Roku or Seagate or WD?
June 28, 2010 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Roku or Seagate or WD?

My cable went out again, and I'm thinking of just canceling and getting one of these devices, but which one?? What do you folks feel is the "better" one. I would like to watch Netflix for one on it. I have an old crappy tv with rca ports, not a nice hd tv, if that matters. Thanks!
posted by chirico to Technology (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, Seagate and WD aren't devices, they're (primarily) hard drive manufacturers that have gotten into the media streaming game on the side. I'm guessing you mean the Seagate Free Agent Theater+. For WD, I'm guessing you mean the Wester Digital TV Live Plus HD that just added Netflix support in the latest revision.

I think both those devices added Netflix as an afterthought, whereas Roku from the start has been designed to be a user friendly Netflix box. Also, it looks like the Seagate Free Agent Theater+ needs a separate hard drive (although I'm not sure if it's required for Netflix streaming) and has only component video or HDMI (neither will work with your older TV). I'm not sure about the WD TV Live Plus, but I think it might have HDMI only too. So I'd stick with the Roku box. They've innovated a way to edit your queue directly from the Roku box that I'm not sure the other boxes have added. Plus it has built in wireless internet and you can rent videos from Amazon Video On Demand.
posted by sharkfu at 6:43 AM on June 28, 2010

Do you have a Wii? The Wii has Netflix streaming and is well matched to the tech of your TV. Just request the special disk from Netflix and you're good to go. We do this a lot, and it's been fun.
posted by NortonDC at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2010

I can't speak to the competitors, but Mr. Ant and I picked up a Roku HD XR box a few months ago. It was easy to set up and use (I wasn't in A/V club, and I don't know what most of the buttons on my TV remote do.) It's worked flawlessly so far.
posted by workerant at 7:02 AM on June 28, 2010

I love my Roku box, and the new firmware lets you do just about everything you could do from the website (even if it has some new rough edges / slowness). It has a very satisfying design, inside and out.
posted by thejoshu at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2010

If you already have a Wii or PS3 it may not be worth getting another box. But I love my Roku; it works great out of the box and the recent updates have made it even better.

I think the new browsing screen is designed more for wide screen TVs, it seems a bit squished on my 4:3 TV, but it is still very usable. I love being able to search and browse without the computer.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:25 AM on June 28, 2010

I have 3 WD Live TV Plus boxes. I can recommend them highly. It's outputs include HDMI up to 24 bit color and 1080P resolution), component video and composite video. Its Netflix option is well thought out. It allows looking at all available streaming video (not just the video you have qued). It is easy to set up--I have them hardwired to my ethernet-lan. It doesn't have built-in wireless; you'll have to get a plugin for the USB port (I've read that others are using wireless plugins from many different manufacturers without hitch). I have lots of movie locally online. It has read all the formats I have without trouble VOB (NTSC and PAL), ISO, mp4, wav, wma.... It recognizes all the picture files I have. It doesn't read PDF, but nobody has a devise that will read PDF at this time.

Finally, go to and read the reviews for WD TV Live and WD TV Live Plus (Plus has been available for less than a month and the reviews are wanting) to get good feedback.
posted by Hilbert at 7:32 AM on June 28, 2010


Big fan of the Roku, it does Netflix/Amazon/MLB and a bunch of other services. Cool box, great for watching content. I think its more dedicated to what you want then the other devices. I've gotten these for people as gifts and they dig them.

There's not a ton of direct competition to the Roku right now. The closest I'm aware of is the, as of yet unreleased, Pop Box

The other option to look at are many blu-ray players are coming with many of these services. For example This one from Samsung This plus a netflix subscription is a _lot_ of content. (Note Netflix streaming is still limited to a lot of second tier content). I own that one - what it doesn't yet have is an Amazon type service for selling on-demand TV. Thought its got plenty of movie services.

You also have the upcoming GoogleTV device which sounds promising (I think its going to be significantly more expensive though I think between $200-400).

Quick disclaimer - I actually run a small consulting company that does development on many of these devices, (we built the UFC's Roku channel). We vet a lot of these devices.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:33 AM on June 28, 2010

I had a WD box for a little while, but ended up returning it for a refurb Apple TV 160gb. No regrets once it was hacked to run XBMC. We do Netflix streaming over a Wii.
posted by omnidrew at 7:35 AM on June 28, 2010

I'm considering this question, read that the Roku boxes are going to lose some functionality soon and dislike how Apple TV is so locked down. I've decided to wait a few months to see what the Google TV boxes are like, they look very promising.

