Apple TV and Roku Go Head-To-Head, Here’s The Winner

IMG_0075 [Updated Sept. 4th 20102:Check out my new review at: “Roku 2 vs. Apple TV: How To Chose The Right $99 Streamer“]

What’s better, the new Apple TV or the newly announced lineup of Roku boxes? That’s the question I keep getting asked now that both devices are in the market. Over the past week, I’ve had the chance to use both the Apple TV and a Roku XDS model and here’s my review on how they stack up in a head-to-head comparison. Before the review, I think it’s important to note that while many in the media are quick to compare and mention devices like Apple TV, Boxee, Google TV and Roku to one another, those aren’t fair comparisons. The four similar devices that should be compared are Apple TV, Roku, Sony Netbox and Western Digital’s WD TV Live Plus media player. While I’ve used and have all four devices, for this post I’m going to focus exclusively on Apple TV versus Roku. (I’m also giving away an Apple TV and Roku)

The new Apple TV has HDMI, an optical audio connection, ethernet, WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n) and a USB port which Apple says is for “service and support” of the unit. The device supports video up to 720p and also comes with a remote and power cord with no power brick. Apple TV retails for $99 and while some units have already shipped, the Apple website currently lists a 1-2 week ship date for new orders. Apple offers a one year warranty on their device and consumers can extend the warranty by another year for $29.

Last month, Roku announced a new lineup of three boxes called the HD, XD and XDS. For the purpose of the comparison with Apple TV, I used Roku’s top of the line model, the Roku XDS. The XDS has HDMI, optical audio connection, component, composite outputs and USB. The device has support for WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n), supports playback of video up to 1080p and comes with a remote and power supply. The XDS retails for $99 and is shipping today from or next week from All of Roku’s boxes comes with a one year warranty and you can add a second year for $14.99.

When it comes to the hardware, Roku beats the Apple TV hands-down. All three Roku models, even the cheaper ones, support 1080p while Apple TV stops at 720p. While I’ve seen some argue that the lack of 1080p support by Apple TV is not a big deal since not many content owners are streaming in 1080p today, who wants to have to buy a new device a year or two from now in order to upgrade? The Roku boxes are future proof as they ensure that when 1080p is prevalent, their boxes will be ready. Some details have emerged saying Apple TV can play 1080p content from iTunes, but it can still only output in 720p.

Another hardware advantage that Roku has over Apple TV is that you can hook it up to older TVs that may not have an HDMI connection. Clearly Apple is targeting users with newer TVs that already have support for HDMI, but for $99, do you want a device that has more connection options or fewer? I would argue that even though HDMI is the future, that is no reason for Apple not to support other options, especially since many older TVs only support 720p, which is what the Apple TV maxes out at. So on one hand Apple only supports the new HDMI connection for newer TVs, yet doesn’t support 1080p which most new TVs support. That does not make a lot of sense.

While both the Apple TV and Roku XDS have USB ports, only the Roku model supports playback of local content via a USB drive. Apple says that the USB port on the Apple TV is only for “service and support” and while one could imagine a future software upgrade to enable the port to playback local content, Apple TV can’t support it today. The Roku unit supports .mp4 playback and will be including support for .mov next month. Owners of the older Roku HD-XR models will also be able to get support for 1080p and the playback of local content via USB in a software update that will come later this year. Apple TV supports playback of .m4v, .mp4, or .mov files but only via sharing within iTunes, not via any connected drives.

When it comes to the remotes, Roku again has the edge in a few areas. One of the things I don’t like about the Apple TV remote is that it doesn’t take standard sized batteries. It’s not a huge deal breaker, but I have a lot more triple AAA batteries lying around for the Roku remote, than the watch sized battery that the Apple TV remote takes. All three Roku models ship with a new remote and the two XD models support what Roku calls “instant replay”. The technology allows you to skip back in 10 second increments while a video is playing without having to re-buffer the stream and works very well. Owners of older Roku models can buy the new remote which enables the instant replay feature.

