If you have a Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime or Vudu account, then you have probably been looking at ways to watch that content on your TV. There are a number of ways to do this, including smart TVs, smart Blu-Ray players, video game consoles and connecting your computer to your TV, but perhaps the simplest and most affordable way is with a set-top streaming box.
There are many set-top streaming boxes available, but the two most popular are the Roku 3 and the Apple TV. They are both similar in price, but each one has a set of features that is distinct from the other. So read below to learn more about the best features of each device to determine which one is the best for you.
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(AirPlay only streams sound)
(AirPlay only streams sound)
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As you can see from the chart above, the Roku 3 is the clear winner when it comes to the number of available content channels. Aside from the most popular choices listed above, there are over 700 other channels available on the Roku 3.
The Apple TV is clearly lacking when it comes to different sources for streaming video, but it has a couple of features that the Roku 3 does not. These features are more specifically targeted toward people that already have other Apple devices in their homes.
One of these options is iTunes streaming, which allows you to watch your purchased or rented iTunes videos directly from the Apple TV without having to download the video to a computer. Note that this feature is not available in every country as of the time of this writing.
The other option on the Apple TV is AirPlay, which allows you to stream content from your iPhone, iPad or Mac computer to the Apple TV. This gives you the ability to watch additional video content on the Apple TV, such as HBO GO and MAX GO. It’s very easy to use, and happens over your wireless network connection.
Streaming Content from a Computer or Hard Drive
Each of the devices has an option for streaming content from a networked computer as well. The Roku 3 has an app called Plex, which you use by installing the program on your computer, then downloading the channel to your Roku 3. There is also a USB port to which you can connect an external hard drive or USB flash drive.
The Apple TV allows you to use the home sharing feature of iTunes to stream content from your iTunes library to the Apple TV. Note that this will require all of your content to be compatible with iTunes, however.
If you don’t have an iPhone, iPad, Mac computer or a lot of iTunes content, then the Roku 3 should be the clear choice. It has a better user interface and access to more content.
But if you do have some other Apple products and you only plan to watch iTunes, Netflix and Hulu Plus, then the Apple TV is probably a better device for you.
There is no correct choice when deciding between these two excellent devices, as each individual situation will dictate a winner. The best thing to do is sit down and decide what you plan to use your set-top streaming box to watch, then see which device has more of the features that you need.
Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech tutorials since 2008. His writing has appeared on dozens of different websites and been read over 50 million times.
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science he spent several years working in IT management for small businesses. However, he now works full time writing content online and creating websites.
His main writing topics include iPhones, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Android, and Photoshop, but he has also written about many other tech topics as well.
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