48 Comments

Summary:

As an Apple TV owner, I typically find little reason to use different solutions to take media from my computer and view it on my television. That said, there are a number of products out there that may be able to give you what you want, […]

Apple TVAs an Apple TV owner, I typically find little reason to use different solutions to take media from my computer and view it on my television. That said, there are a number of products out there that may be able to give you what you want, in some cases without having to pay the $299 it takes to have an Apple TV. You decide.

D-Link 1. The D-Link Media Lounge streams music, videos and photos to any television with the help of an 802.11g network, and it can even handle Xvid. Unfortunately, the player won’t play native iTunes songs and can only support MP3, WAV, AIFF, WMA and Ogg Vorbis (which is a nice touch). But if you don’t mind the absence of iTunes support and you want a more advanced remote to drag audio and video back and forth, the $189.99 (direct) device may be a nice place to start.

Eva8000 2. The Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD connects to a home network via a wired or wireless connection and can stream movies, videos, music, Internet radio, and photos from a PC straight to your HDTV. Unlike the D-Link Media Lounge, the EVA8000 supports AAC files and sports an HDMI port for a solid HD experience. Its biggest issue? It only supports Windows and will not work on a Linux or Mac. If you ask me, it’s not worth the $349.99 direct price tag if I can’t use it with a non-Windows OS.

Zensonic z500 3. If you’re in the mood for something from a company you may not have heard of, one option is the Zensonic Z500 series. Sure, it may not be the best-looking device on the planet, but it supports a host of audio formats and has a nice collection of inputs on the back. Even better, it has a built-in DVD player in case you don’t want to waste time sending files over a wireless network. Unfortunately, the Zensonic Z500 is a bit difficult to find (it’s only available at one store in the U.S., Media West Distribution), but for a relatively cheap price of $199.99, it’s a nice competitor to the Apple TV.

Xbox 360 4. An Xbox 360 will also do the trick if you want to take media from one device to another. Of course, the main drawback with the Xbox 360 is the need to have a Windows box that’s equipped with Windows Media Center. But if you have a Media Center device and you’d like to play the Apple TV game, you may find this is the easiest way to go about it. By connecting the Xbox 360 to a network, it quickly interfaces with the Windows machine and will stream media to your TV in a matter of seconds. Is it as simple to use as the Apple TV? Yes. But unfortunately, the barriers to entry (mainly cost) are a bit too high for those on a budget. You can have the Xbox 360 at most major electronics retailers for $279.99 (core system) to $449.99 (Elite).

Mac Mini 5. Get yourself a Mac Mini if you don’t want to deal with an under-powered Apple TV. The Mac Mini can do everything your Apple TV can do as long as you have iTunes installed on it. And with the help of Front Row, it should work much better than the Apple TV. Installation is simple: plug it into your HDTV and use it as the monitor. Once you have your files on the computer, take out that handy Apple remote and find what you want. Although it’s a bit more expensive ($599 direct), it’s the best alternative to the Apple TV, hands down.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology journalist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and PC World.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. 5 Alternatives To Apple TV « GigaOM Monday, October 1, 2007

    [...] There are alternatives to the Apple TV out there, some of them for less than $299. Here are five. Share This | Sphere | Topic: Featured [...]

  2. You actually don’t need a media center PC anymore to use the Xbox360 as a media extender. You can use Windows Media Player 11, or the Zune software. The Zune software actually works better because it recognizes AAC audio and mpeg 4 videos right out of the box, and extends them to the 360.

  3. so the moral of the story is that there isn’t really a truly good option to the apple tv, a lame option in itself.

  4. I’ll vouch for the Zensonic Z500, great box with the added benefit of a DVD player; I picked it for that very reason, after all why would I want a media extender as a separate box to my DVD player. It also upscales to 1080p via HDMI as well which makes for top notch DVD viewing, and streaming internet radio is always being used in our household. Generally codec compatibility is good, although you do have to unlock the region feature to view everything (a matter of typing a code in)

    1. I dont think you can upscale to 1080p only 1080i. I am looking for a good way to stream music but it would be nice to not need to have my computer on. So far the PS3 is giving the best options. Only prob its 299.00 and the interface isnt that friendly.