Software & Content
Not surprisingly, the interface on the Apple TV is a lot smoother, cleaner and more polished than navigating on the Roku. But while it looks nicer, navigating the Apple TV interface is not as easy as it should be and requires far too many clicks to enter text or passwords. Apple uses a long list of letters that you have to scroll through and have to travel end-to-end as opposed to being able to skip around. Having to enter a lot of text is a real pain. Apple TV is a bit easier to setup than the Roku, but not by much. I could give either device to my Mom and she’d be able to setup both devices on her own without having to call me for tech support.

As for the content available on both devices, this is really where Apple TV falls short. Today, Apple TV supports content from Netflix, YouTube and $0.99 rentals from ABC, Disney, Fox, and the BBC. They also support some free Internet content from folks like Revision3 and others, but all of that content is lumped in under the Podcast heading in Apple TV, so most folks probably don’t see it. Apple gives you 24 hours to watch movie rentals and 48 hours to watch TV shows once you begin viewing. When Steve Jobs announced the Apple TV he made a big point to reinforce the fact that Apple would have HD movies available to rent on the same day they are released to DVD. This was one of his major selling points, yet so far, that’s simply not the case. In fact, some of the content Steve Jobs showcased in the launch is no longer even available for rental. Clearly the studios still have all the control regarding what content they will make available for licensing to the Apple TV.

While Roku’s interface make not be as polished as the Apple TV, the Roku makes up for it with all the great content that’s available. Roku has channels for Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, MLB.TV, UFC, Pandora, Flickr, Facebook Photos and Roku has just announced support for Hulu Plus coming later this year. Roku has more than 75 content channels and expects to have nearly 100 by the end of the year. Roku has an open SDK and as a result, has a lot of content partners working to bring more channels to Roku devices. Compare that to the Apple TV which today, has no SDK and doesn’t run any apps on the box. Some are speculating that the Apple TV will run apps in the future since internally it has 8GB of Flash storage, but none of that is happening today.

One of the big features of the Apple TV that many think could be a game-changer is Airplay. The technology allows a user to start watching a video on an iPhone, iPod or iPad and then move that content over to the Apple TV in realtime. While Airplay looks promising, it won’t be released until November and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how well it will work. For instance, you can move content from iOS devices to Apple TV, but you can’t move content from Apple TV back to iOS devices. Also, one has to wonder how well video streaming will work when you start watching a video encoded for a mobile device, but then want to transfer it back to a large screen. There is also the question of how DRM is going to work with Airplay and my guess is that only content in the H.264 or .MP4 format is going to work, which likely means only FairPlay will be supported. Airplay looks like interesting technology, especially for streaming music, but for video, there are a lot of unanswered questions. So before all the Apple fanboys take over the comments section saying just how groundbreaking Airplay is, we’ll have to wait and see how well it really works once it’s available in the market.

Netflix and Video Quality
While I’ve seen a couple of reviews saying that the quality of Netflix streaming looked better on the Apple TV when compared with other devices, personally, I don’t see it. Testing both the Apple TV and the Roku XDS on a 50″ Vizio plasma TV and a 42″ Samsung LCD TV, it was hard to notice any difference in quality. I felt like Netflix streaming started up just a but faster on the Roku, but really could not tell. The video quality on both devices seemed to be identical to me. What’s not identical on the devices is the Netflix application. The Netflix app is much better on Roku than it is on Apple TV. On the Apple TV, you have to choose the program before you get a description of the movie but Roku gives you description of the program on the first screen. There are a lot of little differences in the Netflix experience where Roku has the edge which should be expected since they have been refining the Netflix interface for their device over the past few years.

I’ve read a lot of reviews of the new Apple TV and many have described it as “a solidly built device” or said “it feels really solid”. While the Apple TV is well built and feels like a heavy hockey puck, that really has nothing whatsoever to do with how Apple TV performs as a streaming device. Others have said that Apple TV is best for those who “value design” yet for a streaming device, performance has to outweigh design. Not to mention, the new Roku XDS models are very slick, really small and in my opinion, very well designed themselves. You can have the nicest, most solid looking device on the market but if it can’t access the content you want, at the quality you want, then the design does not matter.

