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Summary:

Did Santa get you an Apple TV? Or maybe you fund a Roku under the tree, or you splurged an bought yourself a Boxee Box? Then let’s hear how you like it after using it for a few days. Fallen in love – or ready to return?

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We’ve all been there: Shiny new toys look great under the tree — but the real test comes a few days later, when reality sets in and you’ve had enough time to find all the bugs and flaws. That’s especially true for all the fancy new boxes that help you to get video content on the TV screen, which typically get a good stress test over a movie-fueled long holiday weekend.

We’ve recommended a bunch of those boxes over the last couple of weeks, but now it’s your turn. Got a Boxee Box, a Roku or an Apple TV as a present? Or maybe you got an Xbox 360, complete with Kinect, and now you’re exploring the console’s online video options? Then tell us in the comments how these devices are working out for you!

Plus, here’s a bonus question: Now that you’ve tested your new gear for a few days — are you more or less likely to cut the cord?

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  1. I have a new ($99) Apple TV, love the concept of it, and can’t wait to see what gets built on top of it. It works perfectly. The remote is an amazing piece of engineering, but I won’t cut the cable cord because of content.

    iTunes shows/movies are really expensive, Netflix is great, but you burn through the best of their content quickly. My real hope lies with Podcasts/YouTube. I’ve watched a couple HD podcasts and they look great on a 55″ HDTV. I think Apple needs to figure out a way to make iAds a service that allows small content creators/advertisers to do self-serve advertising.

    I was watching a news podcast made by a fairly small website/magazine that looked as good as Meet the Press. I think if content creators had a way to generate revenue without having to build a direct sales org we would see replacements for a lot of Food Network and Discovery channel programming fairly quickly.

    The other big missing link is discover/promotion. It is hard to find good podcasts/youtube videos with the Apple TV interface. Solve both those problems and cord cutting will pick up pretty quickly IMO.

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  2. TVs need more ports! Had to rely on co-workers (thankfully, it’s you guys) to figure out a way to connect all my cord-cutting gear!

    It was depressing to see that Xbox hasn’t improved the UX for Xbox Live in the past two years since I last had one. It’s kludgy, nearly impossible to sign up for without resorting back to your laptop (which I did). Comparing setting up Netflix on Wii vs. on Xbox is night and day… Microsoft has a long way to go.

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    1. Wait, how many boxes do you have?

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      1. Uh, well, there’s the Wii and the Xbox and the Apple TV… plus the old-skool DVD player until I rip all the Barbie videos… uh, I mean, repurchase Barbie videos as digital…

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  3. Bought my father a Boxee Box for X-mas. The device functions more or less as advertised, but still no Netflix and it appears that Fancast (read: Xfinity) is blocking content. So, the Boxee is rendered essentially useless at this point. Very disappointing…

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    1. I have one too and noticed that only certain fancast shows are blocked – those that are provided via hulu. Others work fine.

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  4. I love the Apple TV or at least the concept of it. It’s affordable, the remote is a genius design, and the potential is so exciting. The only major weakness is content. iTunes is expensive/Netflix is limited/Podcasts are the future, but aren’t ready for “Prime Time”. I’m not ready to cut the cord yet, but two improvements could:

    1. Apple should develop a self serve advertising system. There is some really good HD content in their podcast collection now, but not enough and its often nichey. If Apple created a variant of iAds that worked like Spotrunner meets Adwords I think there would be a torrent of great content that would rival Food Network, Discovery, and similar basic cable offerings.

    2. Better discovery – Searching YouTube/Podcasts with the Apple remote is tough. A remote like the Boxee would be better, but a next generation interface that helped me discover content would be ideal.

    A lot of folks are saying it’ll be a long time before cord cutting becomes a reality because of content issues. I’d bet it happens faster than most imagine because great original content gets created. Really is there that much on basic cable or reality TV that couldn’t be closely approximated with a prosumer camera, some talented folks, and startup capital provided by KickStarter?

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  5. I have roku. It’s easy to use and nice looking, but the interface is slow to navigate. At the end of the day roku is really a netflix viewer. For me the netflix content is very thin, it’s always a challenge to find something to watch. And netflix on roku seems to be set up to prevent you easily finding the good stuff.

    I could never cut the cord until live streaming sports is readily and legally available.