  5. Stewart Steel Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    If you have a Mac and a Xbox 360 you can purchase a cheeky bit of software called Connect360 that turns your Mac into a media extender. It’s pretty cool and very cheap. Highly recommended. http://www.nullriver.com/index/products/connect360 for more info.

  6. I think the Xbox 360 is the best option.

    I find Media Center more satisfying to use than Apple TV. Plus it does a whole lot more with a better interface.

    A bit more costly, but it’s worth it.

  7. Let’s see. I have a list of video podcasts checked off in iTunes. They automatically download to my computer. They automatically upload to the Apple TV in my living room.

    After supper, every night, my wife and I decide whether we feel like watching a program from the HiDef DVR or from the Apple TV. One button press on the Harmony Remote and we’re up and running.

    Resolution on the Apple TV is 7% less than half the HD channels currently broadcasting. So far – buster – I can’t see the difference.

    I use one of the standalone HD’s connected to my network in the study to warehouse anything I might want to watch – that takes up a lot of space. Why would I wish to store it on the Apple TV? I just “sync” to move it up to the Apple TV before we want to watch a particular movie, for example.

    Why should I presume you’ve never tried or experimented with an Apple TV, buster? Cripes.

  8. Alternative 6: Connect your old laptop to your TV and use VNC as your remote. The big advantage of having a general purpose PC as your media box is that you’re not limited to built-in codecs and DRM functions.

  9. Connect360 for the mac connects your mac with the XBOX 360. You can view WMV, ASF, and MP4 videos on your 360. I use it every now and then at home. You can also stream audio from your iTunes library.

  10. You shoudl really change the entry about the XBox 360 – any windows PC will connect using Media Player 11 and the Mac can use Connect 360 like the poster said above. You can even stream music behind your games.

    TVersity is a windows program that will transcode DIVX, XVID, etc on the fly so the 360 can stream those formats too- more flexible than the apple TV!

  11. Paul Stamatiou Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    I think the Vudu set-top movies box should be somewhere on this list. In case you’re not familiar with it: http://paulstamatiou.com/2007/09/30/review-vudu/

  12. What!!!! No XBMC??

    I think open-ness of XBMC beats all the above.

  13. eidard, i’m sure apple tv is great for video podcasts and movies in itunes, however not everyone gets their content from apple. I get zero content from apple and it would take a considerable amount of my time to convert all my video to an itunes friendly format. i’m waiting for an intuitive, powerful, format agnostic media extender that is affordable, under 300, and i’ve yet to find that. hopefully sling or a licenser of divx box will show me up.

  14. good story . Thank

  15. Luck Kanthatham Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Hi, I run two Apple TV-related web sites: http://AppleTVHacks.net and http://AppleTVSource.com. Of course, I am biased towards the Apple TV.

    However, I think it is more about what suits your needs. Most of media comes from iTunes and files I ripped from CDs and DVDs on my Mac. So having the Apple TV is the best solution for me.

    Also, I think it is more about the content rather than the hardware. You can have the best hardware but if there is nothing to watch on that platform, then it is not worth it.

    By the way, if you are looking for HD content, go to http://hd.appletvsource.com. There is a compilation of over 100 HD podcasts that I started way back in May. As I was saying, if there is nothing good to watch, then it is not the worth all the hardware in the world.

  16. Jeremy Toeman Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Uh, let me see if I got this logic right… AppleTV is $299. Xbox 360 is $279 (and up). And yet “But unfortunately, the barriers to entry (mainly cost) are a bit too high for those on a budget.”

    So you can have one for $20 less AND it plays video games, but it’s too expensive an option for those on a budget?