To me, Apple TV is really nothing more than a crippled iPod that you hook up to your TV. It depends on iTunes running on another device to feed content to it and Apple’s sole purpose with the device is to get you to rent more content. Some have suggested that the Apple TV will provide more value since the hacker community is already jailbreaking the Apple TV, but I would ask why some users always have to jailbreak Apple Products to make them work according to their needs?

While some want to suggest you buy a Boxee or Google TV instead, Apple TV and Roku aren’t trying to be a DVR-esque media hub. Boxee and Google TV are really going after a different kind of user and their products are 4-6x more expensive than the cheapest Roku box, which starts at only $59.99. So if you are interested in a Apple TV or Roku, don’t be put off by people who say you should wait until Google TV is out in the market. Google TV looks to be really cool and also has support for Netflix, but the device will cost close to $300 and serves a different purpose in the market.

After spending a lot of time with both the Apple TV and Roku XDS, I’d much rather have a Roku due to the flexibility with the hardware, the support for 1080p and the fact it gets a lot more content than the Apple TV. If I was trying to decide where to spend my $99, Roku would be the hands down winner in my book. If you have any questions on either device, put them in the comments section and I’ll try and answer them.

Note: I’m giving away both an Apple TV and a Roku XDS to a lucky reader of my blog. You can enter the Apple TV giveaway here and the Roku XDS giveaway here.

UPDATE: I see that some folks in the comments section are implying that I don’t like Apple products and that’s why I picked Roku. So to put that to rest, I should mention that I own a 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro, an iPad, four iPods, two Airport base stations, and an old and new Apple TV. That’s over $5k in Apple gear. Oh, and did I mention I use to work for Apple as a certified technician back in the days? So I’m anything but an Apple hater.

  • Lou Montoya

    I work at a big box retailer and I have been offering the Apple TV (though not available yet) in lieu of a blu-ray player. I first ask if the client has an iTunes account, if they do, it is a no-brainer. IF they are not interested in iTunes I do recommend the Roku. I do get may responses where people are tired of paying for Cable and not get enough choices for the price. Some people want to put their TV’s on the wall and nothing else that is visible over the fireplace. Either of these boxes are perfect for the minimalistic install.
    Lou M.

  • Gary Sosa

    I have to agree with you concerning 1080p; however, I wouldn’t be looking at Roku, truth be told, if not for AppleTV’s reimagined device. Interface, software and hardware integration and wireless streaming and remote control from iPad or iPhone are all appealing.
    Still, the 1080p bites and may tip the scale towards Roku. I will wait a few weeks to see GoogleTV and Boxee’s entries.

  • Gerald Cox

    I bought one of the original Rokus for my parents. They loved it but they have cellular broadband as their only choice for high speed internet access. While this can hit speeds of around 1.5 MB, the latency can by high at times. The original Roku did not provide enough cache for this to work well while watching most video. I’m wondering if the new one will have more cache. If it would allow caching of 10-20 minutes of video, it would work flawlessly for us. Do you happen to know?

  • Eric

    I personally like the Apple TV!

  • SP

    One biggest drawback of Roku (and Apple TV of course) for me is that lack of support for DLNA or UPnP support. Currently I use D-Link DSM-520 coupled primarily with Playon for my digital media needs and looking for an upgrade in performance. Have yet to research Boxee or Google TV will fulfill my needs…

  • tom

    I have about 500 movies stored as .mp4 files on an external hard drive. I use an Apple TV to watch them on my TV. Can I do the same w/ a Roku, or is it just for streaming from the Internet?

  • Hi Tom, yes, you can stream your .mp4 files on the Roku XDS model via a USB connected thumb drive or hard drive.

