As posted to AVSForum.
After thinking about it for awhile I've cancelled my Comcast and Tivo service, because more and more we're watching stuff that comes from Netflix or Hulu or...other sources. Someone asked me for my thoughts about the $100 boxes out there and since the answer is more than 140 characters and I don't blog anymore, I thought I'd post them here.
I have an ATV3 and I like it.
- Great interface.
- Nice expanding selection of apps, including Hulu and Netflix.
- Great for families with lots of iWhatevers. Integration with the music, TV and Movies you have in iTunes (if any) works very well. Airplay lets you share videos or photos or web pages. Some nights we take turns presenting our favorite YouTube nonsense from our phones to the big screen.
- I believe Apple has something big to announce over the next few months in the TV space. I don't think it's an actual television yet but...something neat.
- No Amazon Prime streaming.
- Limited format support and no DLNA support: local files have to be transcodedand streamed via iTunes.
- You might just hate Apple.
I tried a Roku 3 and I returned it even though I think it is very cool for most folks.
EDIT Nov 2013: I love the Roku. Because of its wide support for streaming services, and with the amazing Plex, it's now what I use more than anything else.
- Nice interface.
- Lots of apps, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, many others.
- Neat Wii-style motion-sensing remote is well suited for video games. Angry Birds Space comes free.
- Clever gimmick lets you use the included earbuds connected to the remote for private listening.
- Roku seems to be succeeding, which means more apps and continued innovation.
- If you want to stream your own files (like a collection of DVD rips), you need a Plex server, not just a DLNA server. And the Plex server has to transcode the files Roku can't handle, like MKV. This is why I returned it: I have a Synology NAS in the garage that serves up files at high speed but a) I don't want to deal with the transcoding quality loss and b) the Synology doesn't have the horsepower to transcode anyway. This is my esoteric reason for returning the Roku. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about here and you're not much of an Apple fan, then the Roku 3 is probably a very good choice for you.
I mention this because I happen to have one. It's your run-of-the-mill $100 blu-ray player with Internet features.
- It plays blu-ray discs and they look amazing.
- It supports Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming.
- Its streaming features are clunky and annoying. Hate the GUI. XMB is so 2006.
- It has native support for lots of file formats and it handles DLNA streaming pretty well, but it sometimes reboots out of nowhere when playing weird files. Other files it can't play at all.
- In many cases when streaming an MKV over DLNA it will simply stop when you try to pause or fast forward/rewind a video. The only way to get forty minutes back into the file you were watching is to start over!
I got one of these yesterday and despite its shortcomings it's a keeper with my AppleTV because of my particular preferences.
- DLNA streaming of the files in my garage works like a champ. Has none of the shortcomings that plague the above devices.
- Streams 1080p MKV and M2TS files with crazy stuff like Dolby TrueHD or DTS audio without transcoding.
- It seems to be receiving periodic firmware update attention.
- It doesn't seem to handle lossless 7.1 DTS audio over DLNA. I'll check again tonight.
- Sometimes does this thing while rebooting where it blinks the whole display in seizure-inducing green until you reset its HDMI connection. I may swap it out in hopes this is a defective model.
- The UI is not good. Made by a hard disk company and it shows.
- Out of the box it needs two (or three?) sequential firmware updates, taking about an hour.
- It's facing stiff competition. I predict WD doesn't have a future in the TV business.
I didn't mention the Internet features being built into most TVs nowadays. My Panasonic VT50 has Internet streaming features that are too lame to mention and I have no experience with what other manufacturers are building in. My intuition is that Samsung probably has a decent set of features on its recent TVs but I have no actual clue on that.