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Roku vs AppleTV advice

I am getting a lot of people asking me what my thoughts are on Roku vs AppleTV… which is interesting for a few reasons. Why does my opinion matter? Why now, as I am just beginning to analyze the options myself… coincidence?

Anyway… the sad news is neither appears to be worth it right now.

I am as yet undecided, but it is not looking good for either device.

Both the Roku and the NEW AppleTV have no internal storage; so there is no way to keep your own media files local to the device (the old AppleTV was way better in this regard, and I am still recommending that).

Both the Roku and NEW AppleTV can stream just fine assuming you have very good broadband connectivity; but then so can any profile 2.0 or newer Blu-Ray player, and frankly, the Blu-ray players are better at this than either stand-alone streaming only device.

Roku HD can do 1080p, but there are almost no streamers streaming that resolution so it is not a huge difference. Again, the Blu-ray players can do 1080p too…

Neither is easy to point at your own streamer already in your house; this is a small deal, as very few people are going to set up their own streaming server in their own house… though geeks like me are probably already doing so.

I am leaning towards a Boxee device and/or Popcorn Hour – both of which are more expensive, but both of which allow local streaming on the LAN very easily and neither is limited to proprietary streaming types. Both also have extra apps that you can load. Popcorn Hour can also mount local disk drives.

The ultimate device is probably a Linux based home theater PC with Blu-ray drive, gobs of hard disk, Myth-TV software, XBMC software, and Boxee software – but that is probably a ~$700 option.

For streaming only… Blu-ray kicks both the new AppleTV and Roku out of the running.

The old AppleTV with 160GB hard drive (or even 40GB drive) is still very interesting because you can hack it quite easily to put Boxee software or XBMC software on it and play your own files locally. Offsetting that wonderful feature, the old AppleTV has older, slower processors and some media, especially flash based, is really getting choppy in the old machine.

I guess the bottom line is that this market has not firmed up yet and none of these devices is really ready yet. Apple was making progress, but frankly took a step backwards with the new AppleTV.

Update: There is now a new contender, the Iomega TV is very much like the Boxee box from D-Link, with larger hard drives and more standard form factor.

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