Roku XDS vs. Apple TVIt's a first-time battle for streaming-box supremacy! Roku brings its abundance of content, and Apple brings its sleek interface and iTunes integration. Who will be crowned king of the Prizefight ring?
What's up, Prizefight fans? I'm Brian Tong and we've got a battle for streaming box supremacy, it's a prizefight throwdown showdown between the Roku XDS and the Apple TV. Our judges for this fight are senior editor John "Bad to the Bone" Falcone, senior editor D-D-David Carnoy, and yours truly, "All Night Long" Tong. We'll take all three judges' blind scores and average them out to the nearest tenth each round. The final Prizefight score will be an average of all rounds using the same decimal system. Let's get this party started. Round one is Design. Both of these boxes are small and black and you really won't notice them next to your TV set. The Roku XDS is simple and clean but its fabric tag belongs on a T-shirt more than it does on a settop box. Apple stays true to tradition and can even make a streaming box sexy. It's the smallest component you'll have, it's about 50% smaller than the XDS, and its remote is just as sleek. Apple TV starts the fight with a perfect 5 and Roku gets a 4. Next round is Interface and Navigation. The Roku XDS has a simple interface that's very utilitarian. It won't wow you visually but it gets the job done. It's also easy to customize by adding channels for your favorite content and the remote doesn't get in the way. The Apple TV interface is clean and elegant just like you'd expect. Animations are smooth and its interface feels polished. You won't get any real customization here but its remote is simple and easy to use. The big A gets another perfect 5 and the Roku gets a 3.7. So after averaging 2 rounds, Apple leads by over a full point but it's still too early to get excited, round three is Features. With a media box, you want options and the Roku XDS connects to any TV with HDMI up to 1080p, component video, and composite. There's also a USB port for potentially streaming content off a connected thumb stick or hard drive in the future. Plus, you're getting dual-band 802.11n and an Ethernet port for connectivity. Now, the Apple TV is pretty limited here. It brings HDMI at only 720p and that's it. It won't connect to any non-HD television sets. Networking options include Wi-Fi and Ethernet but it's pretty slim pickings. Roku strikes back with a perfect 5 of its own and Apple gets a 3. Next round is Content. With media streaming boxes, content is king. Netflix is the flagship service on both boxes, but you know what, we're hungry for more. Now the Roku shines with over 100 channels of content like Amazon Video On Demand, Hulu Plus, Pandora for music discovery, and streaming music from the cloud with MP3tunes. Plus, there's on-demand sports for Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League and none of these services are currently available on Apple TV. Now, beyond Netflix, Apple's box has access to content from iTunes, but key shows like House, Fringe, or Modern Family aren't even available at the moment. It can stream iTunes from PCs on your local network and you can watch YouTube. You can use AirPlay to view content from iOS devices on the big screen but not all media content can be viewed like videos playing in Safari or movies you recorded on your iPhone. It's a killer innovation but it's still not fully baked. The Roku gets another 5 with its myriad content solutions and the Apple TV gets a 3, so after averaging 4 rounds, Roku has taken the lead by four tenths of a point. This one is still close and the final round that decides it all is Value. For $99, the Roku XDS brings the best video and audio streaming services on the web with every connectivity option you can think of. The Apple TV is also $99 and if you live in an Apple-dominated ecosystem, you'll feel right at home with iTunes integration, but you'll be missing out on a whole lot of content. In the final round, Roku gets another perfect 5 and Apple gets a 4, so let's average out all 5 rounds and in a battle where the Big A dominated from the start, the Roku XDS came back with 3 perfect rounds, taking this face-off 4.5 to 4 and is your Prizefight winner. Both of these streaming boxes will continue to mature with new features and content but the decision really comes down to your desire to stay in the Apple world or experience all the services that Roku has to offer. I'm Brian Tong, thanks for watching, and we'll catch you guys next time for another Prizefight.