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5 Alternatives To Apple TV

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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.

48 Responses to “5 Alternatives To Apple TV”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Don Reisinger

    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.

  4. c4rider

    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….

  5. 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!!!

  6. 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.

  7. Dave Triffid

    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.

  8. 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?

  9. Hi, I run two Apple TV-related web sites: and 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 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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)

    • uatesamich

      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.

  17. 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.