  • Uni

    I’ve seen several posts about people taking apart the AppleTV.
    First off – 8GB of Flash Memory. What would this be for ? It’s got to be for Apps. Apple does that, and they’ll outshine the Roku box, however, for uses of their than purely watching video. Considering apps are no bigger than 10 MB, there’s lots of storage space there (obviously, not for video since they are +1GB). Want to see a product make a gaming impact faster than a game console ? It has potential. Especially since the users will more than likely already have a joystick (an iPod or iPad).
    Apparently, it also has a built in FM radio chip. Now why would they put that in there ? Considering there’s a cost to every component in building a device, there’s got to be a plan for that too. What do you think ?

  • Vinny

    I have a lot of movies converted to iso format on a 2TB disk. I currently use the WD device to watch them, but I hate their UI and the fact that I cannot categorize my movies.
    Which device should I use to watch these movies? I know that I may have to convert them to another format, so can you suggest the software to do that too? I was thinking of buying the Apple TV, but now I have my doubts after reading your article.
    I also want to listen to Pandora, which my TiVoHD doesn’t support, but WD does.
    Thank you for a great article.

  • You are correct! The Roku is a far superior device. Apple has a marketing machine which will trounce Roku, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that they are selling an inferior product. Many will simply dismiss the Roku, and they will be missing out on an amazing product. It should also be mentioned that Roku can stream Live programs, as well. MLB and UFC are examples of that. But other cable channels are already being added by the Roku community.

  • @Gerald: To answer your caching question. Caching is still around 2 minutes on the new Roku units so that won’t help with your problem. The XR and XDS models have more on-board memory in general, but that’s not for caching.

  • People keep saying that the 8GB is for apps, but that doesn’t make sense at all. There are no iPod, iPad apps wouldn’t port nicely due to them being touchscreen interfaces.
    The 8GB is more than likely for buffering, and eventually holding rentals and television shows locally.
    If app decided to use apps, they would have to start from scratch and program with a 10′ and remote perspective instead of a 6″ and touchscreen perspective.

  • Pradip Joshi

    Would welcome a “free” Apple TV even though its inferior to the Roku XDS per your analysis!

  • ZungTee

    OK that makes a lot of sense dude.

  • Max out at 720p? That’s a deal-breaker for me right there.

  • shome

    I own a Roku now and have to agree that Apple TV is a half a generation behind in hardware. Roku has more content and delivers the main channels well. That being said, I do not believe that Apple will stand by their laurels and let Roku own the market. They will continue to innovate. Roku’s achilles heal is that they have no app store. Adding channels to Roku is a bit klunky. I expect Apple to take market share by innovating idiot-proof ways to add channels and order content – that is what they do.

  • Fernando

    Roku XDS just makes so much more sense with the capabilities already set to go. Why would you want to buy something and have to try and hack it to make it work for you – I have been down those roads before and the time consumption alone isn’t worth the hasle. Same price point XDS vs Apple TV seems to be a no brainer to me – XDS all the way.

  • Iceshade Canada there is no Pandora, Hulu..those kind of would AppleTV be on more of an even ground without those? Or can you even get Roku here?

  • Narg

    @SP, you do not need DLNA or uPnP to operate an Apple TV or Roku device. They are outward connecting only devices that do not need to monitor incoming ports for data. Just like your PC connects to the web.
    Interesting that the Apple zealots above seem to lean Apple TV even though above and beyond the 1080p win by Roku, it also wins on the interface, the content and the remote. From this article, it seems that Apple TV doesn’t do one single thing better than the Roku. Not one.
    But Apple will have retail store positioning, and a strong advertising campain. Which Roku won’t. Roku is almost 100% word of mouth right now. Just like with the old MP3 players from 10 years ago, Apple will win due to advertising, not due to a superior product.

  • Rob

    Gary wrote”… I wouldn’t be looking at Roku, truth be told, if not for AppleTV’s reimagined device. Interface, software and hardware integration and wireless streaming and remote control from iPad or iPhone are all appealing…”
    Just for clarification, there is an iPhone/iPad app to remote control the Roku! Works great and I use it all the time. There is nothing in the space currently that beats the value of the Roku in my mind.

  • Gina

    Roku allows open channel development, which has resulted in some outstanding user created channels. I don’t see that happening with Apple.

  • Noah

    There is no mention of internal network streaming capabilities of each unit. Not too surprising as Apple wins that one hands down.

