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Roku 2 XS vs Apple TV

Updated on April 15, 2012

Battle of the Media Streamers

As cable prices continue to rise, many people have begun to look elsewhere for their television entertainment. One of the best alternatives if not the best alternative to cable is to purchase a media box. The Roku 2 and Apple TV are two excellent choices and both are growing in popularity. The Roku 2 and Apple TV are very similar products, but the features they offer couldn't be further apart.

As you begin shopping for a media box you will find that there are a ton of options out there. At the current moment the Roku 2 and Apple TV have stepped in front of the competition. The tricky part is to know which media box is best and why. The fact is that Roku 2 and Apple TV are both excellent products, but each one suits one type of customer more than the other. Let me start by explaining some of the main features of each option.


Apple TV Media Box

Apple TV
Apple TV | Source

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Apple TV Features

Apple TV provides excellent picture quality at 1080i and is super easy to setup. It is a very small device that comes with numerous features. If you are looking for a media box and have already invested in the Apple brand you will find that the Apple TV media box will fit nicely into your Apple hardware collection. Below are some key features that the Apple TV has to offer:

AirPlay

Apple TV's AirPlay feature really sets it apart from its competition; I am unaware of any other media box that has something similar to the AirPlay capability. AirPlay allows you to use your iPad or iPhone on your HDTV. Imagine playing your iPad games on your giant HD television. With AirPlay you can access your movies, music (iTunes only), videos, and photos and display them on your television. AirPlay is what allows you to access your iTunes and Apple Store on your TV. The AirPlay feature also allows for dual screen; which means when playing games your iPad can become a controller and the game will appear on your TV. Keep in mind to take advantage of this you will need an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S or better. You will also need to have the device turned on and connected to AirPlay for it to work.

Access to the iCloud

Apple TV can be connected to your iCloud. The iCloud allows you to store your movies, shows and music (only music purchased from the Apple Store) in a remote location called a cloud. This is a great feature when you have numerous Apple devices that you would like to access your media from. You can get 5GB of memory on the cloud for free which is plenty unless you plan to store movies in HD quality on the cloud. Additional space can be purchased with a yearly subscription.

iTunes Match

For $24.99 you can gain access to all your music in the iCloud which can then be accessed through Apple TV. This will allow you to play the music you purchased from other sites besides the Apple Store and give you access to the music you uploaded from a CD onto iTunes. Without iTunes Match you can only access your music on the cloud that was purchased through the Apple Store.

Apple TV Content

In the world of media boxes content is king. Apple TV provides access to all the movies, music and shows that are available in the Apple Store. Apple TV charges on a per song/movie/show basis which I feel can add up quite quickly. Apple also provides access to your Netflix account, and YouTube. If you enjoy sports you will be happy to know that Apple TV has plenty of sports content like MLB.tv, NBA.com, and NHL GameCenter. Apple also provides access to notable channels like Flickr, Vimeo, and Wallstreet Journal. The main channel that Apple TV currently doesn't provide is Hulu, but many current TV shows can be purchased through the Apple Store.

Apple TV Interface

Apple is really good at making things look cool and they have done just that with Apple TV's interface. It is easy to navigate through and it looks nice. They have also integrated sites like Rotten Tomatoes and others to improve the user experience.

Roku 2 XS Media Box

Roku 2 XS
Roku 2 XS | Source

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Roku 2 XS Features

Like Apple TV the Roku 2 XS is super easy to setup. The Roku 2 XS provides excellent picture quality in 1080i. The Roku 2 XS will have you diving into hundreds of channels moments after setting it up. Roku is a great media box that provides a very affordable way to cut the cable bill.

Enhanced Remote Control

This might not seem like a big deal, but I really enjoyed using the remote. The remote uses a motion control system similar to the Wii gaming council. It is not as good as the Wii Remote, but the extra functionality was nice to have. The remote works with Bluetooth which is nice if you want to hide your Roku Box. Other remotes that work with infrared require the box and remote to have a line-of-sight.

Roku Channels

As I said before content is king when it comes to media boxes and the Roku Box is the current king of content. At the current moment Roku has over 400 channels in its library. In all honesty many of these channels are horrible, but many of them are real gems. Roku provides many top of the line channels including Netflix and even Hulu. They also have channels for many of the popular sports leagues like the NBA and NHL. The only real obvious channel that is missing is YouTube, but rumor has it that Roku is working to strike a deal with Google to allow a YouTube channel on their boxes.

Music Selection

Roku provides a lot of different options for music. They provide channels like Pandora and TuneIn Radio. The Roku box also has a USB Port channel that allows you to access your own music that is stored on a USB flash drive. Unfortunately, you will have no way to access your music on your computer unless you transfer it to a flash drive and download the USB flash drive channel.

The Smallest Option

The Roku 2 XS is the smallest option at only 3 inches by 3 inches with a height of 0.9 inches. The Roku box is also an excellent option when trying to conserve power since it uses less than 2 watts of energy which happens to be 20 times less energy than the average DVR box.

The Roku Interface

The Roku Interface is very basic. It essentially lines up your channels on the main screen and you can scroll left or right to access each channel. They do allow you manage the order of the channels by sorting them anyway you would like. However, the overall interface of the Roku box could use some improvement.

Compare Specifications

Specification
Roku 2
Apple TV
Price
$99.00 (offers $49.00 option)
$99.00
Networking
802.11n Wi-Fi w/ Ethernet
802.11n Wi-Fi w/ Ethernet
Video Output
1080i (HDMI cable required)
1080p (HDMI cable required)
Digital Output
5.1 Surround Sound (HDMI cable required)
5.1 Surround Sound (HDMI cable required)
Remote
Enhanced Motion Control Remote
Basic Remote (Smaller than Roku)
Size
3.3 x 3.3 x 0.9
3.9 x 3.9 x 0.9
Channels/Apps
400+ and Growing (No YouTube but has Hulu)
Popular Channels and Apps with AirPlay (No Hulu but has Youtube)
Interface
Very Basic Yet Functional
Great Looking and Functional
Additional Memory
Micro SD Card and USB Flash Drive (Sold Separate)
The iCloud (5 GB for free; additional memory requires yearly fee)
Notable Features
Access to private channels and channels are continually being developed.
Offers AirPlay, iTunes access and the iCloud App

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My Recommendation

Both the Roku 2 XS and Apple TV are excellent media boxes, but I would recommend the Roku 2 XS for most people looking to buy a media box. Roku provides the most content and is a more affordable option.

However, I would recommend Apple TV to anyone who is already heavily invested in the Apple brand. If you own an iPad or iPhone you may want to go with the Apple TV option. This media box will make a great addition to the hardware you already own.

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    • profile image

      Wilson 5 years ago

      Not sure about the Roku, but the new Apple TV supports 1080p. To my great disappointment, It most definitely does not support 1080i.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I don't have Cable anymore and am looking for an alternative. Thanks for the info.