Nobody watches TV on their TV anymore. Everyone downloads, streams, or otherwise watches their stuff on the computer. But laptop screens are tiny, and monitors for desktops lag pretty far behind TVs. Enter the Smart TV. While you can buy a whole TV, most people pick up a tiny box that plugs into their TV and hooks up to the Wi-Fi network to get content from the internet, and from any computers on the network. With that in mind, we take a look at three of the boxes on the market today, and ask the important question. Cop? Or drop?
First up is the Cube by computer makers Asus. Makes sense, given that most smart boxes are basically tiny computers, meant to be hooked up to a TV. It’s a slick looking thing, running on the Google TV system.
We like the remote, it’s one of the easiest to use, with easy touch controls, and a decent size which means it isn’t getting lost. We also like the weight of the unit itself, and we think the weird diagonal design looks hype. Most of all, we trust the Asus construction – the motherboard on the computer we’re writing this on is an Asus. They’re reliable cats.
No, the biggest problem is that the Asus Cube is hampered by the Google TV operating system. Normally, we’re big homers for anything that Google does, but the Google TV system is crippled by a lack of agreement from major cable providers. While HBO and CNBC are on board, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and Hulu are all blocked from Google TV units. Weak. Sadly, it’s a Drop.
One of the biggest names in smart TVs, the new Roku 2 and Roku 2 HD were so popular, the Roku 3 was probably one of the most anticipated releases in a long time. It doesn’t disappoint either. It’s a familiar glossy black box, though with rounded sides this time.
On the inside, it’s packing a new Broadcom ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core chip, making it powerful enough that lag is never an issue. That’s important, because there’s something like 700+ media viewing apps on the Roku now, which gives it the edge in content, while streaming from the computer is even easier than on the Apple TV, as iTunes isn’t required – just point the Roku at the folder where the files are at.
The remote looks a bit toy-ish, but it was probably designed to be simple enough for even the biggest technophobes to use. But notice that it uses Wi-Fi, rather than the infrared signal old remotes used. That means even if you’re in the other room, the remote’s still working. Good remote, good apps, good price, 1080p support? Definite cop.
Now we’re looking at the guys who are supposed to be owning the whole smart TV thing, and the ones who set this whole thing off. Back in 2006, Steve Jobs first introduced his iTV concept – which would become the Apple TV when it launched in 2007.
It’s tiny, it’s efficient, and it looks like every other piece of Apple hardware – beautiful. The biggest downer for us is the tiny remote. However, if you own an iPad or iPhone, there’s a remote control App that you can use, that gives you a full sized keyboard. There’s the same lack of access on the Cube, but the big bonus is that the Apple TV natively supports NBA League Pass and NHL GameCenter. If you’ve already paid up for the subscriptions, you can watch pretty much any game you like, whenever you like. The big downer is that computers can only broadcast content to it if iTunes is installed and running at the time. Not a fan of that.
Cop or drop? Your call. If you’ve already got a bunch of Apple products, the seamless integration makes this a definite must-cop, but if you’re a PC kind of guy, it can be a pain typing stuff in with the tiny remote.