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Roku vs Google TV Review

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A new generation of “cord-cutters” has abandoned the traditional concept of TV, instead using web streaming, catch-up services and devices watch shows each time it’s opportune for them – rather than when the broadcaster says so.

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Google TV Crome cast
Google TV is to Android what Apple TV is to iOS, which makes perfect sense because Google TV is powered by Android, just like Apple TV is powered by iOS. The Logitech Revue set-top box, Sony's Google TV-integrated HDTVs and Blu-ray players use Google TV, and set-top boxes and other products are expected from LG, Vizio, and other HDTV manufacturers later this year. The Logitech Revue is no longer available from Logitech itself, but you can still pick one up online from Amazon and other vendors.

Google TV uses apps downloaded from the Android Market, offers a full version of the Google Chrome Web browser, and generally handles like a tablet on your HDTV, with a keyboard and touchpad to control it rather than a touch screen. You can look up movie information on IMDB, listen to your music library through Google Music, and even just sit in front of a digital fireplace with the Classy Fireplace app.

All that power comes with a fair amount of inconvenience: The interface isn't terribly polished or cleanly integrated across different apps; Google TV apps are as hit-or-miss as standard Android apps; and to fully take advantage of Google TV you need a wireless keyboard remote.

 

Service-Based Set-Top Boxes
Google TV Box is a powerful service-based set-top box with more similarities to Roku-type products. Its interface isn't nearly as polished as the Apple TV, though, and its apps aren't as varied as Google TV's selection.

Besides other service-based set-top boxes is simpler, and they can also be less expensive. Roku is the best-known brand of streaming-media boxes, and the $50 Roku LT stands as our Editors' Choice in budget media hubs. Roku arranges different services as channels, and lets you access Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more specific video channels like Crunchyroll, Funny or Die, and G4. Google TV offer a Web browser or a lot of apps, but they're simple to set up and let you jump right into watching online video services without much effort.

Other boxes include Western Digital's WD TV Live Hub, which serves up plenty of video services and solid support for viewing media from a built-in hard drive, or over your home network.


Roku Streaming

Little Roku taking on the mighty Google sounds like a recipe for a bloody nose, but Roku's been in the streaming game for a while now and despite costing £20 more than the Chromecast, it’s the Streaming Stick we’d recommend.

If all you want is Netflix and iPlayer on your main telly, by all means go Google, but if you also want to stream your own videos and music, access Spotify and grab a slice of the Sky pie every so often, the Roku really is the way to go. The fact that it also comes with a good old-fashioned remote won’t be lost on many people, either.

You'll find more than 500 apps on the Roku store, including the aforementioned BBC iPlayer and Netflix, Sky Store and Now TV, 4oD, Demand 5, Spotify, TuneIn, and YouTube. There are hundreds more specialist channels, catering for every interest. Streaming your own content is also easier on Roku.

The best way to find what you want to watch is with the Search feature. You enter what you are looking for (movie, TV show, actor or director), and Roku searches 10 services: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Vudu, HBO GO, Redbox Instant, Blockbuster, Crackle, Popcorn Flix and M-GO. That allows you to see if the program is on any of the services you already subscribe to, or if not, to compare prices.

Though more involved, the Roku interface is far better, because you can access all your apps in one place, and the search feature makes the process of looking for content much easier.


The Battle for the Best Streaming Media

There's not much to choose between the two sticks here, and given that they'll be stuck round the back of your TV it doesn't really matter much what they look like anyway. 

The closest comparison between Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick is in outward appearance. Each is a roughly 3 x 1 x 0.5-inch dongle-type device with an HDMI connector at one end. However, Chromecast widens at the far end to a circular shape. This probably won't affect the ability to squeeze it into an HDMI port, as it's far enough away from the plug end, on the opposite end of the HDMI port on a TV or A/V receiver. But just in case, Chromecast includes a short HDMI extension cable. At the opposite end of each device is a micro USB port for attaching an included USB charger and cable.But for what it's worth, the Chromecast is short with a bulbous back end, the Roku a little longer and slimmer. The Roku is proudly purple, the Chromecast casual in black.

Both plug into your telly via HDMI, and both also have a microUSB socket at the other end from which they draw their power. For this task you can either use the bundled wall plug or hook them straight up to a USB socket on your TV.

But significantly, the Roku comes with a dedicated remote, whereas the Chromecast can only be operated via smartphone app. And as the remote doesn’t need line of sight, it's no less flexible to operate than an app either. It's well built, the buttons work with a satisfying click and using it is often more simple than switching on your phone, navigating to an app etc etc. And if you really must have an app, Roku has one of those too.

Ultimately, there's only one winner in this category. While both devices have the big two of Netflix and iPlayer, the fact that the Roku has so many more channels overall gives it a clear lead over its rival.

 

 

Bibliography

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2402133,00.asp

http://www.stuff.tv/google-chromecast/review

http://www.stuff.tv/roku/roku-streaming-stick/review

 

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