Anyone thats known me probably is well aware of my fascination with technology and gadgets and in the last couple years have become a big fan of using a HTPC (Home Theatre PC) to handle all my media needs throughout the house/condo I’ve lived in. A lot of people have asked me about the ATV and while it is pretty satisfactory out of the box being able to use it with itunes and such it isnt until you can install XBMC (Xbox Media Centre) on it that the real power comes to the forefront. Still, you have to bother with all the jailbreaking to have that happen and even now the new versions cant be done. Enter Google into the equation and you have a serious Google TV vs Apple TV showdown.
The Apple TV Google TV Comparison
I have always been a big Apple TV user and like a lot of the features but the fact remains that I never really had much use for it until I could install XBMC on it. If you didnt have somewhat of a grasp on the tech know how of jailbreaking you probably had to purchase services from someone to either do it for you or you left your apple tv in the corner collecting dust. Not to mention the earlier versions of the product couldnt fully support 1080p playback, which to me wasnt a huge concern but for a lot of people it can be. It wasnt until I found a post about XBMC announcing it was now available to the Android platform that I started to take a different route for my HTPC. Here is a quick rundown.
I really didnt know much about this until the announcement I mentioned. First and foremost you still need a media player and the XIOS DS Media Play ULTRA SLIM Smart TV Companion (w/802.11n Wifi, Ethernet, USB, HDMI.) is certainly the right choice. I’ve had this unit for a few weeks now and even though XBMC is still in the early stages of life on the android platform I’m loving what Im seeing.
The Good:Once you get everything properly configured and installed there was no issue what so ever running 1080p videos from your home media server over a wired network. The wireless keyboard and mouse combo works out of the box but there is no way to turn the XIOS off without the original remote, even the motion remote doesn’t have a power button so you’re forced to often reach for the power button on the box itself. The Android operating system comes with Ice Cream Sandwich installed which means it comes with the latest Google Play Store so app store functionality is very rich.
User experience is good as it gets, much like you would expect from any Android device. XBMC works very well in its early stages of life on the platform and the ease of installing without having to go through the nonsense of jailbreaking is a huge plus for most users.
The Bad: Not a lot but there are a few inconveniences, the video playback at times doesnt respect scaling. You probably wont notice this issue if you have a TV display with no over or under scanning. Windowed playback is automatically reverted to fill screen then crops back to the window size. Some people have reported problems with playback, things like buffering after 5 minutes of playback but I have yet to see any of these issues.
Having used the Apple TV
now for a couple years I can say that Im quite satisfied with the results. The problem I’ve had with it is the lack of functionality out of the box that comes with the default software. Improvements have been made recently with updates to Apples IOS, airplay and iCloud has been a much needed improvement but like most Apple products the lack of ability to customize is the reason most will jailbreak their device. Enter XBMC like mentioned and you have yourself a full fledged streaming mini HTPC for a small fraction of the cost. Still the problem is getting the device to that state as Apple continually tries to thwart Jailbreakers. I’ve always believed if Apple made it easier to do this simple step they would probably sell more, at least in the Apple TV department.
The Good:Now featuring 1080p playback the Apple TV works as intended but as most devices will require a wired network connection to stream effectively. One feature looked over is its airplay support which lets users stream content wirelessly from other devices like the iPad, iPhone, or iPod.Owners of the latest iPad can also use AirPlay to wirelessly mirror their iPad interface to an HDTV, making it a great screen extension for productivity apps and presentations.
The Bad:The biggest flaw for the Apple TV has been the same throughout each of its products generations, a lack of content. iTunes library of content is extensive and there is Netflix offerings (although if in Canada like me its not as great) the Apple TV lacks a lot of other services like Hulu, HBOGO and Amazon Instant Video, all of which can be easily installed on the previously mentioned Xios. Until Apple makes a deal to either work with other providers or decides an easier solution to jailbreaking and/or installing 3rd party software the Apple TV will always fall short of being truly an all-inclusive home entertainment centre solution.
In the ongoing battle of the Google TV vs Apple TV both devices have benefits a plenty if you’re looking to get into the Home Theatre PC battle. Both are measly priced under $150 and both provide solid playback of 1080p content. The biggest difference between the two and ultimately what should be the deciding factor is “content”. The ease to install multiple 3rd party software should make the XIOS DS Media Play ULTRA SLIM Smart TV Companion (w/802.11n Wifi, Ethernet, USB, HDMI.) a superior choice when it comes to selection and ease of use for not only playback but ease of use as well.