Now we have discovered Roku.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 31 years


Roku vs. Apple TV: There's a clear winner

November 9, 2014

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2014, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2014, The Post-Standard

I've owned an Apple TV box for years. It's great. The movies and TV shows Nancy and I watch over Apple's streaming video box have turned our TV watching around. We see what we want when we want it. We hardly ever watch live TV any more.

But, ahem. Like the valley of the blind where the one-eyed man is king, we were happy with what we had because we didn't know there was anything better out there. But now we have discovered Roku.

As I explained last week, Roku has about 1,000 channels compared with Apple TV's 30. (The Roku folks say they have 1,700, but, hey, what's 700 between friends?)

And Roku has more of everything. And, as you should expect when you're faced with a thousand choices instead of a few dozen, Roku engenders more confusion when you're trying to navigate to what you really want while dodging the dregs.

That's the biggest drawback to Roku. There's simply too much to choose from. If you're the kind of TV or movie fan who likes simple choices, the kind who just wants to watch one of your five or six favorite shows, you don't need to read any further. Enjoy Apple TV. It's great. See you later.

The rest of us, however, have a conundrum. The content on Roku is a treasure. (See last week's column, at technofileonline.com/texts/tec110214.html, for a list of most of the categories.) Classic movies, grand old TV shows, special channels for sports and science, all that kind of thing. And a great deal more. And even more than a great deal more.

Roku even has private channels. You won't see them listed on the Roku box unless you add them through a sneaky-winky procedure that involves typing a crazy code into a form. These private channels aren't illegal or fattening or anything like that, although some are sleazy -- you can easily avoid them, so don't worry over it -- but some do indeed seem like amateur hour is here again. My advice is to give them a try anyway.

To add private channels, go to www.mkvxstream.blogspot.com/2013/03/roku-private-channels-2013-roku-channel.html. The site lists the channels and provides a simple way to add them to your own Roku setup.

An 8-year-old expert game player -- aren't they all, at that age? -- tried out the Roku remote control's motion-tracking abilities with the Angry Birds game that comes already installed. It worked great. (No, he didn't tell me that; I just guessed it from the fact they he played it for hours.) This is a huge bonus if there are kids in the house.

Image quality was very good on some channels. Roku's menu for Netflix is inexplicably different from the Netflix menu on Apple TV, but I was able to get used to it in a day or so. A plus: Roku describes each Netflix offering in detail. something Apple doesn't do. (I had assumed that Netflix designs its own menus, but that's clearly not the case.)

Obviously, Roku shows where television is heading in the next few years. Cable companies can't possibly compete with a service that offers a thousand channels, most at no cost whatsoever. Once Roku and Apple are able to provide your local channels over their devices -- something that's stalled by legal wrangling now -- you and I will have no need for cable.