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Roku vs WD TV Play vs Apple TV: FIGHT!

posted Feb 12, 2013, 10:50 AM by Vu Sleeper   [ updated Feb 12, 2013, 10:51 AM ]
As you know, I'm always looking for 'the next thing' when it comes to watching my video content on the big screen at home. I was rather disappointed in Sony Media Streaming for $50. After Sony updated their software, it now supports H.264 streaming - but it's very slow. The box often delay playing by pre-downloading content via DLNA and can take up to 3 minutes to play back a 720p file.

Anyway, Western Digital just entered into the market for streaming media box… so how does it stack up against their competitors? I've put together a checklist of things I'm interested in (Amazon Prime, DLNA support, YouTube…), everything else I don't really care about.

NOTE: Flixster (Ultraviolet) is compatible with VUDU if you link your two accounts together. What that means is movies you own on UV can be accessed on Vudu - unless there are rights issues (some movies are exclusive to Vudu or vice-versa). For the most part, I'm lumping Flixster and Vudu together as one item.

Product: Roku 2 XS WD TV Play Apple TV
Price: $99.99 (on sale $84.87) $69.99 $99.99
WiFi: YES (802.11n) YES YES (802.11a/b/g/n)
Ethernet: YES (10/100 Base-T Ethernet) YES YES (10/100 Base-T Ethernet)
DLNA: NO YES NO
Bluetooth: YES (Bluetooth version 3.0 - enabled for Roku remote only) NO YES (Bluetooth support for Apple Wireless Keyboard)
Video Outputs: Up to 1080p Up to 1080p Up to 1080p
AVI: NO YES YES
MP4/Mpeg: YES YES YES
MKV: NO YES NO
Subtitles: NO YES (SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI, MKV) NO
HDMI YES YES YES
Composite YES YES NO
Expansion: USB 2.0, microSD card USB 2.0 NO
Netflix: YES YES YES
Hulu Plus: YES YES YES
YouTube: NO YES YES
Amazon Instant Video: YES NO NO
Crackle: YES YES NO
Vudu/Flixster: YES (both) YES (Vudu) NO
Total: 13 16 10


So here's the breakdown: WD TV is the only one that supports DLNA. Apple TV is the only one that supports iTunes purchased movies and "Air Play", but if you don't live in the Apple Universe, a workaround is with UltraViolet (via Flixster or Vudu). You can read more about UltraViolet here.

Note: Roku 2 is the only box that works with Amazon Prime, but I'm sure Amazon will eventually make their way to WD. Roku 2 also doesn't really play local content (it doesn't even support AVI) and what kind of box doesn't support YouTube???

Based on the $70 retail price and its functionality, at least to me, it seems like my next streaming box that I will purchase.

Currently, the only media box that does it all is my PS3, which I'm quite happy with - but there is a huge $300 price to entry that is off putting to most people. PS3 is the only machine that plays Blu-Ray, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Hulu Plus… and because the hardware was built for games - it's so much smoother and faster than any stand-alone box I've played around with. If you are thinking about getting an Xbox instead: don't bother. Nothing will work unless you pay Microsoft an extra $80 a year for their so-called "Gold" service. Imagine paying extra to access YouTube, you fanboys love it.

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