Apple TV, Roku or something else?

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by iRock1, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. iRock1 macrumors 6502a

    iRock1

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    #1
    Hello wise people.

    I want to buy a set for my TV. However, I'm not sure which one I should I.

    What I'm looking for is a device to stream all the video files that I have in my iMac (which I keep online 24/7) on my TV. In second place, I'd use the device for streaming services like Netflix and Youtube, but I guess anything can do that today. A third purpose would be listening to podcasts, though I'm not sure if even the ATV allows me to sync them with my other Apple devices (Mac, iPhone and iPad).

    Now, the first part is the fundamental one for me. I used the Apple TV 2nd gen for a month a few years ago and I really liked it, specially considering that I have four other Apple devices and I'm heavily immersed in the Apple ecosystem. However, I was very disappointed when I discovered that there was no way of accessing the video files on my Mac hard disk — and that's why I'm not into the ATV that much, despite the fact that I really like it.

    Right now I use an app for iPad and iPhone called Air Video HD, which allows me to do exactly what I'd like to do on my TV, i.e., adding all the folders that I want from my Mac to the app and then seeing the files on screen, with external subtitles and all.

    A final bonus that I'd really love to see is access to my iTunes music library. I know that this can be easily done on the ATV, but I'm not sure about the other competitors. Access to my iPhoto library would be great too, though I'm guessing it would be more complicated.

    Ideas, suggestions?

    PS: on a side note, does it matter if I keep my movies on an external drive attached to my Mac via FireWire or in a NAS, no matter which device I decide to buy?
     
  2. Lloydbm41 macrumors 68040

    Lloydbm41

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    #2
    Roku 3. Makes no difference if you have your files on a NAS, just a small external drive, or the computer, the Roku can play them. Roku also doesn't care if you are using an iDevice, an Android device or a regular PC.

    And the best program I have seen for converting all the metadata correctly when it comes to videos on a Mac is called iFlicks.

    Additionally, there is so much more content and flexibility with Roku over ATV. I stopped using my ATV's some time ago because I got tired of the constant crappy updates from Apple that would screw up my ATV's or how they would just stop seeing the wifi and require reconnects every day or two. PIA. Roku is a thing of beauty by comparison.
     
  3. Alfuh macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
    #3
    Another vote for Roku. It offers a lot more than ATV in my experience.

    Sounds like you would do well setting up Plex to stream local content (don't personally have it so not certain)
     
  4. geoffpalmeruk macrumors regular

    geoffpalmeruk

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    #4
    don't mean to hijack your post but does the roku allow USB hdd to be attached for media playback?
     
  5. dumastudetto macrumors 68020

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    Aug 28, 2013
    #5
    I think Apple TV is a wonderful choice for discerning consumers who want the best possible in-home TV experience. Roku is considered okay but the interface is pretty bad, it's prone to lag and there are some connectivity issues. Also remember Apple TV connects you to the world's biggest entertainment store with access to more movies, tv shows and music than anywhere else.

    Roku may suit your needs better if you have very specific needs, but for the vast majority of people I always strongly recommend Apple TV.
     
  6. Lloydbm41 macrumors 68040

    Lloydbm41

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    #6
    Yes, I have used the USB port on my Roku 3 to play content from a thumb drive. Good for those times when you don't have internet. :D
     
  7. geoffpalmeruk macrumors regular

    geoffpalmeruk

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    #7
    Was thinking of getting rid on my mac mini and moving it all to a 1tb usb hdd
     
  8. Lloydbm41 macrumors 68040

    Lloydbm41

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    #8
    You have never used a Roku 3 have you? Because nothing in your post is true.

    ----------

    I had all my videos on a 1TB external HDD. It's too small if you have a large library of movies. Remember, a 1080p quality movie won't be any smaller than around 5gb and blu-ray is upwards of 20gb. Your storage space runs out quickly. I recommend 2TB as a minimum, or go with a Raid configuration NAS.
     
  9. tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

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    Florida, USA
    #9
    If your personal media collection resides outside of iTunes and in various formats, a Roku 3 is your best option. As another poster suggested, install Plex Media Server on your iMac, point it at your media (on Mac HDD or external HDD, doesn't matter), and you'll be able to stream all of it to your TV using the Plex app on your Roku. This will also work for your iTunes music library (including podcasts) and Plex has an iPhoto channel that will allow you to view your photo library, though I cannot comment on how well it works as I've personally never used that functionality.