The first to market this fall is from Logitech, and you can read about it here and a comparison to Apple TV here.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:49 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a Roku and was happy with it. Then the DVD player broke so we upgraded to a blue ray player and it came with netflix streaming (and a few other things) built in so if you might be in the market for a new DVD player anytime soon, you might want to look into that option.
posted by shothotbot at 7:52 AM on June 28, 2010

LooseFilter: "read that the Roku boxes are going to lose some functionality soon"

How so? Where did you read this?
posted by sharkfu at 8:10 AM on June 28, 2010

I have a Roku box, and we're very pleased with it. One positive thing about Roku is that their SDK is open for programmers, and there's some 'unsupported' apps available. We use the unsupported YouTube app all the time, and the one is fun but search is broken. We like the Netflix, but their 'instant streaming' options are still sparse enough that we spend much of our time going, "how about this? No, not available..." so with YouTube and other applications it ends up that Netflix is only about half the things we use it for.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:38 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the tips. If I wanted to watch some content I have on my computer, I believe the Roku-HD XR is the only Roku where that may be an option?
posted by chirico at 10:18 AM on June 28, 2010

Another option is the Xbox 360 Arcade. Since they are refreshing the model, the older version can be had for $100 after rebates from Walmart or Target. I just quit cable myself --- it works great for streaming Netflix, and it is scheduled to exclusively offer streaming ESPN 3 starting in November.
posted by dgc at 10:44 AM on June 28, 2010

The old Xbox 360 is loud.

What? Loud. I said it's LOUD. LOUD!
posted by NortonDC at 10:55 AM on June 28, 2010

How so? Where did you read this?

Just got a memail about this--sorry, should have done a sec of research. I was remembering that they'd lost Netflix, but see that a new Netflix interface just went live on the Roku boxes a few weeks ago. But it doesn't play free internet content channels like Hulu, and doesn't stream media files over a local network like Apple TV does. I'm just hoping that the Google TV boxes will be a combination of the Roku and Apple TV boxes, letting me get, e.g., Netflix and Amazon streaming content, as well as any media files available on my home network through the same device.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:48 AM on June 28, 2010

If I wanted to watch some content I have on my computer, I believe the Roku-HD XR is the only Roku where that may be an option?

I just read through the product description and reviews on Amazon, and it does not say that you can do that. It looks like a great box, but I haven't anywhere seen that it will let you play your own media files.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:53 AM on June 28, 2010

The Roku has an SDK and there are some homegrown servers and apps to let you stream your own media, but none are ready for grandma, they take a bit of work to get going.

I would love a "just works" solution for that but there aren't any out there yet.
posted by beowulf573 at 1:22 PM on June 28, 2010

I don't think the Apple TV is locked down at all. I have NitoTV, Boxee, and XBMC on mine. There's no Hulu because the thing is just woefully underpowered, unfortunately. But it's certainly not really locked down.

I also own one of the earlier Roku boxes. It does HD just fine and then there's the free stuff, but that's about it. The best of all worlds seems to be the WD TV Live Plus units. (they do Netflix)

Netflix streaming on the Wii is an option but it doesn't really look that great. An xbox 360 with HDMI looks better.
posted by drstein at 2:54 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

drstein, the asker makes it clear that their TV doesn't support modern connections like HDMI, making the Wii an even better fit.

BTW, the Wii with the component cables does 480p swimmingly. (That's more for drstein than chirico, since chirico's TV is unlikely to support 480p.)
posted by NortonDC at 5:04 PM on June 28, 2010

Thanks everyone! So no love for the Seagate?
posted by chirico at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2010

NortonDC: I'm aware of this. The devices that I mentioned have composite video. So, that isn't an issue.
posted by drstein at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2010

Then why are you pushing the "xbox 360 with HDMI" for Netflix streaming?
posted by NortonDC at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2010

Isn't a strike against Netflix streaming on the Xbox 360 that it requires Xbox Live Gold (a paid service) in order to do Netflix streaming (a separate paid service)?
posted by sharkfu at 9:01 PM on July 16, 2010

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