If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s physical medias. They’re unpractical and environmental unfriendly. They also tend to break, and that’s when I just plain don’t lose them. Over the last few years, I gradually stopped using them.
That’s some of the reasons why all the movies and TV shows I watch come from the Internet. In today’s age, it’s even faster to download a movie than going to the store to grab it. All that in 1080p of course. I remember watching characters come up slowly on my monitoring back in the 90s using a 14.4k baud modem when accessing BBSes. Now, I can stream on-demand 1080p content. Talk about progress.
So a little over two years ago, I bought a Boxee box to replace a PS3. Mainly due to the mess Sony made by removing the boot other OS option, and then using Cinavia. On top of that, the PS3 had a very limited set of formats it supported.
Boxee was great. In the first months, there was a lot of updates, and it could play pretty much anything you threw at it. The only problem I had with it was the poor quality of the Netflix app. The video quality was terrible. But more on that later. Overall, I was a happy camper.
Time went on, and updates stopped. The little Boxee started to age. More and more, it would hang on me, needing a hard reset. Not a big hassle, but still annoying.
And then one day, we started talking about the Roku at the office. I started to read about it. I started to want one, and I was curious to see if the Netflix experience would be better on it.
I finally gave in on Friday, stopped at my local electronics store to grab one.
I decided to write a review comparison of it vs the Boxee.
Well, just like the Boxee, the Roku’s installation was dead simple. Connect the network and HDMI cables, and that’s it. That said, the Roku needs a Roku account in order to be used. And that requires a valid credit card. I’m guessing to simplify the purchase of channels. Kinda like the App store or Google Play. I read some people’s review online that were put off by it. Personally, I don’t mind.
In any case, Boxee’s was simpler to setup and thus, wins this round.
NOTE: The Roku is so tiny compared to the Boxee. It’s like 10 times smaller.
Both devices are straight forward to configure, but the Boxee has more parameters to configure. Especially at the network level. You can’t configure DNS servers on the Roku manually. Which is used by a lot of people to bypass Netflix’s security and access American content.
For that fact, Boxee wins this round too.
Well, in section, Roku wins hands down. I much prefer it’s UI. There seems to be more consistency across all channels (apps) compared to the Boxee. Often on the boxee, an ‘app’ will just open the Boxee browser (it’s really awful) and let you browse to your content.
On the Roku, all channels I’ve used have the same polished UI. For that, the Roku wins this round.
Well, if I relied solely on those for content, on both devices, I wouldn’t watch much. Most of them have crippled content in Canada. Compared to the US. It’s sad really, because it kinda forces my hand to turn to piracy. Because it’s a much better experience. I’d be willing to pay if there was a really good service that offered current seasons of shows I watch. The media cartels really don’t get it. Their loss I guess.
In any case, the apps are much better on the Roku as I mentioned previously. One that’s really much nicer is Youtube’s. Netflix’s new design is great also. A nice upgrade.
Roku wins this round.
Let’s take a minute to talk about Crunchyroll. It’s a site that streams animes. These guys gets it. They understand the new media reality. For free, you can stream a decent quality, but for a 6$/month fee, you get full HD streams. No dicking around: an hour after the show aired, it’s online for you to watch.
If only more sites like that existed. I’ll gladly support these guys just because they are cool. And because I like animes :)
Netflix deserves a special category. It was well known on the Boxee forums that the video quality of Netflix on the Boxee, well.., it just sucked. Add to that the poor content in Canada, was the reason why I never bothered to register past the free monthly trial.
I know I could easily circumvent that restriction. It’s well documented and easy to do. But I also believe in voting with my money. If I accept to pay for a service’s that’s abusing me and treating me poorly, I’m shooting myself in the foot.
That said, I decided to give Netflix another try, mainly out of curiosity to see if the video quality was better on the Roku. Holy Jeebus! It’s like night and day. I get real HD and the SD content is not bad either.
It’s to the point that I’m considering signing up. I’m kinda torn on this one.
In any case, Roku wins this round.
Streaming local content
Well, this one is easy. Boxee is a better experience for that. Simple as that. Boxee can connect to NFS, AFS and SMB/CIFS shares to read content. The Roku can’t. It relies on DLNA.
After reviewing the available options, I decided to give a shot to Plex. Mainly because it can run on my NAS. Well, that didn’t end well. My NAS is way too slow to run such a CPU intensive app. Plex can transcode on the fly video formats the Roku doesn’t support. Not sure I’m going to stick with it either. All the clients needs to be purchased. I might test other setups using a different DLNA server.
In any case, Boxee wins this round for being simpler in that regard.
Not going to say much about this except that the Roku 3 has a motion sensor on the remote, kinda like on the Wii. So you can play games with it. You get one of the Angry Birds game for free. To be honest, I don’t care much about that one. I’m a purist who likes to game on PCs ;)
Since the Boxee doesn’t have games, that makes a defacto victory for the Roku in this round.
But remotes use direct Wifi. Which means, you don’t need to point it at the device to use it. Kinda neat. The Boxee’s also has a QWERTY keyboard on one of it’s side. But I always found it klunky.
I much prefer the Roku’s. It’s form fits better in my hand.
Oh, and one more thing, you can install a Roku app on your iOS or Android devices to get an enhanced remote.
Roku wins again.
All in all, the Boxee was great years ago. But the Roku clearly is a better device in 2014. Not sure what I’ll do with my old Boxee. I thought about building a bedroom setup when I change my TV, bring the old TV in there with the Boxee. But the Roku is so affordable, I might just get a new one.