Set Top Boxes, a Gear Chat


Over the years writing for Gear Diary, we often have chats behind the scenes about all sorts of issues.  Some are private and will never see the light of day, but many times what is said ends up in a long string of comments that would make a great post.  This one all started by a gift I received from a friend — a brand new Roku 2 XS — which I love a lot.  I posted in our back channel about it, and off we went.

joel Joel: Received a Roku 2 XS from a friend of mine. Best thing ever. First tech other than the iPhone that made my wife’s eyes light up.



Gear-Diary-Judie-Dan.jpg Judie: We love ours! But the remote is crap. =P







joel Joel: My only criticism of the remote is typing in passwords and what not. The 2 XS has the RF remote and it seems to be ok for me. Had some weirdness with the Android app but rebooted the Roku and my phones were able to see it. The apps are the best way I find…although I haven’t got to use it much as the first thing we watched was season 1 episode 1 of Friday Night Lights as my wife’s eyes lit up! Simple tech my wife understands and the Roku is it.


Michael Michael: We have the first gen and absolutely live by it with Hulu and Netflix and Amazon and …



joel Joel: The 2 XS is a great box. I can’t believe how small this thing is and all it can do!



Michael Michael: The Roku is absolutely awesome device. I am trying to recall what the 2nd gen added over the first – other than built-in Angry Birds?



joel Joel: Well it’s smaller, RF remote, 1080p if you have a TV and media that supports it plus it has a USB port on the side. It will play media from that. Not sure how much of that is new. It is REALLY small. Almost as small as a Raspberry Pi (which is ALSO on my list).

 ALMOST picked up another little streaming box the other day but I am glad I didn’t since we’ll have the Xbox 360 as well. 

I just wish this thing had Youtube. Almost doesn’t make sense to not have it.


christopher_g Christopher: I’m not really a Roku guy but glad to hear it’s doing so well for you!


joel Joel:  So you do Apple TV? 

For me, the Roku is one of the best ones out there….but it’s still missing some things. Youtube for one.


christopher_g Christopher: Cool! I’m an Apple TV guy, of course, especially since it now also has Hulu Plus. And Youtube!  I don’t care about playing Angry Birds on anything, especially not on my tv streamer!

The Apple TV has worked great for my use so far!


joel Joel (regarding Angry Birds)LOL…I tried it for a couple seconds….it’s amusing but hardly a reason to get one.



Michael Michael: The only thing missing for me on AppleTV is Amazon Prime Video … and that is HUGE. We are big Amazon customers, and since pretty much everything is cheaper there I could never see renting a movie from iTunes that I could get for $1 less on Amazon.


Gear-Diary-Judie-Dan.jpgJudie: That’s why we still have the Roku. =P

joel Joel:  Amazon just needs to get with the program and release a general Android client for prime….but I use the heck out of it on the Roku!

I can’t go with an AppleTV as I am not a huge iTunes person. I only used it because I had to when I had an iPod and I detested it. At one time it was a great program and it’s getting better now….I think Apple realizes how much it started to suck.

I think I want to get a Google TV device or the Boxee DVR next.

christopher_g Chris: Amazon Prime has absolutely zero impact on my life. I don’t use it at all so that isn’t a factor in device choices for me. I do have a huge iTunes Music Store investment but more importantly is that Apple TV interacts best with my local content. That, more than anything, is why I like the Apple TV best. Even my Windows Phone works pretty well integrating with iTunes. Microsoft wrote a decent client that links nicely into iTunes and iPhoto on a Mac. Google is a complete fail on device/Mac integration so I can virtually guarantee that I will never travel down the Google TV path.

joel Joel: Understandable. I need to work on getting a Plex server going for my local content. For the moment, I just copy the media to a USB drive and attach it to the Roku.




Wrap Up

As you can see, we’re pretty much in the Roku or Apple TV camp when it comes to set top boxes.  As you can also see, we point out one of the biggest issues with set top boxes today — NONE of them can do 100 percent of of what we want.  Apple TV does Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube, but it doesn’t do Amazon Prime.  The Roku has Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, but no Youtube.  Google TV does some of those, but not everything.

There is not one set top box to rule them all, mostly due to the content available or not available on each; so you just have to pick the one that works best for you.  For me, I will probably break down and get a Google TV or some other box just so I can watch some of the great new content on Youtube like Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome.  I hope that in 2013 that this segment settles out.  I do know one thing: this IS the future of TV.  The cable providers and networks need to realize this; I think the first one that does could reap the benefits!

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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.

3 Comments on "Set Top Boxes, a Gear Chat"

  1. I’m a big fan of the WDTV Live series. We’ve got two of them, and use them not just for streaming but also local files. Local file support seems to be a weak point for most of these boxes. Roku didn’t support local files for the longest time, and now their support is not nearly as broad as WD’s support. So, anyone who knows what NZB files are might be well-served by the WDTV line – it’s very geeky.

  2. If you already have an iphone & ipad, the apple tv can’t be beat. We love ours.

  3. Jonathan Rieksts | December 21, 2012 at 8:31 am |

    I have the ROKU 2 XS and I am able to get a lot of content from You Tube. You just have to dig through the various channels

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