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Which box to choose?
February 17, 2011 1:52 PM   Subscribe

I've decided that I want to get an Internet TV box of some sort. I'd like to stay under 150 dollars, and would probably be using it to watch Netflix Instant mainly, but would be interested in other features as well. What can you tell me about the different models on the market, and which would be the best value?
posted by codacorolla to Technology (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Roku is an utter piece of crap. HDMI doesn't work, then it stopped working altogether within a month. Looks and feels like it was put together in someone's basement.

Are you also interested in Blu Ray? My LG Blu Ray player was i think $180, but it does Netflix and all the other online services as well as playing discs. There are cheaper brands too, but after the Roku disaster I chose to pay a little more for one with good reviews.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:56 PM on February 17, 2011


AppleTV works with Netflix.
posted by dfriedman at 1:58 PM on February 17, 2011


I love my Roku. If you pair it with PlayOn you can watch whatever you have on your computer and also stream Hulu (web version).
posted by sanka at 1:59 PM on February 17, 2011


Apple TV 2 = Itunes rental + Netflix Instant
Roku = Netflix Instant + Amazon Video On Demand + Hulu+ (Hulu+ only, not regular Hulu) + Pandora

Comparison.
posted by sharkfu at 1:59 PM on February 17, 2011


Roku also lets you watch YouTube and hook it up to your account. This a "private channel" meaning it's not an official feature yet but it works great.
posted by amethysts at 2:01 PM on February 17, 2011


Roku fits your budget. It is easy to set up. I have ditched my satellite service, haven't yet bothered to get a digital tuner, and I'm very happy with Roku. I primarily watch Netflix and Amazon Video. I also subscribe to Hulu Plus, though I'm not crazy about their interface. I've also been pleased with Pandora access. There are a bunch of other channels that I'm not using, but they might be interesting to you, depending on what you like.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:04 PM on February 17, 2011


I have an original Roku box(when there was only one model) that never gave me any problem whatsoever. Don't use it now because I can get my 'net video fix via my xbox or apps that are built in to my TV, but I would recommend the Roku as an inexpensive alternative.
posted by owtytrof at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2011


Another vote for Roku. Even my 80-year-old grandparents loved theirs. They often do promotions for $X off the price of the box.
posted by amber_dale at 2:12 PM on February 17, 2011


For that price you can get a Wii, and that's what I use for all my Netflix-streaming needs.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:12 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love my Roku. I subscribe to Netflix & Hulu Plus, but I also use it to stream video and audio podcasts (RadioLab, This American Life, TedTalks, etc.) with the Itunes Podcast "secret" channel.

More info about secret channels.

If you have an Android phone, you can download a Roku Remote app that will let you control your Roku and access hidden menus. There's a similar set-up available for Google Chrome users. These are great resources, if you're as prone to losing remotes as I am.
posted by chara at 2:18 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


IF you have an iphone or ipod then get the apple tv. Being able to send your music and video (with the next ios update) from your ipod touch or iphone to the apple tv rocks. I use it all the time.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:19 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


majortom hits it - if you're invested in the iTunes ecosystem, the ATV2 might be a better fit... I tried both Apple TV and Roku. Roku has more services, but is harder to get setup. Apple TV works as soon as you plug it in, but it doesn't have Amazon. That's it.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 2:26 PM on February 17, 2011


I use my Wii with $4 component cable from Monoprice and find it looks good enough on my 46" lcd but the highlights are a bit overblown and white actors look like they have sunburns. I haven't found colour settings that will properly compensate.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:28 PM on February 17, 2011


We got a Samsung BluRay player on clearance for like $90 at Best Buy. They had tons of them. Be aware that you do need a wireless thingy to use it. The software is a bit sluggish to load (it's fine when you're actually playing), but I'm glad we bought that and not something like Roku that can't even play a DVD. It also includes Pandora, video on demand (we haven't tried that), Facebook (what) and Twitter (on my TV? why?). Maybe you'll like those things.
posted by desjardins at 2:36 PM on February 17, 2011


I have a Roku, but I'm not happy with it or any of the ready-made alternatives on the market. Considering ponying up for a Mac Mini + Front Row + iTunes remote for music.
posted by downing street memo at 2:47 PM on February 17, 2011


downing street memo: can you say what you dislike about your Roku?
posted by codacorolla at 2:48 PM on February 17, 2011


I love my AppleTV.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:59 PM on February 17, 2011


I've got an LG Blu-Ray player that I bought primarily for streaming Netflix, and it's been working great. It also does Pandora and some video-on-demand services and YouTube and stuff. I like it, because it doesn't take up any more room than my old DVD player did. (I haven't put a Blu-Ray disc in the thing yet). No Hulu, though.
posted by mskyle at 3:06 PM on February 17, 2011


We have a Roku, and get a lot of use out of it. It was not hard to set up. It is great for watching stuff from Netflix. We also used it to watch Al-Jazeera English during the whole Egypt thing, as cable news coverage was mostly useless.

Roku also lets you look at your flickr photostream, which is pretty cool to see your photos on a big display.

We already have a DVD player, so getting a Roku made more sense for us. We have a toddler and being able to access an infinite supply of Thomas the Tank Engine and Caillou for sick days has been priceless.
posted by ambrosia at 3:10 PM on February 17, 2011


I love my Apple TV!

Very easy to use (you can make your iPhone a remote as well) and it's a very streamlined little box that fades into your entertainment set up.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:42 PM on February 17, 2011


We heart our Roku.
posted by Leta at 4:12 PM on February 17, 2011


You may find three blog posts on OTT boxes useful, they're reviews of Sezmi, Roku, and Boxee. He prefers Roku. The author is the CEO of the best ISP ever, sonic.net, I'd tend to trust his judgement.
posted by Nelson at 4:27 PM on February 17, 2011


Could not love our Roku more. We use the Netflix and Hulu+ mostly but also Pandora and Amazon Video. It was way cheap too.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:32 PM on February 17, 2011


I'm using a 2.4GHz Core2Duo desktop PC someone was going to throw away.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:30 PM on February 17, 2011


I'm happy with my xbox 360.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:11 PM on February 17, 2011


I have an LG wireless blu-ray. It's great for Netflix and I could set it up to connect to my computer so that I could view photos, videos, other downloaded stuff, if I wanted to.
posted by bumpcat at 7:57 PM on February 17, 2011


I got this for my SO for Christmas : . It costs under $100, works well with his PC/HDMI, connects to netflix and has a usb port so that he can play movies from his hard drive. Fyi, I originally bought him a Roku, but he tried it out and then exchanged it for the WD.
posted by swingbraid at 9:28 PM on February 17, 2011


Sorry, here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003MVZ60I/ref=oss_product
posted by swingbraid at 9:29 PM on February 17, 2011


Seconding the WDTV Live Plus. I have the non-plus version which basically does everyhing but netflix and love it. It will play pretty much any format that I throw at it. Can't speak personally to the netflix experience on it, but I'd imagine it works about as well as anything else that does netflix. And it's tiny!
posted by Bonky Moon at 9:36 PM on February 17, 2011


For the people mentioning Roku, which one do you have?
posted by theichibun at 5:35 AM on February 18, 2011


I own two Roku boxes (the Roku HD and an older model) and use them for Netflix, Amazon VOD, Hulu+, Pandora, YouTube, etc They are trivial to set up and use, and I love them for their usefulness and simplicity.

In addition to the channels that Roku itself provides access to, individuals can also create private channels. A list of them with their access codes can be found at:

http://www.roku-channels.com/
posted by JaneL at 6:02 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


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