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    1. The non-premium content available on all these devices, including the Roku, is pretty poor. Except for a handful of television shows currently in production, the selection on Hulu Plus is a joke. The same is true for most of the freely available public channels Roku offers. I find the Roku box to be very technically functional in concept, but as long as this drought of quality content continues, it will never spur the kind of cord cutting needed to scare legacy content providers.

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  6. I now have a Boxee box, Apple TV, Google TV (Logitech Revue), and Samsung LED with @Internet apps. Even with all of these devices, my goal of dropping Dish remains elusive.

    @Internet – The UI for these apps are clunky and entering account info with the remote is painful. The Facebook app is what Facebook would look like pre-web2.0. Beyond Hulu+, I can’t see using any of these on a regular basic. The DNLA integration works well to show video and images from my phone or camera, but very few of the videos I’ve downloaded from a torrent tracker or recorded using EyeTV had a compatible codec.

    Apple TV – This device is really worthless unless you are a fanboy/girl with a Mac and i-Phone/Pad/Pod, are buying/renting video through iTunes, and/or use only the H.264 codec. It’s basically a $99 AirPort Express that handles both video and audio. Beyond Netflix, the apps included aren’t worth using. I might use Pandora, but I’d have to leave my TV on to pass audio through the HDMI cable to my stereo, buy a optic audio converter to use another input, or replace my receiver with something that has multiple HDMI inputs. For 99¢, Webout is a slick app that allows you to get video from the browser on other iOS devices to the Apple TV if the site is using HTML5… but that requires another device and very few sites are HTML5 friendly at this point. I can see where the AppleTV is headed with AirPlay support, but it’s not there yet. Entering account information with the FrontRow-esque remote is also a painful process. Apple TV should be bundled with an i-Phone/Pad/Pod since one of those devices is required to make it usable.

    Google TV – The UI of the Logitech Revue is a huge improvement over the UI of Dish HD-DVR. I like the full keyboard for browsing, but too many video sites are blocking it and my goal is to get off of Dish not pay $4 a month more for Google TV integration.

    Boxee – This is by far my favorite device and gets my closest to cutting the cord. Great UI and remote! Lots of well designed apps. The apps are easy to write and distribute so I expect to see many more… an RSS driven app is just an XML file and a thumbnail! Easy to get content from any SMB share (Mac laptop, Window Desktop, and NAS). Didn’t have codec issues with anything I’ve tried to watch. LOVE recommendations from Facebook and Twitter. My only complaint… large, HD videos will buffer from time to time.

    Unfortunately, none of these devices pass the cord cutting tests in my house. I have a user group of one to appease… my wife. Boxee with content from EyeTV and/or BitTorrent is the closest, but still lacks local content. I’ve started http://localr.tv to make it easier to find local stream and video on demand content, but many of our local stations are still Silverlight for their live streams which won’t work with any of these devices. The video on demand services have craptastic Flash wrappers than makes watching them painful. So not only do I have to find the URL’s of the feeds, I have to lobby these orgs to consider optimizing their UI for the Boxee… which (like my dream of dropping Dish) is unlikely to happen any time soon.

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    1. Hi Kevin, Localr looks interesting – but also raises the question: Aren’t most of these sources available via OTA?

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      1. Janko,

        You’re right that OTA is a much better option than the live streams for network affiliates, but I don’t really want to record 5 hours of local news broadcasts for 5 channels each day to find a few 5 minute segments I’m actually interested in. I’m not into sports or cooking. I have much better options for weather and traffic reports. I really don’t need a national news story introduced by a local anchor. I need a feed of VOD that that I can browse quickly for the truly local news and coverage of community events. When I find something I like that I think other people would also like or should be aware of, I’ll ‘like’ it on Facebook or post a link to Twitter pushing that recommendation my cord cutting friends who live in Denver.

        I’m also a fan of public access which isn’t available OTA. Most people think Wayne’s World when they hear public access. Those show’s exist… and are actually a GREAT way to discover up and coming local music.

        Early OK GO on CANTV’s Chica-go-go – http://vimeo.com/8268111
        Flobots and Ian Cooke on Denver Open Media’s First Friday – http://bit.ly/fSxEYY
        Underground Musicians on SF Commons – http://bavc.blip.tv/file/3887209/

        Of course public access is much more than Wayne’s World. In many cities, public access serves the role of local community archivists covering government meetings and documenting the stories of the local community…

        Story on Sandy’s Music (Cambridge, MA) – http://cctvcambridge.blip.tv/file/576404/
        Lessons Learned from Lowertown (St. Paul, MN) – http://spnn.blip.tv/file/4303436/
        Sparechanger (Davis, CA)- http://dctv.davismedia.org/show/24547

        When cutting the cable, many people are also cutting themselves off from local content.