    If you kept all of your media in iTunes I'd recommend the Apple TV as I personally prefer how it seemlessly integrates into the Apple ecosystem with little to no effort. However, a video library of non Apple friendly formats not integrated into iTunes will play much nicer with the Roku. The Roku is a beast--can handle anything short of AirPlay and iTunes purchased video (due to the DRM) with some added benefits (i.e. ability to connect media via USB).
     
  10. Alfuh macrumors regular

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    Mar 31, 2009
    #10
    Not sure if you're trolling hard or just have no idea what you are talking about?

    Says who? The interface is pretty great IMO

    Nope. Just wrong. I have Roku 2 and it does NOT lag, the 3rd gen is even faster.

    Nope. Wrong again. I use it as my primary way of watching TV, hours of Netflix, Amazon, Dish and no connection problems.

    I'm sure there are some iTunes exclusive movies, but with Roku having: Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu plus, PLEX, and so much more I can't imagine a single scenario where you would want to watch something with a Roku and wouldn't find a very easy way to do so. There are literally thousands of channels.

    I guess if your specific needs are to watch video from a variety of sources, both online and local, then yes it would do just fine for that.

    Now take your inane comments elsewhere

    edit and note: I am NOT saying ATV sucks and no one should buy it, but the reasons listed here are just WRONG and I wanted to clarify
     
  11. E3BK macrumors 68020

    E3BK

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    NYC
    #11
    I actually recommend the opposite. Roku is a much more far reaching product w/ many many more options. ATV really requires you be fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem. I am one of those Apple people but honestly, I still prefer my Roku over anything else (used w/ Plex on my NAS). I use the Chromecast to travel with but at home, I always use my Roku.

    OP - I'd go for the Roku3 and install Plex on your computer to manage the library. It's great. If you get a NAS, just be sure to get one that can have the Plex server installed. Plex is also compatible w/ Chromecast.

    I have the ATV, Roku 2 & 3, Chromecast...Roku wins hands down.
     
  12. iRock1 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iRock1

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    Apr 23, 2011
    #12

    First off I need to clarify that I'm seriously thinking in getting a DAS connected to my iMac via FireWire 800, rather than a NAS. But judging from what other users have already said, it shouldn't be a problem.

    Now, I installed Plex on my iMac some time ago and quickly got rid of it. The whole creating-an-account-and-setting-everything-up-on-the-Internet thing was a deal breaker for me. Are there other alternatives equally powerful? (I.e. support for several embedded subtitles and external .srt files, and hopefully some automatic metadata recognition.)

    Will the Roku 3 give me access to my iPhoto and iTunes library using something other than Plex?
     
  13. tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

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    #13
    Not using Plex will make the experience much less seamless as it's really an all-in-one option that'll meet all of your needs. I'm sorry I can't offer alternatives since using Plex is so easy I wouldn't consider the hassle of piecemeal alternatives.

    What aspects are you specifically wary about? I can't believe you don't have online accounts with any other sites/services (Google, Apple, etc). Also, someone please correct me if I'm wrong but configuring your Media Server is done in a web browser but I believe it's a local IP in the web address bar so I think all of the configuring is done locally.
     
  14. Lloydbm41 macrumors 68040

    Lloydbm41

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    #14
    Its the exact same as Apple TV, you are correct. Connections are done via local WiFi, but Plex has a 'paid' service add-on called Plex Pass that allows you to get your home content from anywhere in the world. But that is an add-on service. Normal Plex app is just a download app on the Mac and a download channel on the Roku. A simple pairing is done by going online on the Mac and punching in a link code given by the Plex channel on the Roku. All content still goes through the Roku and local WiFi though.
     
  15. iRock1 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iRock1

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    Apr 23, 2011
    #15
    Just to be sure, is there something else beyond Roku, the ATV and the Chromecast?
     
  16. tbayrgs, Mar 24, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014

    tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

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    #16
    And just to clarify and build on this, you actually don't need to sign up for Plex Pass to be able to stream your content from your home computer remotely to another device (tablet, phone, Roku, etc) as I've done it for years. The Plex Pass does provide some additional features (cloud storage, offline syncing, other stuff that I've never tried ;)), including until just this month the ability to 'cast' from a Plex app on a mobile device to a Chromecast (Chromecast support is now free for all Plex app users :D).

    As mentioned, I've used Plex for years--started as my go to media software on my old Mac Mini HTPC over 5 years ago and highly recommend it. The software has evolved tremendously over the years and basically eliminated the need to travel with local copies of my media library.
     