  • JeffH

    Seems a little unfair to compare a product that has been on the market for almost 2 years to one that has been available for two days. I’d like to see this review revisited in 9 months to a year when Apple has added new content and enabled 1080p and app support. I’m guessing the choice will be different, unless Roku can innovate faster than Apple.

  • Harold

    Can one stream YouTube thru the Roku unit?

  • JeffH

    One point that I believe Dan failed to make clear is that, while the Apple TV can’t stream content through it’s USB port, it CAN stream just about any media you have on any computer on your network that is running iTunes. I can stream my 19,000+ track music collection, view any video that iTunes can play and all of my very large photo collection on my AppleTV and I don’t need to lug an external HD down to my living room to do it.

  • C.L. Moses

    Can’t really comment on the Apple TV since I haven’t had the opportunity to use one, but from everything I’ve read, ROKU is definitely the hands down winner. ROKU offers far more content than Apple and with the recent announcement that HULU will soon be added it can’t be beat!

  • After some extensive research I have come to the conclusion that Roku is by far the better purchase. Roku is better all the way around. Dual band “N”? All the channels right off the bat? 1080p?
    Non proprietary?(thats the worst thing about apple) I love that. Rumors the Hulu might not allow their service on USB port to watch content of usb drives and external hard drives(I know, those things are so tough to “lug” around.) I am not a hater, I own a 30 gig ipod video, and a 32 gig itouch which I adore. Which I can control my Roku with by the way. I ordered my Roku yesterday. I am so excited.

  • S

    The Roku HD (the $60 model) does NOT play 1080P video! Only the $80 and $100 models do. Source:

  • Something else I just found out about the Roku player.
    You can add “private channels” there are MANY of them.
    I am sure there are more places that list them
    And here is the link to input the codes to add the channels to your Roku
    freaking awesome.
    Roku just keeps getting better and better.

  • JohnW

    720p vs 1080p doesn’t really matter much. As you note “Testing both the Apple TV and the Roku XDS on a 50″ Vizio plasma TV and a 42″ Samsung LCD TV, it was hard to notice any difference in quality.” So you highlighting that hardware difference is meaningless.
    At $99 this is a commodity product. This market will be rapidly changing over the next few years so we’ll all be updating our video streaming hardware just like we’ve all been updating our iPods. The only thing that really matters is “which is the better experience today”.

  • Ascencion Bernal

    Can you watch your local channels with either apple tv or Roku?

  • Jerry

    I love the Roku. I have an older model in my living room, but I am considering getting a new one for the basement. The only thing that might make me jump to Apple TV would be if I could stream my iTunes through the device. Does the new version do this?

  • I am an Apple guy as well, I’m typeing this in One of my G5 towers. But Roku all the way, Netflix and Hulu Plus for the win! If Roku can get the Sunday Ticket, I will marry it.
    Apple may win in the long run just because it has crazy money to do whatever it wants.

  • JeffH

    @Jerry, Yes it can stream iTunes content. See my post above.

  • C.D. Moses

    Forgive my lack of knowledge, but … I watch live MotoGP racing on my computer via a paid subscription. Can either of these devices stream the video from my computer to my TV?

  • The main problem that I have with most Netflix devices is that I have a large streaming video queue, with over 300 titles, and most Netflix devices only show maybe 6 or 7 titles on the screen at once. The appleTV shows 21, so I can see a much bigger chunk of my queue at one time.

  • jayd

    I am still confused on the issue of streaming my own content. I have a Mac Mini with a large external hard drive that I use as a media server for my home theater. Can I use either Roku or Apple tv to stream movies via an ethernet to other tv’s so my son can watch his Pixar movies anywhere? I store the movies in H.264 format.

  • jennifer

    future software updates will allow use of apps on new apple TV, you wont be able to on the old apple TV. Its far too early to truly compare them.

