Make your HDTV Smarter: The Best Internet Media Streamers
The likes of Apple TV, Roku, LG, Western Digital, and more compete for your attention.
We help you decide.
The Apple TV is probably the best known of the bunch. Gary’s not a fan because it’s only 720p, but that’s not a deal breaker in my book. Nearly all streaming content is 720p, so this “shortcoming” is less of a deal than it first appears.
Like all the streamers, you get Netflix. More importantly, you get the iTunes Store to buy or rent TV shows and movies. You can also stream content from iTunes on your computer, which I use all the time with mine.
It’s easy to use, too. Other streamers offer more, but for an all-around package the Apple TV is great.
The Apple TV is $94.99 on Amazon.
Roku is sort of the anti-Apple TV. It has a similar diminutive form factor, and comes in multiple flavors depending on your needs. The Roku LT is only $49.99, but offers the same 720p output as the Apple TV. You get Netflix, of course, but also Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and most importantly, Amazon Instant Video. With the latter, you can rent and buy movies and TV shows. There’s certainly a lot more content possible with the Roku compared to the Apple TV, and it’s half the price, a fantastic bargain.
What it doesn’t do, though, is stream music and movies from your computer. Yes, you can get a 3rd party app that does this, but I’m standing by my opinion that if it doesn’t do it out of the box, it’s not officially part of the product. Disagree if you want, but it was already covered in our review of the Roku XD.
Stepping up to the Roku 2 XD ($79.99) and 2 XS ($99.99), you get 1080p video and in the case of the latter, a USB port. Neither of these things are a huge deal in my book (for reasons discussed above), but the increase in money is negligible, so why not.
The Roku LT is $49.99 on Amazon.
The Roku 2 XS is $94.99 on Amazon.
At the original price of $299, the Revue was overpriced… by about $200. Now, at $100 it’s just right. In our recent review we found the Revue a competent streamer, with an above average scaler, and a web browser with keyboard.
It doesn’t have Amazon Instant Video, though, which limits its desirability as a media streamer. If you can’t buy TV shows you missed, how useful is it?
(Edit 12/2: Duh, I’m an idiot. As a reader points out, you can use the built-in browser to watch Amazon Instant Video directly from their website. Next sentence is changed from original to reflect this.)
If the idea of a web browser on your TV to surf the Internet and check email interests you, then check out the Revue. The interface is a little clunky, but it also works as a decent all-around web streamer, with a better scaler than most.
The Logitech Revue is $99.99 on Amazon.
This is another one we reviewed this year. Like the Revue, its biggest claim to fame is a web browser. VUDU and Hulu Plus are cool, but don’t have the selection of iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.
Certainly not bad, but the Logitech is easier to surf the web with thanks to its real keyboard, and the other streamers offer access to more content.
The LG Smart TV Upgrader is $116.94 on Amazon.
Western Digital WD TV Live Hub
The Live Hub is a little more than a standard streamer, as it has a built-in 1 TB hard drive. It has a surprisingly good scaler, outputting all content at a decently sharp 1080p. The hard drive can store or be a backup for all your content, important in this day and age of minimal physical media.
You get Netflix and Hulu Plus, but sadly no Amazon Instant Video. If you enjoy ripping off musicians, there’s also Spotify.
If you don’t currently have a network hard drive backup, and don’t imagine you’d buy/rent a TV show or movie, check out the Live Hub.
The Western Digital WD TV Live Hub is $183.57 on Amazon.
I haven’t reviewed the Sony, but it seems interesting. It’s got Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and Hulu Plus, and though it lists for $129.99 (too much), it’s currently less than half that. Worth a look.
The Sony SMP-N100 Streaming Player is $49.99 on Amazon.
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