Two of the most popular ways to cut the cord to cable TV is to use a Roku box or an Apple TV. Which one is right for you?
We’re stacking up the Apple TV 3rd generation with the comparable Roku XS.
They’re both $99. The similarities don’t end there.
Roku does offer other models that start at $49. You can check them out here.
So, neither of these little rectangular boxes has anything remarkable on the outside. They’re basically 1″ x 3″ x 3″ squares that sit under your TV. The Apple TV is ever so slightly larger but for all practicality, the same. The Apple TV does feel sturdier, but I don’t plan on throwing them across the room.
If you flip them around and look at the back, you’ll notice a similar set of connectors.
Roku 2 XS Rear
Apple TV 3rd Gen Rear
Both have HDMI and Ethernet but the Roku has AV out and a slot for micro SD and the Apple TV has a slot for optical audio. I do like the ability to play videos off of the micro SD card slot on the Roku. Also, the Roku has a USB connector that can be used to play back video from a hard drive.
If you aren’t using a TV with HDMI, you’re only choice is the Roku.
The remotes are also very similar. They’re small, simple and well designed. Both setups also allow you to use your phone as a remote.
So both systems use icons for their various channels. Both interfaces are snappy and responsive without any noticeable lag. The Apple TV’s interface is more convenient because you can see all of your channels and once, while you’ll be doing some scrolling left and right with the Roku. Also, Roku does display an ad at the bottom of the home screen.
Apple TV Interface
Roku 2 XS Interface
Winner: Apple TV
Easy as can be with both of them. If you can hook up a toaster, you can install these guys. The directions are simple to follow. You’ll need to set up an account with Roku and the Apple TV but Roku does collect credit card info so you can make purchases from the channel store. In reality, you’ll need to give Apple all of that info to make use of the Apple TV to its fullest.
You’ll get 1080P, 5.1 Surround sound and supper fast 802.11n WiFi. No real differences here.
Roku is the big boy in this category.
Apple has Netflix, Hulu, MLB.TV, NHL, NBA, Flickr and YouTube. You can also purchase/rent content from iTunes.
Related: Cord Cutter Guide
The Roku answers with Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Instant, Spotify, Vimeo, Pandora and about 300 other channels of various uses. There is also a channel for Plex Media Server. Notice there is no YouTube channel with Roku. If that’s a must, then Apple TV is your box.
Play Content from your Computer
As you might expect, the Apple TV interfaces beautifully with your iTunes library. All of your purchases will be available to all of your other Apple devices. If you already own a bunch of Apple devices, have a lot of iTunes purchases and are bought into the Apple ecosystem then the no-brainer choice here is an Apple TV. You’ll even be able to use Apple Airplay to stream content straight from your iPad or iPhone.
If you’re not tied into the Apple world of products and content then you might want to give the Roku a good hard look. You can stream video from your computer but you’ll need media server software like XBMC or Plex Media server installed on the computer.
With Apple TV, you have your iTunes library. That’s it when it comes to music. With Roku, you’ve got Spotify, Pandora, and about a dozen other options including radio services.
If you’re an Apple person, then go with the Apple TV. It’s just the right move. If you want a lot more channels and more options when it comes to getting content then Roku is your box.
Buy Roku 2 XS 1080p Buy Newest Apple TV
What do you think? What is the big deciding factor for you?