    And as a final “nail in the head” on this argument – is there some huge market segment of people with lots of digital media files that they want to stream to their plasma yet are constrained by a budget of under $400 to do so?

  17. And what about the offerings from, among others, Kiss Technologies, Snazio, DVICo, Ziova, Helios or even a (second hand) Eyehome?
    And if they don’t say it’s Mac compatible, the chances are that you can use it with the Mac anyway, thanks to Twonkyvision or EyeConnect.

  18. DSM-520 is the HD version of the 320. It supports just about everything except iTunes.

    http://www.dlink.com/activetv/#list

  19. What about this-it costs less than $20 to buy two cables….http://sites.mobile.yahoo.com/go/tv/

  20. 1)My understanding is that the Xbox is too loud to use for this purpose. That might be why MSFT is getting into the set top box business, itself (Vista-only, which limits it to the three people who haven’t “uninstalled” that POS)
    2) Anything that doesn’t play H. 264 is kind of worthless, IMHO
    3) Looks like the field is wide open. I suspect the AppleTV is far and away the best choice right now, but will only stay there if they keep improving it. I wouldn’t necessarily buy a router from Apple, and for the same reason, I would be open to media hub alternatives, if they were fully iTunes compatible.

  21. There’s an even easier solution: Orb. Orb will stream your media, be it music, video whatever – to any internet connected device. Orb streams my videos, music and photos to a Wii, PS3, cell phone, computer… anything – from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world.

    And best of all – IT’S FREE!!!

  22. Depends on your needs really. In my case, Apple TV to watch pictures, movie listings, music stream to my stereo head end. I use DSM 320 for streaming video. So all my base is covered re digital entertainment i would say….

  23. Don Reisinger Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Thanks for posting your thoughtful comments everyone.

    I thank you for pointing it out that you can use Connect360 — I totally forgot about that.

    To Jeremy: If you don’t have a MCE (or Connect360), the costs are much higher than an Apple TV — computer and console?. To make matters worse, would you actually use the core bundle to do what I’m suggesting in this post? I certainly wouldn’t.

    Also, I do think people are constrained to $400. I’m happy for you if you’re not, but not all people are so lucky. Some save up for quite some time to get a plasma and buy digital media files when possible.

  24. John O’Haire Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Also with regards using a mac mini, the so called ‘Back Row’ the appletv’s version of ‘Front Row’ can be installed giving the full appletv menu and functionality!

  25. gulfcoastpolo Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    what about amazon unbox, especially if you have a stand alone TiVo. With unbox you can download straight to your tv with the assistance with tivo. You must have the tivo on a network, but this much cheaper and better then apple tv. Also this is the future of technology where instead of having dvds or watching online videos people will buy videos from netflix, amazon, blockbuster straight to the network and on the tv.

  26. Jeremy Toeman’s LIVEdigitally » Blog Archive » The Xbox 360 is a dandy alternative to AppleTV Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    [...] Reisinger wrote a good article on NewTeeVee the other day, outlining 5 alternatives to AppleTV, one of which being the Xbox 360.  [...]

  27. Jeremy Toeman Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Don – good counterpoint, I’ve blogger my further thoughts: http://www.livedigitally.com/2007/10/02/the-xbox-360-is-a-dandy-alternative-to-appletv/

    Also, sorry for the snarky tone in my original comment, it was inappropriate.

  28. Thank you for the informative post. Including the info on how to get Apple Tv on the Xbox 360

  29. There is a another solution/Option BUFFALO Linktheater. I am using it for last 2+ years. Hav’t got a need to anyother solution.

    With a add-on download u can get to play iTune playlist too.

  30. A simpler option to stream PC content to any TV that is also cheaper is this one from Addlogix:

    http://www.internetvue.com/

    Plays any format over standard Wi-Fi or wired connection from any PC.

