If you're in the market for a streaming box, the choice usually comes down to two options: Apple TV or Roku.
There are other boxes on the market, but the Apple TV and Roku 3 remain the most recommendable mainstream devices for adding streaming content to your TV. They're both highly polished products that offer a ton of functionality for just $100, plus they both receive regular software updates, so the box you buy today is likely to be even better a year from now.
Before we get deep into the details, our overall advice for most buyers is pretty straightforward:
If you're heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, go with the Apple TV. It's the best way to watch iTunes content on the big screen and Apple has slowly added the most important apps (most recently, HBO Go and WatchESPN), so its relatively limited selection of services isn't the hindrance it used to be. AirPlay remains the killer feature for the Apple faithful, letting you wirelessly stream music, photos and videos straight from an iOS device (or iTunes) to your TV. AirPlay even works from the vast majority of third-party apps, such as Spotify or Pandora.
If you're not all-in with Apple, the Roku 3 is the way to go. Historically, Roku gets new apps and services much faster than Apple TV, amassing over 750 channels to date. That admittedly includes a lot of filler content, but there's also some important services the Apple TV doesn't have, most notably Amazon Instant. Roku's new interface is a huge improvement and blazing fast on the Roku 3 hardware. And the remote with the built-in headphone jack is a truly great feature for those times when you want to stream without disturbing anyone else.
Still undecided? Let's take a closer look at both boxes.… Read more