The pros and cons of: Streaming your digital content via Apple TV or Roku

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(Originally published on http://globalnews.ca/)

As the Internet age takes over, many of us are steering away from consuming our cable digitally and leaning more on the Internet (streaming) for catching up with our favourite shows and movies. There are several reasons for it, most notably is the cost. However, convenience also is a big factor: one monthly fee and it follows you wherever you are. Imagine watching a TV series, in its entirety, when it’s convenient for you, anywhere in the world. Services like Netflix allow you to do this for low monthly fees, on your own time. Streaming content is also available in many shapes and sizes for Canadians, the most common via your local television station’s website or third-party hardware like Apple TV or Roku.

The bigger question lays with each one of us respectively. So, let’s first take a look at some pros and cons of streaming digital content and find out if it’s the right choice for you.

Pros of streaming:

  • Access to lots of content: Streaming services give users access to vast amounts of content, often for one subscription price. This means you can watch or listen to whatever you want and never need to store files or physical discs.
  • Legal: Legitimate streaming services  like Netflix, Sirius and RDIO are completely legal, so you never have to worry about future lawsuits.
  • Flexibility: Regular TV and radio mean you have to tune in to someone else’s schedule. Streaming services let you watch or listen on your own time, with no restrictions. It also lets you access content wherever you get an Internet connection – whether you’re at the gym, at the cottage or on the road.
  • Consistent and high quality content: Unlike pirated content or torrents, streaming services always offer a high quality and consistent experience.
  • No ads and no interruptions: Anyone who watches regular TV knows there are just too many commercials. Most paid streaming services offer an ad-free experience, so you never have to wait through a commercial when streaming TV shows or listening to music.

Cons of streaming:

  • Freshness of selection: Streaming of any kind is limited to what agreements allow for, this could mean that the content isn’t always up-to-date or new. Think Netflix Canada.
  • Reliance on a connection: If you’re at the cottage, airport or gym and don’t have a solid internet connection, the content you want access to could be unusable.
  • Need more data: Streaming uses a lot of bandwidth, whether on your phone or home plan, so be careful. If you’re new to this kind of service, you may get bill shock if you haven’t planned ahead.

Now, for the ever-daunting question: what streaming service is best for me? I don’t own a smart TV, I don’t have a gaming console, and I would rather not plug my computer directly into my current TV every time I want to watch an episode ofBreaking Bad.  Guess what, dear friend, you’re in luck! There are two popular options, priced under $100, that are currently available for Canadians: Apple TV andRoku3 (Chromecast is a great option but unfortunately is not officially available in Canada).

Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons of each respectively.

Pros of using Apple TV:

  • Works succinctly with all your Apple products, allowing for wireless AirPlay over wifi.
  • Access to Netflix, PhotoStream, YouTube and other social media outlets.
  • Support for surround sound and 1080p video.
  • Very easy setup – just plug the HDMI cable into your TV and go.

Cons of using Apple TV

  • Content is limited to: Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, NBA, Flickr and YouTube as well as the ability to purchase and rent content from iTunes.
  • No USB playback ability.
  • No slot for memory or content expansion.

Pros of using a Roku3:

  • Loaded with content:  Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NBA, NHL Game Center, EPIX, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Major League Soccer, UFC TV, CNBC, FOX News, NBC News, AOL HD, TED, Pandora, Crackle, Flickr and has support for PLEX.
  • Open SDK (software developers kit) means that new content is being created regularly.
  • Can handle light gaming with the remote doubling as a controller.
  • Headphone jack in remote allows user to listen to content without disrupting those around them.

Cons of using a Roku3:

  • No current YouTube support.
  • User interface and experience known to be a bit buggy.
  • Playing back content from your computer isn’t built into the Roku, you must download an app.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when making your final decision. If you’re looking for something that is easy to navigate, has a gorgeous menu, and will speak to your iPad and iPhone, the natural choice is Apple TV. Whereas, if content is what you’re after and you’re willing to forgo usability to achieve it, the Roku3 is your go-to!

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