These are the top three media streaming players in the market, though they aren’t the only ones out there.
All of them cost below $100 and offer good value for the money. Roku 3 costs $79, whereas Apple TV comes at a new price of $69, with Chromecast at $35.
Roku 3 – Great Content
Roku 3 is the flagship model available for $80, though it also has cheaper options. When it comes to content, Roku is king. It has a huge library consisting of Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Amazon Instant, Pandora, NFL Now, and even YouTube. It gets new channels early and also brings in regular updates to its set top box. The device comes with headphones that can be plugged in the dedicated remote control. You can listen to anything streamed and it automatically mutes the sound, which is a great feature for those watching late night shows.
Roku is very fast and responsive and offers an excellent search for titles or keywords across all the services. It also informs you about shows that are free with the subscription. The search can also be made using the remote application for the Android and iOS devices. It is content agnostic as well.
It is the cheapest option at $35 and is available in a stick form that hides perfectly behind the television. It does not, however, have a real remote. It works with various services, such as Pandora, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Crackle Radio and other applications. The greatest benefit is that you can use the Cast support for any Android and iOS app, so the library has expanded a lot. It, however, does not come with a television-based interface, and you have to control it using your smartphone or your tablet. Many apps offer support for Cast, but Spotify, Amazon Instant and a few others are still missing. Search capability is also not equal to that of Roku. In addition, screen mirroring is still a beta feature. You can cast any content from the Chrome tab on to the television, but it cannot be compared to the screen-mirroring feature that is seen on Apple TV.
The device works great if you have the Apple ecosystem. If you have a lot of movies, music and television shows on iTunes and if you have Apple devices, you can access all such content on the television. Those using iTunes Match can also access cloud stored music. The AirPlay mirroring offers excellent functionality, as you can push any music, photograph or video from an app to the Apple TV. You can also access many other apps that are not natively supported by the device, as they can be streamed from your iPhone or your iPad.
Earlier, Apple TV was criticized, as it did not offer much support for applications. However, it seems to have caught up recently and offers good quality support for HBO Go, Watch ESPN and many other services. It does not feature Amazon Instant, but offers support for all other important video applications.
Apple TV, however, is not perfect, as Roku has more number of apps at just about $10 extra. Apple TV does not have any games, whereas Roku has a limited game selection. There is also no cross platform search feature on Apple TV. The interface is iTunes centric and pushes iTunes content, with the homescreen being devoted to iTunes television shows, music and movies.
Although all the three streaming boxes have their own merits and demerits, Roku 3 delivers an excellent overall experience, with the maximum number of apps and a quick and easy to use search interface.