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Set-Top Boxes – A Comparison
Can one of these replace your cable?
The days of watching television shows and movies only through your television are long past. With Hulu and Netflix at the forefront, more people are choosing a combination of internet and TV viewing. It makes sense then that several innovative companies would try to bring the versatility of the internet to the quality and comfort of your living room.
Boxee D-Link ($200): Buggy, But Brings Social Media To Your Living Room
Boxee began its life as an open source software program that was designed to streamline the media experience by bringing together your personal media as well as web media. They’ve also incorporated the social media experience in a very unique way, keeping your Twitter and Facebook feeds prominent, allowing you to recommend and share what you’re watching, as well as tracking what media your friends are watching and recommending. They’ve carried over that same concept with their D-Link box. Currently the content is a bit limited since it, like Google TV, is blocked by most of the major networks. They do however offer MLB, Netflix, NHL, Vudu, Pandora, and a deal with Hulu Plus is promised sometime this year. What it does well however, is deliver content from multiple internet sources to the user in an integrated way. Now, if only those content providers would get out of its way.
Roku ($99): Best All-round Performer
The Roku XDS is generally considered to be the best set-top box currently available. It offers a wide variety of channels that include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, UFC, Pandora Radio, and GameCenter. Three models are offered at three price points: $59.99 for the Roku HD, $79.99 for the Roku XD, and $99.99 for the Roku XDS. All three support HD video and uilt-in Wi-Fi; the Roku XD and XDS both support 1080p and Wireless-N Wi-Fi; the XDS supports dual-band wireless and can play local media through a USB port. Unlike Apple TV though, there is no unified way to pay for the services. Meaning that you have to go to each individual vendor and set up an account (if you don’t already have one) and payment.
Apple TV ($99): Competent But Not Yet Spectacular
Apple TV suffers from the same lack of content that all the rest do. It currently only supports ABC, Fox, Disney, BBC, Netflix, and of course iTunes. You can control the box with your iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone and stream music and videos from your computer. The biggest advantage of Apple TV isn’t really its streaming capabilities, but AirPlay, which allows access to local content in a truly spectacular way. It should also be noted that the price of renting movies and TV shows through iTunes is generally the same price that you would pay to buy that same media through any of the other boxes.
Logitech Revue ($300):
Pricey, But With Potential

Like the Boxee, Google TV is attempting to bring the web to your living room. They do this literally, allowing you to browse through Chrome with a keyboard-remote, which can get clunky and frustrating. However, it also controls your DVR and allows really easy access to local content. It’s integrated with Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, Napster and a variety of other streaming video subscription services. It too is hampered by the fact that nearly every major content producer is blocking access.
There is some really promising technology out there right now and all these companies certainly have the right idea. Integrating internet with television and a home theatre system seems to be where the industry is heading. However, if you’re a TV junkie it would be advisable to keep your cable subscription for now. Getting access to current seasons of shows is difficult for all of these products, especially if they’re on slightly obscure channels, like the Food Network or Lifetime. The industry is in flux at the moment, with producers trying to keep up with the technology and work out deals with both advertisers and software companies. If you do choose to go ahead and invest in a set-top box, we recommend going with the Roku XDS. It’s more stable than Boxee, cheaper than Revue, and has more content than all three of the others. So unless you’re an early adopter, don’t cut the cable cord just yet - wait a bit longer for the content agreements to be made and the bugs to be worked out.

In the market for a new TV? Don’t forget to check out Retrevo where you’ll find reviews and manuals for all popular gear and gadgets including cameras, HDTV, laptops and more.

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Set-Top Boxes – A Comparison

I'm missing something, here. What can these gadgets do that can't be done with any internet connected PC and a cable connecting it to a TV set?

Reply

What is the 'spectacular way' in which AirPlay delivers local content??? I am so ready to dump cable and that monstrous bill that gets me so many channels I care nothing about. I cannot wait until Xbox gets Hulu. Everything I watch is available on Hulu so with the Xbox streaming Hulu and Netflix to my main TV and a couple of Roku's wirelessly streaming to the other TV's in the house, I will reduce my cable bill from @$85 to $8 for HuluPlus!!!! Throw in an HD antenna for my locals and I've got the best response to Time Warner's poor customer service and tier packaging!

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Media Players

No mention of the PS3?? It's a very good media player and lready has Netflix an Hulu Plus, not to mention it plays DVD's, BluRay's, and some pretty good games!

RE: AppleTV

The photo you are showing is of the 1st gen AppleTV. The $99 2nd gen model - the current one - is a lot smaller and the remote is different as well.

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set top boxes to replace cable boxes

I'm waiting for a way to rent only a single box and then be able to wirelessly transmit a tuned signal to other in-house TVs. It seems to be a doable technology. Yes, same signal in other rooms, but most people do not watch multiple TV programs at the same time in different rooms.

Not watching multiple

Not watching multiple programs at the same time in different rooms? You're not married with children, obviously.

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replace cable boxes

There is technology to do what you want. I have been doing it for several years from the family room to the kitchen. Google RF-Link which is what I use but there are others like Terk (search wireless TV transmitter).

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set top boxes

Sure they do! How about hubby, wife, and both kids all watching something different. Happens all the time. Or maybe room mates sharing an apartment?

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Replace cable? I don't think

Replace cable? I don't think so. First of all you have to purchase the box then you have to subscribe to different services. Want to dump cable then put up a roof top antenna but your limited to the channels you can recieve. It just is not to the point where those wire cutters are feasable yet.

Set top?

It's time to dump the term "set top box." Practically no TV sold today has a top on which one may place any of the boxes shown. The phrase "Don't touch that dial..." is finally fading away. Let's give "set top box" the same treatment. It just sounds stupid.