The online video and music streaming market has exploded over the past several years and we believe it's only going to get even bigger. Bigger selections. More cross-platform device implementation. Cheaper prices for even more mileage.
The problem is that there seems to be almost too many devices out there that attempt to answer this streaming bit. However, we feel we can help.
Using a very un-scientific scoring formula consisting of 1) number of popular streaming options, 2) streaming performance of native apps, and 3) general user-interface looks and feel, we set out to find out what's the best unit for online streaming out there today.
Apple TV 2G: 6/10
Pros: Good lookin' Netflix UI, some live sports such as NBA and MLB
Cons: Only Netflix and pay-per-view content via Apple store, navigating through videos using the included Apple Remote can be a huge pain
Roku XS: 9/10
Pros: Amazon Instant, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora One... it's all there and then some, quick and easy authorization process using a PC with an onscreen passcode
Cons: 720p navigation interface looks like poo on a big screen, but you get 1080p streaming for online video
Playstation 3/Xbox 360: 8/10
Pros: Both Hulu Plus and Netflix native app options, HD streaming, extremely convenient for gamers, both offer a very smooth UI that feels natural and constantly undergoing small changes that lead to big improvements
Cons: Still a very limited selection of apps compared to competition, gaming controllers feel awkward for daily TV viewing
Nintendo Wii: 4/10
Pros: Netflix available via downloadable app
Cons: Netflix only, controls are finicky, streaming is well-below HD
Samsung Smart TVs (and any other "smart TV" out today): 3/10
Pros: Offers Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora One
Cons: Atrocious, slow UI makes it nearly impossible to use
While Apple TV and Boxee both had very attractive UI's for browsing online content, both tend to fall short by offering either a small limited selection or a disorganized collection of stuff we don't really care about. Content is key in a transitioning world of cable and dish-less TV, but even though we understand native apps can be expensive to develop, it goes a long way providing more value to the customer.
Be sure to stay tuned next week where we face off the set-top boxes to see which is best for local streaming content!