The Internet Set-Top Box Scorecard

33 Comments

Set-top boxes have been poppin’ up all over the place this past year. You can’t swing a dead LOLcat without hitting some newfangled device being built or upgraded to bridge oldteevee with the newteevee. To help you keep up with the growing number of options, we put together this Set-Top Scorecard. It rounds up the major STBs we’ve covered over the past few months, and gives you a quick overview on each product.

Apple TV

Gist: Rent or buy movies direct from Apple, or wirelessly beam content from your iTunes library to your TV.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: All major movie studios, most TV networks (except NBC). Over 800 TV shows, 1,500 movies

Web Video: YouTube / Podcasts

Price: $229 – 40GB / $329 – 160GB

Availability: Now

HP MediaSmart Connect

Gist: Stream video content downloaded to your PC to your TV. Works with UPnP formats, but not DRM’d Apple formats.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: CinemaNow for downloadable movies and TV shows.

Web Video: YouTube / Microsoft Internet TV Beta

Price: $349

Availability: Pre-order now

Netflix LG

Gist: TBA

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: TBA

Web Video: TBA

Price: TBA

Availability: Summer 2008

Netflix Roku

Gist: Streams movies that Netflix offers as “Play Now” to your TV.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: 10,000 movies and TV shows

Web Video: No

Price: $99

Availability: Now

Netflix’s 2 Other Boxes

Gist: TBA

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: TBA

Web Video: TBA

Price: TBA

Availability: TBA

Sezmi

Gist: Wants to be a replacement for your cable. Uses over-the-air broadcast for major networks, pipes in the rest over broadband. Will be sold as an add-on to broadband service.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: TBA

Web Video: Yes

Price: TBA

Availability: Trials start later this year

TiVo

Gist: Primarily a DVR, but offering content through Amazon Unbox, Jaman and CinemaNow.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: Movies and TV shows through Amazon Unbox, Disney movies through CinemaNow, indie movies through Jaman.

Web Video: YouTube (coming), and select partners

Price: $99.99 – $599.99

Availability: Now

Verismo

Gist: Watch web video on your TV, no PC required.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: YouTube, BitTorrent, vTap to search anything else. Can play Windows DRM (Amazon, CinemaNow).

Web Video: Yes

Price: $99

Availability: Late Summer 2008

Vudu

Gist: Dedicated box for downloading movie content.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: All the major Hollywood studios, has 6,000 titles to choose from.

Web Video: No

Price: $299

Availability: Now

Xbox

Gist: Game console’s Marketplace offers movie and TV show downloads.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: “3,500 hundred hours” of entertainment from 35 studios.

Web Video: Some select partners.

Price: $349 + $50/year Live subscription

Availability: Now

ZeeVee

Gist: Connects your PC to your TV through existing home wiring and plays content on an unused channel.

Our coverage »

Partners/Titles: Anything on the Web.

Web Video: Yes

Price: $499

Availability: 31-Jul-08

Before your fire off comments, this list doesn’t include everything — there are dedicated Windows Media Center Extenders out there, companies like Boxee are creating open source solutions, consumer electronics firms like Sony and Panasonic are putting set-top functionality directly into their products, and even Time Warners Cable is mulling a PC-to-TV box.

This list will evolve and we’ll update accordingly. We already had to remove SanDisk’s TakeTV from the run-down, and we know that won’t be the last one to bite the digital dust.

Are you using any of these devices? Leave us a comment and tell us whether you love it or loathe it.

33 Comments

bgates

MSNTV is a good concept but in need of major upgrade including more RAM and State of the Art Flash Player. Cheers, bgates

Ben

You can watch Hulu from a Playstation 3’s browser, but the quality leaves something to be desired – It’s just a bit jerky.

davea0511

Wow … this is a pretty weak list. What about all of Microsoft’s offerings? You now WebTV still works, as does UltimateTV and msnTV2. There are quite a few other set-top boxes that are less proprietary … in fact so many I wouldn’t know where to start. I think what’s key is that in order to qualify for a list like this you should at least be able to surf the net on it … and half of these don’t let you do that.

Michele

Question:
I want to surf the web on my television what device
allows me to do this? I have a 2006 Mintek 26″ LCD HDTV Model DTV-263-D, with built in hdtv tuner.
your response appreciated.

Jason

A new entrant joined this space:
WhereverTV – watch live TV from around the world. No subscription fee. Boxes are powered by Neuros. Looks like first units ship July 15.

Toddro

your details about Xbox are not correct. you do not need a $50/yr subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold in order to watch video. with a free Xbox LIVE Silver account you have access to all the content in the Video Store.

Yuvamani

If do not know if you will agree with this one, But I would include the mac mini on this list… much more features than any of these boxes …

Chris Albrecht

@plooger,

I mention Boxee at the end of the article, which is based on XBMC. I was trying to keep this initial list simple.

plooger

Any reason that XBMC for Xbox wasn’t mentioned above? Are there minimum requirements for making the list that XBMC doesn’t meet?

geraldz

You forgot Quartics.com’s PC2TV. I’m going to hold off from buying an expensive box. For now I’ll just watch free internet tv at http://zipityzap.com . I predict that we’ll soon see a built-in ability for PCs and TVs to connect wirelessly. When that happens you’ll be able to buy or rent movies direct from Netflix, Cinema Now, etc. No markup from TiVo, Apple, etc required.

Mark Schoneveld

I just got the Apple TV on impulse because I thought that it doubled as an 802.11n router. But oh no. It’s merely an 802.11n receiver. Other than that major bummer, I dig the machine. Rented a few films – they are crisper than my DVD player and played seamlessly. Only one other gripe – the damn thing doesn’t stream from yr computer! It only ‘syncs’ with iTunes (basically copying all your content down to it’s hard drive). That seems like a waste to me…

Joel Price

Just got my Apple TV last week. I’m loving it. It’s opened my eyes to IPTV. Whoever can bridge the gap from oldteevee to newteevee will make a killing. As much as I love the ATV it still lacks in features, I hope will change in the near future.

Jeffrey

You know what would make a roundup like this much more useful? Information about the HD capabilities of each device. You’d need to break Tivo out into its various incarnations to do that, though.

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