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      2. Most of our local stations have iPhone apps for content. Give me my apps on AppleTV and it’s all set. :)

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  7. For non-geeks trying to replace driving to blockbuster or cutting cable, apple TV is ok. A little slow, a little plain-jane, a little hard to browse/search.

    Roku & Boxee Box seem like good hybrids – good for geeks & torrent hounds, but also easy enough for the whole family.

    I’ve had the boxee box since the day it was released. It’s a lot of fun and pointed in the right direction. There is a bit of a divide between the company – which smartly is trying to win new non-geeks – and the early geek adopters of the software on Mac/PCs. I hope boxee sticks to it’s guns and pushes on. It’s far from perfect – they point you to a lot of online content but a lot of it doesn’t work well in a TV interface – they should be curating/pointing only to video sites that work well from the couch. Can’t say enough about the joy of having a QWERTY remote… this always seems to be overlooked/underplayed in the press.

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  8. I have the Boxee Box, Apple TV (first & second generation), Sony GoogleTV, and Xbox 360. Of course each is strong in different areas.

    1. Boxee Box seems to be the best around web streaming content but currently lacks studio content (which will change once it gets Netflix and Hulu Plus). It is easy to set up and use and I dig the Boxee tool bar that allows you to bookmark content online to watch later.

    2. AppleTV is the opposite chock full of studio content but outside of YouTube doesn’t have options for general web streaming content. I really like the .99 cent HD TV episode rentals and its Airplay feature.

    3. GoogleTV started out good but once networks blocked access to their respective online episodes its promise of true web + TV convergence is sort of put on hold. I also hated the fact that I had to give up digital 5.1 surround sound to hook it up to my home theater.

    4. Xbox 360 has a lot of potential but as far as a connected TV device it is the most lacking in “TV content” but the technology and user interface are primed for it to be a big player in this space if Microsoft wants to go there.

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  9. I started with the first gen AppleTV. Great interface. After playing with it awhile, it just becomes an iPod for your TV. So, I loaded Boxee on it. That opened up a lot more options but still not enough to the cut the cord. So I got a Mac Mini and loaded Boxee and Plex on that. Now I had all the content I needed. Of course Boxee did not score a high WAF and I got tired of all the clunky-ness after awhile. Also, I realized I spent $500 to save money… didn’t make much sense. Enter the Roku, we bit the bullet and went to Netflix and OTA only with Hulu on the computer in the bedroom. After 1.5 years, we’re pretty content and can get all of our brain melting from that. I purchased the new AppleTV and it definitely had the sexiest UI i’ve ever seen. But I really needed Component cables for my sound system and Roku got Hulu+. Have to say Roku XR and antenna is enough for my household.

    PS Netflix has enough children’s shows to replace Disney and Nickelodeon for my toddlers.

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  10. Our family room with a 42″ EDTV has an OTA tuner, AppleTV v1 and a Roku XDS. The AppleTV is mainly for watching streamed movies that I’ve ripped and have stored on a server. I’ve tried the Boxee/XBMC hack for it, but it’s just too underpowered to handle Flash video (works fine on h264 sites though). I purchased the Roku mainly for the Hulu Plus content, but canceled the service after 3 days because the content was so meager. It wasn’t a total waste of time, because the Roku has a better Netflix interface than the Wii.

    The daughter’s room has a 32″ 720p LCD with an OTA tuner, AppleTV v2 and a Macbook with an HDMI adapter. Again, the AppleTV’s main function is to receive streams from the server, as well as having a nice interface for Netflix. With the Macbook attached, we can watch the free side of Hulu, or another other website for that matter.

    Bottom line – the Roku will really pay for itself if/when Hulu Plus content improves and the AppleTV v2 will shine if/when Apple adds channels (apps) for more content.

    We cut the U-verse cable last month, and the family has been reasonably happy so far. We weren’t heavy TV watchers to begin with (and I don’t watch sports), so we’ve been happy to save the money.

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