Home Theater

Media Streaming Device Comparison

At an industry conference last month, Streaming Media Magazine presented a roundup of three dozen different streaming devices. They published a comparative feature matrix for the event that breaks down the capabilities and services on some of the more popular devices. There are a few inaccuracies here, but overall, this chart is very informative—and telling.

Media Streaming Device Comparison

The contenders include streaming-only devices, set-top boxes, and gaming consoles ranging in price from $79 (for the relatively unknown GoFlexTV) to $299 (for the PS3). You might expect the game boxes to steel the heat, right? Guess again.

Some of the Highlights

The sleeper in this roundup is clearly the Roku XDS. At under $100, it offers the most streaming options of any of the boxes, including the most popular sports and movie services.

And here’s something the chart doesn’t reveal: If you’re running the PlayOn service anywhere in your household (maybe on your Media Center PC?), Roku’s somewhat meta PlayOn channel gives you access to all of the channels from PlayOn through your Roku box, too. This includes YouTube, Hulu—the regular Hulu…not the paid version, CBS, ESPN3, and a host of other services. PlayOn even lets you access your own video content folders, giving the Roku DLNA-like capabilities to play back MPEG-4, MKV, and WMV videos.

If you’re looking for broader format diversity, then you might consider one of Western Digital’s devices. These boxes can play back numerous video formats and have the added benefit of supporting DLNA and Windows 7’s Play To feature—acting as a target for streaming media from your Windows devices.

And if you’ve bought into the iTunes media ecosystem—particularly for video—you have only one option: Apple TV. Apple’s second gen streaming device is the perfect [only?] companion for streaming from your iTunes library and AirPlay-enabled devices, and it offers a growing list of services, including Netflix, YouTube, MLB, and NBA. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase iTunes media on the new Apple TV like you could with Apple’s first generation product.

The real duds here? The Nintendo Wii offers only Netflix streaming service, and Logitech’s Google TV box, the Revue…well, let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t pay for it, and I’m waiting for the next firmware update before I decide whether to “retire” it.


About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard is a product experience consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.