Comparing Settop Boxes With Media Center

Written by Alan Monday, 20 September 2010 08:00

mc logo Comparing Settop Boxes With Media CenterWith the recent release of the new Apple TV and the upcoming debut of the Boxee Box as well as discounted prices on Roku, I thought it would be a good time to compare some of these settop boxes to my Windows 7 Media Center HTPC.  I decided to make a side-by-side feature comparison of Windows Media Center, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, and Popbox.

The prices for these range from $59 (Roku) to as high as you want to go (Media Center).  The features vary even more wildly.  So here is a head-to-head look at the top contenders for your living room.

comparison chart Comparing Settop Boxes With Media Center

All of these boxes will fit nicely into an entertainment center, except the Boxee Box, which has a “unique” shape.

boxee box Comparing Settop Boxes With Media Center

Boxee is one of the more feature-packed boxes I looked at, but it’s also the highest priced one, at $199.99.  It’s a great system, but I don’t see how it’s any better than the Roku which half the price (or less).

Price-wise you can’t beat the value of the Roku with SD boxes for $59.99 and HD boxes for $69.99 and $99.99.  It’s loaded with features for all sorts of video, audio and picture streaming and features several major video podcast networks such as Twit, Blubrry, and TechPodcasts.

All of the boxes here are 1080p except the Apple TV.  The Apple box, though, is the only one that supports iTunes, which, for better or worse, is where the vast majority of people have their music stored.  It also features $0.99 TV show rentals.

The Popbox falls into the middle of the price range.  It has a lot of apps, but is lacking in a major way because it does not do Netflix, Amazon or Pandora.

Media Center can be set up for as cheap as about $200 with something like an Acer Revo or as much as you want to spend if you go high-end with Vidabox.  Netflix is built-in and adding Boxee, Hulu, and Amazon are easy hacks.  It streams all of your media from other PC’s on your network and with a web browser you can anything that’s online.

I only looked at the big features on these systems, but there are many other things that you may want to look at.  For instance Roku does some photo websites such as Flickr.  Both Roku and Popbox have Facebook and Twitter, Popbox has weather.  Take a look at all of the features of each before you make a final decision.

If you want everything and don’t mind doing the setup and adding the plug-ins then media center is still the way to go and it’s what most geeks will continue to use.  But if you want a simple, cheap, feature-loaded solution, the Roku seems to be the clear winner.

roku box Comparing Settop Boxes With Media Center

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 Comparing Settop Boxes With Media Center


Alan is the owner and editor of Making Windows Easy. In addition to writing about technology he is also an avid distance runner and hiker. Read More

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