  • Brandon Robinson

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article, but must disagree with you on the fluidity of the Netflix player. I am a proud owner of 2 original Apple TV’s, 2 original Roku, 1 new 2000HD Roku, and as of last week, the new apple TV.
    Since the rollout of the 2.4 software, the Netflix has gotten much better, but early on this was by far not the case. The layout on the new Apple TV is very friendly and laid out like the rest.
    The only major concern that I have is support of older devices. Roku has stood by their device from day 1. Apple has always treated their device like a stepchild. Now, instead of adding features (minus Netflix), they have crippled the device to nothing more then a limited iPod. The only saving grace they will have is if they end up rolling the App Store. Until then, Roku will be my system of choice.

  • dc

    I am not sure where the ‘long list for text input’ stuff is coming from. I have the Apple TV 2.0 and all text input is a square of letters with no letter is more than 3-4 clicks away from any other. Input is very reasonable without a keyboard. Perhaps there was an update before they were shipped?
    My biggest complaint with the Apple TV is that it won’t play DVD images from my computer. It plays movies converted with Handbrake great, however, I just had to import them into iTunes on another machine first (which is annoying, but not a deal breaker). The quality is excellent, and the device is incredibly tiny.
    My real complaint with the Apple TV is that the content for rental in the iTunes store is ridiculously expensive. Streaming is relatively free and there is zero cost for inventory or distribution which means movies should rent for a dollar and TV shows for a quarter. I’m serious. With 24 shows to a season that $24 PER SHOW to watch which is many times more expensive than watching them on cable.
    If I have internet, cable TV costs about $20 more a month. That’s enough to watch 4-5 weekly shows on the Apple TV a month.

  • What is the maximum resolution for MLB.TV on Roku? Can that play at 720p or even 1080p? What sort of bandwidth and network throughput is required for streaming HD video?
    Basically, I currently get Netflix through my Tivo, but that’s not available in HD. Just wondering how the HD streaming thing works with Roku…

  • EdwardQ

    Based on Apple’s histroy.. When Apple is ready for 1080p. It will be on a new device.
    When Roku went from 720 to 1080 they pushed the update to the older Roku’s. Roku also has open development. There is a lot of OD channels. The one thing I don’t like about Roku is theres not much “Roku” created channels.
    With Roku getting with Hulu this fall, I think its a winner.

  • MJ

    I have an older Apple TV and one of the things that I like best is the ability to show photos, photo slideshows with accompanying music and to play music, all from my computer (and iTunes account). Can the Roku perform the same functions as Apple TV regarding these “options”?

  • Dan thanks for the very fair comparison of both of these products…great review!

  • JCrowe

    I have not seen the Roku boxen but I’m thinking that the 720p limitation on the AppleTV might be a more practical tradeoff due to bandwidth limitation from the internet into the typical home. I have real issues downloading even 720 with a 6Mbit/sec DSL connection. Add to that the other network traffic on a typical home network. It appears to me that Apple has taken this into account in their offerings. Just a thought on a practical approach.

  • I reviewed the Roku XD|S too:
    I also own the older AppleTV. Let me say that the reason I went with Roku instead of the new AppleTV last week is because they removed the hard drive off of the AppleTV (on Roku at least I can use its USB port), and because there is no application/channel extensibility on the AppleTV. The new AppleTV is just a device to rent stuff from iTunes. There’s no much more value in there, apart from “buy, rent, buy, rent”. And streaming from the PC? Why the heck would I want to GET UP from the couch, go to the office where the PC is, which is in the other side of the house, just so I can stream in the living room??? It makes no user experience sense! I’m very surprised that Steve Jobs approved such a user experience! Rest assured, I emailed him about this.
    And to make my point more clear: Apple’s YouTube AppleTV application is crippled, and is FILTERING OUT official music videos and recognizable music tracks (even from legit uploads). Why? Because Apple wants you to buy, rent, buy, rent off of iTunes. This is just nasty.
    Sorry, but I’ll go with the Roku. My husband bought a Google TV too (Sony Blu-Ray Internet TV player), but for the kind of things I want to do, I prefer the Roku XD|S.

