There's a war going on outside and no TV is safe from it. It’s over control of next generation media delivery to your TV, and no matter how hard content providers fight to stop it from happening, its inevitable that it will indeed happen. Why? Because the technology to fuel it already exists, and because the traditional methods for viewing media have long been obsolete. So who are the contenders in this war? Read on to find out.
Logitech Revue (Google TV) – $299
CNET (rating: 3/5)
“The Logitech Revue with Google TV is loaded with potentially game-changing functionality, but its high price, numerous caveats, and current assortment of bugs make it best-suited to early adopters–at least until promised firmware fixes become available.”
Engadget (rating: 7/10 for Logitech Revue, 6/10 for the Google TV paltform)
“…at $300 with a complicated and lengthy setup, the Revue is very much an enthusiast's device, and we think most enthusiasts interested in the features of Google TV are better served with a cheap PC connected to their HDTVs at the moment.”
PC Magazine (rating: 4/5)
“Not as seamless as Apple TV, but armed with far more potential, the Logitech Revue with Google TV is a giant, if occasionally shaky, leap forward in home entertainment.”
PCWorld (rating: 3/5)
“Its puzzling search feature and its inability to play TV-network content online (even if that isn't the Revue's fault) are serious flaws–and for $300, I'd want these issues addressed.”
Apple TV – $99
CNET (rating: 3.5/5)
“The Apple TV's new low $99 price makes it an easy impulse buy for Apple fans looking to bring Netflix into the living room, but you may want to wait until more content–or Apple's forthcoming AirPlay update–becomes available.”
Engadget (rating: 7/10)
“If you just want a dead simple movie rental box and you're not that picky about content, the Apple TV is a no-brainer. If, like us, you're looking for options good enough to make you can the cable, Apple's new box still feels a lot like a hobby.”
PC Magazine (rating: 4/5 Editors Choice)
“A lower price, a more compact design, and the ability to stream content from iOS devices and rent 99-cent TV shows makes Apple's latest Apple TV set-top box an excellent option for iTunes and Netflix users.”
PC World (rating: 4/5)
“…if you’re both an iTunes user and a Netflix subscriber, the product is right in your wheelhouse. This is a good product that has the potential to erase its status as a hobby and become a hit—but it feels like a few pieces of the puzzle are still missing.”
Roku XDS – $99
CNET (rating: 3.5/5)
“If you don't need compatibility with iTunes, Roku's trio of ultra-affordable video boxes offers a wider range of streaming video and audio providers than you'll find on Apple TV.”
Engadget (rating: 8/10)
“There's still some work to be done and more content partnerships to strike — add in Hulu support and it's game over, guys — but the Roku XDS is definitely worth a look if you need a streamer, and the oh-so-cheap Roku HD is probably worth a look even if you don't.”
PC Magazine (rating: 2.5/5)
“Roku has done little to improve this TV companion box since its introduction in 2008—at $100, it has stiff competition.”
PC World (rating: 3.5/5)
“The Roku XDS lets you play a lot of Internet media with a minimum of fuss, but lacks meaningful support for streaming media on your local network or USB drives.”
Boxee Box by D-Link $199
CNET (rating 3/5)
"The Boxee Box by D-Link has some innovative design choices and a promising user interface, but mainstream content is mostly missing in action until future firmware updates are available."
Engadget (rating: 6/10)
"…if you're nerdy enough to want a streamer, you're nerdy enough to grab a $299 Ion nettop and run Boxee on it, and you'll get better performance with no network content blocks."
PC Magazine (rating: 3/5)
"Less expensive than the Logitech Revue with Google TV and pricier than Apple TV, the Boxee Box by D-Link focuses on rounding up Web content on your HDTV, but suffers from a lack of partner content at launch."
So there you have it; four contenders, zero clear winner.
With the exception of Apple TV, one thing becomes apparent after a short time spent with this pack: demanding software requires supporting hardware. Google TV is about as laggy as Comcast's guide/VOD, Roku struggles to play 1080p content properly and doesn't come equipped with wifi for sharing your local library, and Boxee seems crippled when compared to it's desktop media center app. Boxee was so full of "loading" screens that it actually made me wonder why would anyone not just buy a AspireRevo for $199 and just load Boxee on it.
It's important to note that ATV and Roku we're never meant to replace a media center PC. But both GTV and Boxee, if nothing else, was intended to look appealing to gadget freaks and media aficionados. After playing with them, however, I'm not sure how any of these solutions can possibly look appealing to this group of consumers with their current specs, features and limitations.
Make no mistake, all these products are doing something very important: they deliver on-demand content to viewers, charge (or plan to charge) a reasonable price (especially when compared to cable providers) when doing it, and most importantly enabling TV's with web based content that has been forbidden on the big screen since the dawn of it's existence. With that being said, it's hard (if not impossible) to recommend any of these first attempts to those already connected to the web via their HTPCs. However, If you're not in that group, and have been curious about what happens when your TV hooks up with the web, Apple TV at $99 gets our vote. It has the least amount of features out-of-the-box, but it also has the most potential. A ATV App Store and further integration with i-devices and could potentially make the this one a winner…if Apple ever gets around to making it happen.