tv vs Roku

24th of January, 2011 ·  1 Comment

If you already know what features you want, the following chart might be enough, and you can skip the rest.

tv. Roku.

Streaming Netflix to your TV is a really cool, really nice thing. Their streaming selection has grown like crazy since I got my Roku. They’ve added tons of TV shows which keep me, my wife, and my kid all occupied.

Everyone has Internet service in their homes, but Cable TV prices are just going up. There’s something very satisfying about ditching your $25 a month Cable bill in favor of a buy-it-once $100 device and a $9 per month Netflix subscription.1

So here’s the tv vs Roku feature breakdown:

  • Netflix. Both tv and Roku stream from Netflix. This is movies, TV shows, documentaries, etc. Great. The interface on both is great, too.
  • Rentals. Both devices offer rentals if what you want to watch isn’t on Netflix. tv does it through iTunes, and the Roku through Amazon’s rental service. In my experience, price and selection are comparable. I don’t think they’re competing with each other on this so much as they’re competing against RedBox and similar.
  • Hulu. This seems like the make-or-break item for me. If TV is hugely important to you, Roku’s got your business. Worth noting is you need Hulu+, a service you pay for.
  • Streaming from iTunes. On the other hand, tv, a little dvd-player sized box plugged into your TV will stream movies and shows living on your computer or iOS device. This is a big deal. If your friend comes over with movies on his laptop, iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, you can watch them on your TV. The same goes for music. (Roku will play Pandora, though.)

Both devices hook up to your TV and Internet connection the same way, offer the same quality, have similarly good remotes and interfaces, and even look similar, though the Roku is a smidge larger.

So we’ve hit all the high points. Both devices have slightly different technical specs and a few other divergent features I didn’t bother going into here; this is meat and potatoes. And if you already have a PlayStation 3, Wii, or BluRay player that’s got Roku built in, this is all a waste of time.2

And let me end by saying I’ve had a Roku for over a year now, and have been very happy with it. The main reason I’m considering the tv is for streaming from iOS devices. Most of my family and most of my friends have iOS devices and love movies. More than once, it’d have been great to be able to stream a movie from their phone. Or, for that matter, from my computer.

And at $100 each,3 it’s not unreasonable to have both.

  1. $25 in the best of times. I personally know folks paying $80 a month for TV
  2. Unless you really gotta have that iOS compatibility. If that’s the case, consider the Apple Component AV Cable. It’s only $40 (compared to $100), and works on most any iOS device, plus iPods. Slightly less convenient in that you have to plug it in, but it is an option.
  3. Actually, one major advantage of the Roku is it’s cheaper than the tv, or can be. $100 is the cost for the most expensive version. They have cheaper, less feature-rich ones for as little as $60.

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