Your cable bill is a monthly pain—it’s a lot of money for a lot of empty channels, especially when the alternatives are only getting more enticing.
Now, instead of paying $150 a month for cable, you can purchase a streaming player box that’s compatible with popular online services like Netflix, Hulu, or iTunes.
You still have to pay the monthly subscription fee ($7.99 and up). But then, instead of criss-crossing wires from your laptop to your TV, or squinting at your phone, these boxes enable you to stream shows and movies right ot your flatscreen—without leaving your comfy couch.
We weighed the three top options:
Roku ($49-$99) is unmatched when it comes to content because you can use this little black box with almost every popular media streaming provider: Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, HBO, MBA.tv, etc. Roku is cheap: the mid-range $59 HD model is probably sufficient. It includes everything the average user needs like a high definition output connection, 600 channels of streaming on-demand content, and an iPhone/Android app that lets you control the device from your smartphone or tablet.
Apple TV ($99) Like everything Apple-made, this device is beautiful and the interface is slick and easy to use. But you’re limited to Apple’s eco-system—the company wants you to buy video from iTunes. Services are limited to those that don’t compete with Apple’s revenue stream. You CAN stream from Netflix and Hulu, but you CAN’T comparison shop for movie downloads. Your purchasing choices are restricted to the iTunes store.
Boxee.TV ($99) Boxee.tv is the newest contender. What sets it apart is an integrated digital HD TV tuner that lets you watch LOCAL broadcast TV. You also get a unique cloud-based DVR service so you can record shows to watch later on any web-connected device. At this time, Boxee’s apps are sparse: they only include Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. But geeks have been using Boxee’s software for years and their other devices have hundreds of apps, so it’s a safe bet they’ll add more channels soon.
For our money, Roku offers the best all-around value--until Boxee catches up!