  • dcrosby

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the fact that you can set up the Roku to stream movies, pictures, and music from you computer just like the ATV does. There are a couple of programs; Play On and Roksbox that will turn your PC into a media server that can stream wirelessly to your Roku device. The difference is that they don’t require iTunes to function. That was the only thing that I thought ATV could do that Roku could not.


    Is the XD/S worth the extra money over the XD version of Roxu? What are the advantages of the usb port and any other differences? Thanks….I am ready to purchase one or the other in the next few days. Thanks…ciao

  • GSL

    How does the Roku compare to the Sony Netbox and the WD TV Live Plus?

  • Jim

    Do you know if there is a good Roku App for the ipod/iphone/ipad? A big selling point for me is the control of the unit through a device I already have opposed to being forced to use yet another remote/program my harmony.
    thx, jim

  • neil

    The main reason we are buying an Apple TV is to play iTunes content on our HDTV, but the reviewer doesn’t consider this even worth detailing. He does make a point of poo-pooing airplay for some reason though.
    He also doesn’t mention that Apple has free tech help at their stores. Does Roku have good support if you run into issues? Sure, if you like Indian accents.

  • Sean Murphy

    I bought a Roku XDS last week and have been mostly satisfied. My biggest reasons for choosing it over the ATV were the functionality of the remote and the greater availability of content. The 1080p had a say in it, as well.
    Also, I’ve had some bad experiences with Apple’s consumer-level quality control, which makes me think twice about buying anything from Apple that isn’t a high-end tower computer. They make a fabulous Pro product, whose good name they then use to con people into buying their crappier wares.
    That said, I’ll probably end up buying an ATV when the content expands. I’ll give Apple this, though… they’re amazing designers and everything they make looks beautiful. Before this greeniac eco-insanity hit, opening an Apple product was reason enough to buy one. Every flap, tab or snap was placed just-so. They went out of their way to create and plan the reveal of your box’s content.
    I miss that.

  • jack

    i don’t like all this apple hating! Apple TV rocks, and I love airplay and being able to use my itouch to control everything. I predict Apple TV will crush the Roku boxes once there is an app store opened and you can use it for more things than just watching netflix. Say good bye to the Roku box company once everyone stops buying them and heads to the Apple TV box.

  • Phange

    I have a Roku XDS in my bedroom and an Apple TV 2G in my living room. Honestly, and I’m saying this without a shred of rudeness, you’d have to be CRAZY to think the Roku’s Netflix performance is on par with the Apple TV. Let’s face it, the Apple TV’s 8 GB of cache space and far superior CPU/GPU give it a huge edge with Netflix and Youtube.

  • Denise

    I am looking to get a roku. Wondering if I can cue up purchased digital movies that I have saved on another storage device – possibly thru iTunes? Can roku play iTunes? Thanks for the detailed review!

  • Bobby

    This review reads like a high school anti-apple argumentative essay.

  • I was so sick and tired of getting ripped off from the cable company, not to mention, disappointed with 90% of the content, that I had them come out and take back all their boxes. It was a rare liberating day, when a knock came to the door, and a sad looking cable guy took the boxes, remotes, and left me with only my new apple tv. I am a big fan of apple products, use them everyday in my business and for pleasure. After hooking up the apple tv, I was amazed at how elegant it looked, so small, so black, only the one cable to my tv,, which was completely hidden from view. I sat on my sofa amazed to see no ugly cable boxes and cables, just my tv with the apple logo on the screen. At first we really loved it, I guess we still do, but apple being apple, the limitations have become somewhat irritating. Everything streams well and looks really fantastic but…Yesterday, a colleague of mine told me about roku, and how it was so much better than apple tv, in a rather condescending way. I thought, hmmm, smart assed brit! But, then I did a little research, and came across this blog, and now, well, I really am considering offing the apple tv on craigslist, and getting the best roku box offered. Time will tell…

  • Dave

    Ok ok I can be considered a apple zealot and have been looking to replace cable the roku makes sense I don’t really understand apple tv my Mac book already can steam to my tv or my iPad but the roku seems to be good investment for me there I said it

