharAlecthar Alan Shore We're not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?Registered User regular
    Weretaco wrote: »
    Mei Hikari wrote: »
    I have a Boxee Box at home and it's starting to show its age. I'm about to go all out and spec out an HTPC and install XMBC on it.
    I'll mainly be streaming 1080p video from my media server, but I want the option to watch stuff on Netflix or Youtube.

    I just need to find a good HTPC remote.

    I'm currently pondering a box for this from zotac.
    http://www.zotac.com/products/mini-pcs/zbox/amd/product/amd/detail/zbox-ad06-plus-1.html with a ram upgrade is my current thought. Comes with a remote but I'd be running xbmc on it so I can run apps to control it with windows phone, ios, or android with ease.

    Other option is
    http://www.zotac.com/products/mini-pcs/zbox-nano-series/zbox-nano-xs/product/zbox-nano-xs/detail/zbox-nano-xs-ad13-plus.html

    I own one of those Zotac mini-PCs and while it's competent for many tasks, the anemic processor is pretty limiting. I had serious issues playing back iTunes and HD Netflix content.

    Though it pains me to say it, the best non-gaming HTPC I've owned is a Mac Mini. Even bog standard, with OS X and a 5400 RPM HDD, it was better than most anything I'd hooked to my TV before. After I tossed an SSD and Windows on there it was truly fantastic.

    At this point, though, I'd probably wait till Haswell really gets going before I made any HTPC purchase. It's a great proc for HTPC use, and Intel, Gigabyte, and other vendors are utilizing Intel's "NUC" standard to build mini-PCs with significantly more CPU horsepower than the Zotac barebones you're looking at.

  • BigityBigity Lubbock, TXRegistered User regular
    KalTorak wrote: »
    It's my understanding the when using chromecast you do not 'push' the content from your device as you would with airplay. Instead your device tells the chromecast 'hey load this YouTube video/Netflix thing/webpage' and your device simply acts as a remote, using substantially less battery.

    I don't have mine yet to verify but I've been reading lots of reviews looking for more info.

    That's definitely true for Youtube/Netflix at least. I'm not exactly sure about the mechanics of dragging a video file from your hard drive into a Chrome tab, playing it, and Chromecasting that tab; I don't know how that would work, if not by pushing the content. I think that maneuver only works with the non-mobile version of Chrome though, so battery is less of a concern.

    I've read several reviews wher tab-casting has issues, but I'd like this option so i can play Hulu Plus web-only content on my TV. It pisses me off that I can pay for a service, and have half of it restricted to my laptop screen. Without a HDMI cable to my TV anyway - and it lessens the value of other devices that can stream Hulu

    76561198017303226.png
  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    Apple TV came in today, all set up and ready to go.

    While researching neat non-jailbreaking things I could do, I learned that holding down the menu button will instantly bring you back to the front screen.

    This is significant.

  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited August 2013
    Bigity wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    It's my understanding the when using chromecast you do not 'push' the content from your device as you would with airplay. Instead your device tells the chromecast 'hey load this YouTube video/Netflix thing/webpage' and your device simply acts as a remote, using substantially less battery.

    I don't have mine yet to verify but I've been reading lots of reviews looking for more info.

    That's definitely true for Youtube/Netflix at least. I'm not exactly sure about the mechanics of dragging a video file from your hard drive into a Chrome tab, playing it, and Chromecasting that tab; I don't know how that would work, if not by pushing the content. I think that maneuver only works with the non-mobile version of Chrome though, so battery is less of a concern.

    I've read several reviews wher tab-casting has issues, but I'd like this option so i can play Hulu Plus web-only content on my TV. It pisses me off that I can pay for a service, and have half of it restricted to my laptop screen. Without a HDMI cable to my TV anyway - and it lessens the value of other devices that can stream Hulu

    For what it's worth, I've watched free Hulu content via Chrome tab-casting without too much trouble. Tab-casting does apparently require some not-insignificant processing power though; my wife was trying to cast an episode of Project Runway from a tab on her basic Dell laptop and it came through way too choppy to watch, basically a slideshow. The same thing played fine when cast from my MBP.

    KalTorak on
  • WulfWulf Disciple of Tzeentch The Void... (New Jersey)Registered User regular
    Apple TV came in today, all set up and ready to go.

    While researching neat non-jailbreaking things I could do, I learned that holding down the menu button will instantly bring you back to the front screen.

    This is significant.

    Yep. Double tap down to enable the skip bar, which jumps you a chunk at a time, up to access information... I think there are a few other things, but I can't think of them right now.

    Everyone needs a little Chaos!
  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    I just wish it would save your progress on YouTube videos like XBMC. XBMC is still my primary media streaming player, but the Apple TV gets the job done for the stuff XBMC doesn't handle well.

    Also some apps I'm pushing video content through (Cinemassacre) will shut off unexpectedly when my phone/iPad goes to sleep mode. The Giant Bomb app works fine though.