  17. iRock1 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iRock1

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  18. jsw Moderator emeritus

    jsw

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    Andover, MA
    #18
    Amazon is rumored to be coming out with a cheapish Chromecast-like dongle, but it isn't out yet. I'm guessing it'll essentially be a Chromecast but with Amazon Prime and your Amazon files instead of Google Play access. It might also be a $300 gaming device. Or two different products. No one outside Amazon really knows.
     
  19. E3BK, Mar 26, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2014

    E3BK macrumors 68020

    E3BK

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    #19
    In order to access the Plex server remotely to watch on your devices or any computer, you need an account. Otherwise, I don't think you have to sign up but I'm not sure. I didn't have a problem w/ it and I have a Lifetime Plex Pass. You can get access to your iPhoto & iTunes libraries through Plex but pretty sure you need an account for that also. Not really different from ATV. The new update lets you send music & photos from your iOS device to the Roku as well.

    I personally love Plex. It also works OK with Chromecast. OK, not great but getting better. The .srt files work fine for the movies I have them for. Plex definitely has automatic metadata detection and you can override any info you want as well like your own cover or background photos. There are few items it has been unable to find, and usually something obscure or converted workout DVDs. It doesn't do well with those but it's not a big deal.

    I have the NAS Plex server so that I can use it w/o having to use my computer or carry an external when I travel. It's convenient. Remote access will only be as fast as your internet provider's upload speed so take note of what yours is. But even over 4G, it's not that bad.

    This is the link to the NAS compatibility list for Plex. I started out w/ a Synology 110j and upgraded to the 413 last summer. I love it.
     
  20. mellofello macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2011
    #20
    I have atv 3, and a chrome cast. Honestly I have been using the chrome cast much more the the atv recently. Now that plex is unlocked it is so convenient to stream. You can also airplay plex to your atv, but I am not a fan of airplay at all because if you accidentally click on YouTube or something it interrupts the tv. Super annoying.

    The roku is alright I guess, but browsing with a remote instead of a iPad, or phone seems antiquated, after you see how smooth plex is.
     
  21. BiscoMucho, Mar 27, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2014

    BiscoMucho macrumors newbie

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    Mar 27, 2014
    #21
    I have two 1st gen. Apple TV's, a 2nd gen. Apple TV, a Roku, and two Acer Aspire Revo ar-1600's, and the only ones that really get use are the first and second gen Apple TV's. With my first gen apple TV's, both have 1080p capability thanks to a Broadcom CrystalHD card that I replaced their wireless cards with, one of them has a WD 250gb 5400rpm PATA HDD in it with a bunch of MKV's saved on it (mainly use for traveling) and the other 1st gen has no hard drive and runs crystalbuntu from a USB stick. This machine is my main streamer on my Livingroom tv. The second gen. Apple TV is really solid. Jailbroken, it stays in the bedroom quietly streaming tv shows to my girlfriend to keep her occupied while I fiddle with my other "toys".

    Go get a 1st gen Apple TV and start modding. You won't be unhappy. It's still the ultimate 1080p playin sharpest lookin bad ass out there

    ****edit****
    I forgot to give a big shout out to Plex. Plex is by far the best most integrated HTPC/set-top streamer Media player out there. Thank god for PleXBMC as well so I can use Plex through Crystalbuntu.
     
  22. blackhand1001 macrumors 68030

    blackhand1001

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    Jan 6, 2009
    #22
    Personally for 35 dollars you can't beat the chromecast. With the sdk out its only gonna get better. Why apple still hasn't allowed third party apps on the apple tv is baffling.
     
  23. mattopotamus macrumors G4

    mattopotamus

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    #23
    Now with amazon getting into the mix it could get interesting. We all know it is highly likely they will sell their device at a loss and bank on content sales.
     
  24. iRock1 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    iRock1

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    Apr 23, 2011
    #24

    Could you please explain more about AirPlay, Plex and the Apple TV integration?


    I don't want to buy a new device and immediately start messing around with it.


    How is it superior to the Roku 3?
     
  25. sracer macrumors 603

    sracer

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    #25
    Another vote for the Roku 3 and Plex. After dealing with endless frustrations and limitations of the all-Apple solution, I swapped out my Apple TV 2 for a Roku 3 and ditched iTunes library sharing for Plex.

    The Plex server is free. The Plex channel on the Roku is free. If all you want to do is stream media within a home network to the Roku, it is all free. But if you want access to the Plex server (within a home network) to a tablet, then you'll need to pay for the client app. If you want to access your Plex server from the internet, you'll need Plex Pass.

    The Plex server on my iMac provides "channels" for iTunes music and video as well as directly to local files on the various drives attached to the iMac.
     

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