Last year when the Chromecast came out, I wanted to highlight the pros and cons of the top set top box devices. That included the Apple TV and Roku. What I called the Throwdown.
Yesterday, Amazon announced their entry into the streaming box market. Their set top box made a big splash with the community. Faster than the other media boxes, the Fire TV also plans to compete with the gaming market and an additional wireless controller system.
Therefore, I had to bring the competitors back for…
The Set Top Box Throwdown II
Amazon Fire TV
If you have an Amazon Prime account and want to use it more, this box is for you. The Fire TV is the larger of the four – at 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. Inside the box is a Snapdragon quad-core processor – just like your Android smartphone might have.
With the box comes a remote with voice feature. Just press the microphone button and tell Fire what you want to watch.
There are only about 30 channels on the Fire TV with more coming. Missing from the top streaming channels is HBO Go, but they make up with Showtime Anytime, and Bloomberg TV.
For an additional $38 a controller, your Fire TV becomes a major gaming system. With the purchase came the game Sev-Zero, a first person shooter. The load time was as comparable as a gaming machine and the graphics were impressive.
The controller is similar to that of an XBox. Two joystick, a cross-pad, four buttons with four side buttons. The game remote can double as an overall remote, minus the voice commands.
Possible Downfall of Fire TV
Right now it sounds like you can remote control with your Kindle Fire. However, there is no mention if Android or iOS will get remote control apps. The intro video didn’t elude to that.
Speaking of which, when you first start the device, there is an annoying video that you have to watch. If you try to back out or skip, it will just start playing from the beginning again.
Like in the last review, Apple TV is the 3rd generation device for Apple. The Apple TV runs the A5 processor – a single core processor at 2 GHz. This allows for 1080p video and audio using the digital audio jack.
Apple’s main advantage is iTunes. If you have a large video and audio library on this service then Apple TV will be for you. It doesn’t have the Amazon streaming service, but does have Netflix and Hulu Plus.
I am expecting Apple to update their TV device this fall.
I have the Roku 2 XS which has done me well for a couple years now. It’s my go to device for Hulu Plus, Amazon, Netflix and more. Roku has the advantage of over 1,000 channels to choose from.
Roku also has multiple versions and prices – from $50 to $100. The Roku 3 allows for push streaming and also has a privacy option within the bluetooth remote. Speaking of the remote, the Roku 3 also plays simpler games such as Pac Man, Galaga, hold em poker, and more.
The biggest advantage of the Chromecast is its size. The device plugs directly to the HDMI port. The power outlet can plug into a powered USB or into a wall (with accompanying wall wart). Chromecast uses the Chrome browser and the GDK is available to write apps for.
The $35 device is the lowest of the group. You do get what you pay for, though. I have found the device doesn’t give you the best picture – like its displaying in 720p, even though I set it for 1080p. Usually when I start watching a show on Chromecast, I have to switch to Roku because the picture is much better.
The Results – Which One Should I Get?
Just like last time, all have merits and all have downfalls. If you have a large iTunes library – choose Apple TV. If your library is on Amazon, Fire TV or Roku are options. If your TV is on a wall and you don’t want a box to clutter it up, choose Chromecast.
If you want more channels then choose Roku. If you are a gamer then Amazon Fire TV will be your choice.
I am expecting Apple to upgrade their device in the next few months. Chromecast II will probably also be out by October. I am not expecting a Roku 4, but you never know.
Here is the kicker. No matter which box you get, Amazon can win. As you see, I link to Amazon to purchase those devices.
So which one are you going to get? Apple TV? Roku? Chromecast? Maybe all three? Let me know – Twitter me @geekazine