  • Terrin

    Your review seems a bit unbalanced. For instance, you emphasis the Roku as having superior hardware because it is Future Proof supporting 1040p, where Apple only supports the widely currently available 720p. You seem to admit it will be years before 1040p is widely available via streaming. How many people really will hold on to technology for more then a few years? In a few years both companies products will be far superior, and who knows what standard we will be onto then.
    Then in response to Apple’s ability to add apps, you seem to disregard that because Apple currently isn’t doing that.
    Further, the lack of a usable USB really doesn’t mean much on the Apple TV because all of one’s content from various devices like a Mac or iPhone can stream to the Apple TV. Through the Apple TV you have access to all the content from all the Macs or iOS devices.

  • @Terrin – You “assume” too much. The average person holds on to their TV for at least 7 years. To imply that consumers want to replace their devices in the home every few years is not accurate.
    1080p streaming is widely available TODAY. Netflix has 1080p streaming on the PS3. VUDU’s service supports 1080p streaming. The Xbox 360 supports 1080p streaming. Don’t make it sound as if 1080p streaming is something that won’t happen for years to come. Video is being consumed at that quality today.
    Of course the lack of a USB port on the Apple TV matters. If I have a lot of video content, it’s stored on an external hard drive as most laptops don’t have a internal drive large enough to store a big movie archive. Apple TV provides no way to to play that content, even via AirPlay, unless I hook the drive up to the computer.

  • Jeff Dimitroff

    Thanks for the great information. You didn’t leave a single question unanswered.

  • Rick

    How would you rate ROKU for cutting the cord? I see SONY has a 1080p Internet Blu-ray Player that you can browse TV listings and the Web with Google TV built in. You can also stream from Netflex with it. The ad I saw for this device said it required 10Mbps for HD content. Is the same true for ROKU?

  • The Lone Realtor

    The Apple TV is a joke! It sucks! I wish I could print more words here but won’t. Go spend your $100 somewhere else. I own 4 iphones for the family and 2 ipads. Thought the Apple TV would work as well. Boy! Was I fooled.
    Oh well, education costs, no matter what the price.

  • macster

    Let me start by saying that I am certified long term Mac/Apple fan boy. And I’m a Comca$t hater. I so want to pull the plug on Comcast. But filling the void is not easy. I had high hopes for the Apple TV 2. But until they upgrade it with some more content options or options for streaming Internet programming, then it comes up short. Unfortunately, from all the research I’ve done, every single one of these so-called set-top solutions comes up short. Right now I think I’m going to get a Roku to add to the Apple TV. That should be a set-top mess but it should almost replace what I get from Comcast. The one rub still would be how to watch MLB games live. It looks like I’ll have to hook up the laptop for that.

  • can i hook up an antenna to the roku? ie is there a tuner in it?… in that case i guess tivo. Is there another option?

  • Tom

    It’s April 1, do you have any updates to your comparisons of the Roku and Apple TV? Have either made any significant changes or improvement?

  • Judith

    My son coaches a professional baseball team in Dallas. I stream all of his games through Could either of these devices stream these games to my TV?

  • Joseph Capp

    Did anyone mention that Ruku doesn’t work with Optimum Online unless you buy another router.

  • lynne jones

    can u play your playist from an ipod or iphone thru the roku setup?

  • lynne jones

    we have comcast as our cable provider is it a big monthly savings to go with roku?

  • I still go with AppleTV hands down. Roku may have its advantages but I’m a sucker for software and interface.

  • Ira Feinberg

    Based on ur reco. i think the xds is the way to go for me. i own several apple devices but may defer to the xds. thanks for the comparision.

  • Mimi

    Thank you so much for this info. I want a box to steam Netflix and that’s basically all I will use it for. It sounded like a toss-up until I read your comment about having to select the movie on Apple TV before you can read about it. I’m buying a Roku.

  • rees

    can you have both in the house?

  • Karen

    I so enjoyed your blog. Very helpful and informative. I am just now researching IF I want to move to a lower cable bill and use my home entertainment dollars with this type of set up. Thanks for giving me the knowledge and insight into what I may be getting into.