  • WeretacoWeretaco Cubicle Gangster Registered User regular
    Alecthar wrote: »
    Weretaco wrote: »
    Mei Hikari wrote: »
    I have a Boxee Box at home and it's starting to show its age. I'm about to go all out and spec out an HTPC and install XMBC on it.
    I'll mainly be streaming 1080p video from my media server, but I want the option to watch stuff on Netflix or Youtube.

    I just need to find a good HTPC remote.

    I'm currently pondering a box for this from zotac.
    http://www.zotac.com/products/mini-pcs/zbox/amd/product/amd/detail/zbox-ad06-plus-1.html with a ram upgrade is my current thought. Comes with a remote but I'd be running xbmc on it so I can run apps to control it with windows phone, ios, or android with ease.

    Other option is
    http://www.zotac.com/products/mini-pcs/zbox-nano-series/zbox-nano-xs/product/zbox-nano-xs/detail/zbox-nano-xs-ad13-plus.html

    I own one of those Zotac mini-PCs and while it's competent for many tasks, the anemic processor is pretty limiting. I had serious issues playing back iTunes and HD Netflix content.

    Though it pains me to say it, the best non-gaming HTPC I've owned is a Mac Mini. Even bog standard, with OS X and a 5400 RPM HDD, it was better than most anything I'd hooked to my TV before. After I tossed an SSD and Windows on there it was truly fantastic.

    At this point, though, I'd probably wait till Haswell really gets going before I made any HTPC purchase. It's a great proc for HTPC use, and Intel, Gigabyte, and other vendors are utilizing Intel's "NUC" standard to build mini-PCs with significantly more CPU horsepower than the Zotac barebones you're looking at.

    Which version of the Zotac do you have? I haven't been able to find good reviews of the later ones. I do however have an old Dell box from work with a core 2 duo and 8GB of ram. Only thing I'll have to swap is the video card and see if the power supply can handle a geforce 210 since the current ati HD3400 won't do audio over the displayport connectors (converting to HDMI). "Should" be able to get it working for abour $40 as a straight up xbmc box.

    Unofficial PA IRC chat: #paforums at irc.slashnet.org
  • BigityBigity Lubbock, TXRegistered User regular
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Bigity wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    It's my understanding the when using chromecast you do not 'push' the content from your device as you would with airplay. Instead your device tells the chromecast 'hey load this YouTube video/Netflix thing/webpage' and your device simply acts as a remote, using substantially less battery.

    I don't have mine yet to verify but I've been reading lots of reviews looking for more info.

    That's definitely true for Youtube/Netflix at least. I'm not exactly sure about the mechanics of dragging a video file from your hard drive into a Chrome tab, playing it, and Chromecasting that tab; I don't know how that would work, if not by pushing the content. I think that maneuver only works with the non-mobile version of Chrome though, so battery is less of a concern.

    I've read several reviews wher tab-casting has issues, but I'd like this option so i can play Hulu Plus web-only content on my TV. It pisses me off that I can pay for a service, and have half of it restricted to my laptop screen. Without a HDMI cable to my TV anyway - and it lessens the value of other devices that can stream Hulu

    For what it's worth, I've watched free Hulu content via Chrome tab-casting without too much trouble. Tab-casting does apparently require some not-insignificant processing power though; my wife was trying to cast an episode of Project Runway from a tab on her basic Dell laptop and it came through way too choppy to watch, basically a slideshow. The same thing played fine when cast from my MBP.

    Hm I may go ahead and give one a try then. Both of the home laptops are ASUS gaming rigs, so I'd hope they'd have processing to spare when just watching a show.

    76561198017303226.png
  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    Bigity wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Bigity wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    It's my understanding the when using chromecast you do not 'push' the content from your device as you would with airplay. Instead your device tells the chromecast 'hey load this YouTube video/Netflix thing/webpage' and your device simply acts as a remote, using substantially less battery.

    I don't have mine yet to verify but I've been reading lots of reviews looking for more info.

    That's definitely true for Youtube/Netflix at least. I'm not exactly sure about the mechanics of dragging a video file from your hard drive into a Chrome tab, playing it, and Chromecasting that tab; I don't know how that would work, if not by pushing the content. I think that maneuver only works with the non-mobile version of Chrome though, so battery is less of a concern.

    I've read several reviews wher tab-casting has issues, but I'd like this option so i can play Hulu Plus web-only content on my TV. It pisses me off that I can pay for a service, and have half of it restricted to my laptop screen. Without a HDMI cable to my TV anyway - and it lessens the value of other devices that can stream Hulu

    For what it's worth, I've watched free Hulu content via Chrome tab-casting without too much trouble. Tab-casting does apparently require some not-insignificant processing power though; my wife was trying to cast an episode of Project Runway from a tab on her basic Dell laptop and it came through way too choppy to watch, basically a slideshow. The same thing played fine when cast from my MBP.

    Hm I may go ahead and give one a try then. Both of the home laptops are ASUS gaming rigs, so I'd hope they'd have processing to spare when just watching a show.

    I'd imagine those would be fine (my MBP usually has to run recent games at the lowest settings); probably only bottom-of-the-line laptops or netbooks will have real trouble.

  • BigityBigity Lubbock, TXRegistered User regular
    Bah, out of stock at Amazon.

    76561198017303226.png
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