Friday, March 2, 2012

Whats a Set top Box?!?! Which one is for me?

You would think people who work at Best Buy or Fry's would know what a SET TOP BOX is. After all it's there job. But if you specifically say your looking for a Roku or Apple Tv they will usually point you in the right direction.  Set Top boxes are a digital media receiver. They stream content drawn from online or locally connected sources. Such as shared folders on a network with the ability to play such items as Music, Movies, or Pictures and have the ability to stream them with a set top box connected to your tv. They also have the ability to stream services like Netflix or Hulu. I like to think of it as an IPod for your tv. That being said there are many different makers of set top boxes and some are better than others. In most cases you can attach an external hard drive to the device and have playback what's ever on the hard drive through the device.

Roku, offers 4 different options of set top box.

The LT. The LT version plays video in a Max of 720p so if 1080 isnt your thing and you just want to stream Netflix and Hulu this is your choice. At for 49.99 it provides enough to keep a casual user happy.

The Roku 2 HD also only plays in 720 and offers the exact same features as the LT but adds the blue tooth and an expandable memory slot.

The Roku 2  XD This version is 79.99 and comes with full 1080p functionality. So basically you pay $20.00 more for 1080 because thats the only thing different from the R2HD.

The Roku 2 XS This version is 99.99. This version of Roku offers everything Roku has to offer. A motion control remote as well as angry birds already loaded on to the little puck. But this version has ethernet and usb ports allowing you to connect a hard line or connect a external hard drive along with the rest of the features all of the Roku's have to offer.

LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrade have a greta interface and also has plenty of apps to people happy. However the big down fall is that the device does not offer plex support. If you anything about plex you know its a game changer. While the interface is nice and playback is good, I would only recommed this for people who want to pay more for things that only like products that are half developed.

This brings me to Boxee Box. If your looking for APPS, well the Boxee has it an then some. Not to mention a pretty slick UI. This is PB"s favorite and he owns it. While I have never used the Boxee Box, I have used the interface on my computer and on a jailbroken first generation Apple Tv.  It was great, although you might need a working knowledge of SMB and file system management.  Its not user friendly in that fashion, but a Tech will love this thing.

The Boxee Box was going to be my last Box to talk about but with the emergence of the Xbox 360 as a viable set top box option I feel as though I have to talk about it. This might be my favorite box of all for its overall ability. You can game, you can watch broadcast tv. You can use it as a dvr. You can stream local files over your network. And now you can watch channels like UFC, Netflix, ESPN, youtube and now HBO GO.. It really does offer an all in one experience. With the advent of the Kinect it makes your experience even cooler. My only issue is that Microsoft makes you have a Xbox Live Gold account. Thats an extra 60  bucks a year on top of what you need to pa. But Microsoft is really behind this and constantly coming out with new and exciting content.

And last but not least is the Apple Tv 2. If you live an Apple dominated life like I do, then you can beat the little black puck. Itunes, Airplay are just some of the standard feautures that come with Apple Tv 2. With enough apps to make you happy along with the ease of use, you can't really beat apple tv. The interface and ease of use are the biggest selling points here especially if you run an applecentric home and have an Itunes account. The downside is no 1080p support. However rumors are that apple will introduce the Apple Tv 3 March 7th 2012 alongside the IPad 3. Rumors are they would include Mirroring and Blu Tooth support along with full 1080p playback.

I've used all of these products and several more that I dont need to mention (Western Digital and Seagates versions). It might be a surprise, but my first option would not be the Apple Tv 2. Without Jailbreaking the Apple Tv you dont get the truely awesomeness that it can be. But taking in price and overall ease of use, I'm gonna have to bow down to the Roku 2 XD. The price point is great. The ease of use is as easy as any of the devices. The UI is the only negative for me. Its plain and wasnt upgraded from the first version of the Roku. But if you already have an XBOX 360 this has become a ONE stop shop for your TV/Movie viewing, gaming needs. With the ability to use the Xbox with Windows Media Center you can't beat the awesome upgrades Microsoft has made since the release of the 360.

So if you already have an 360 you dont need to buy a set top box because you already have one. If you dont go and get yourself a Roku. If you live in a Mac World like I do, wait for Apple Tv 3 to be introduced next week!!!!!

 
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