  31. Kaylow Media – Weekend reader for Oct. 6, 07 Saturday, October 6, 2007

    [...] Five alternatives to Apple TV.  NewTeeVee lists the D-Link Media Lounge, the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD, the Zensonic Z500 series, the Xbox 360 the Mac mini as their choices. I use an Elgato EyeTV + my iPhone. EyeTV software 2.5 allows for streaming of content over Wi-Fi to an iPhone. I’ve scheduled the recording of my favorite shows, and can watch them whenever I want on my iPhone. [...]

  32. Film Maker Daily – Today Top Blog Posts on Film Making – Powered by SocialRank Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    [...] 5 Alternatives To Apple TV [NewTeeVee] [...]

  33. WeekendGeekCast70 – Ψάχνω μια Joanna, Jessica Sunday, October 14, 2007

    [...] iTV alternatives [...]

  34. AST Co-founder’s Venture to Bridge the PC-TV Gap « GigaOM Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    [...] several companies are trying to develop these media connectors — Apple, Microsoft, Divx, Sling, Mediagate — Quartics [...]

  35. With TakeTV, SanDisk’s Video Strategy Takes Shape « NewTeeVee Sunday, October 21, 2007

    [...] Related Posts: * 5 Alternatives to Apple TV [...]

  36. LA REVUE TFO » Archive du blog » RIP AppleTV, Hello AppleTV Sunday, January 20, 2008

    [...] what Jobs didn’t mention during his “Delusions of Grandeur” speech was whether or not the Apple TV has some viability going forward. After all, how much faith do people really have in Apple to make its new offering a success when [...]

  37. Apple TV: An New User Review: Part 1 Thursday, September 25, 2008

    [...] seemed the way that I wanted to go.  In this category we have the Mvix, MediaGate, Apple TV and a host of other units that I looked at.  The problem with many of the other unit I looked at that aren’t listed here is [...]

  38. So list the 360 and leave out the PS3? Which is actually better, having experienced both I would rate the PS3 far better. Especially for music.

  39. Apple TV: A New User Review: Part 1 » Kevin Van Lierop Saturday, January 17, 2009

    [...] seemed the way that I wanted to go. In this category we have the Mvix, MediaGate, Apple TV and a host of other units that I looked at. The problem with many of the other unit I looked at that aren’t listed here is [...]

  40. PS3 is lot better than xbox 360, it has better graphics better game play except that its bit more expensive but I love to have a PS3 over Xbox.

  41. 5 Alternatives To Apple TV | Wood TV Stand Sunday, May 31, 2009

    [...] 5 Alternatives To Apple TV Posted by root 42 minutes ago (http://newteevee.com) As an apple tv owner i typically find little reason to use different get yourself a mac mini if you don 39 t want to deal with an under powered apple tv what about amazon unbox especially if you have a stand alone tivo also sorry for the snarky tone in my Discuss  |  Bury |  News | 5 Alternatives To Apple TV [...]

  42. Yes I have to agree the PS3 is MUCH better than an xBox 360.

  43. I, and several of my friends, have both the 360 and PS3. We all agree that the 360 is way better from a gaming perspective. From a video/music point of view, they are equal, but both are inferior to the ATV. PS3’s BluRay is nice though.

  44. http://www.dsicarte.com offers an impressive range of r4 cards, r4i cards, Acekards and m3 real cards, you will find all the information you need to choose the correct R4 card for you ,plus all the latest r4 downloads.

  45. rohitash Khanduja Friday, April 16, 2010

    a hacked apple tv is a better option than all the above gibrish get boxee running on it and it will play everything stream everything and do much more

  46. I have to be honest. Had an Apple TV… hated it… Love my macbook pro, love my iphone – absolutely hated the Apple TV. So I use my Xbox 360 for my main media center.. and my old original Xbox with the XBMC mod as my secondary one. Both are great… And I get to play some games if I feel like it as well :)

  47. I’d love to have an update to this article, as far as whats available TODAY as an alternative to Apple TV. I know there are rumours of a 99 dollar apple TV, but what is available in terms of completely different devices or setups that would give the same – or better – results?

Comments have been disabled for this post