Apple TV is one of the available options for streaming and Internet based entertainment for the television. It has an extensive library of content when paired with Apple iTunes. Although Apple TV can be an affordable option, the device has many limitations that really reduces it to a basic streaming device. This device is not the only one of its kind to provide streaming and entertainment capabilities.
There are many options to choose from with varying degrees of quality and selection. The following are some of the best digital media receiver alternatives to the Apple TV:
Apple Mac Mini
The Apple Mac Mini is a home theater PC and full featured Mac that can be connected to a display, including televisions. It can be an expensive option compared to other streaming media players. It includes a DVD drive that allows DVD playback and can provide more streaming capabilities than Apple TV provides via browser based streaming services. The Apple Mac Mini must be hacked to include non-stock software to improve functionality. This is an option that voids the computer warranty and causes stability issues. Updating a hacked Apple Mac Mini can remove such unauthorized changes and block any program that can be used to reintroduce them.
The Apple Mac Mini is a powerful device that can be used for work and other applications that are not entertainment oriented.
There are many variations of the Roku streaming device. Roku’s intended use is to run services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Play, but it can also offer a large collection of content including games and other types of entertainment. It is one of the smallest devices on the market and can fit in the palm of most people’s hands, so placing the Roku in the home entertainment layout is not difficult. Premium services are also available from HBO and Disney, and hundreds of other “stations” make Roku an advanced alternative to cable and satellite television, not only to Apple TV.
Roku is one of the cheapest alternatives to Apple TV that offers a diverse range of paid and free content.
Western Digital TV
Western Digital offers some streaming device options to display digital content on a television in High Definition format. The device is capable of playing a wide variety of digital media formats and can come with on board storage for all of one’s media. It is compatible with several of the most popular online services including Netflix, CinemaNow, Facebook, Pandora personal radio, YouTube, and Blockbuster On Demand. It also allows users to connect digital devices such as cameras, mp3 players, or other storage media to immediately access, archive, and display files on the system. Composite, component, and HDMI video options as well as audio through optical cable are available for crystal clear sound.
The Western Digital TV device is a great alternative to the Apple TV system as the Western Digital TV offers more hardware compatibility options.
The Veebeam system uses a wireless USB antenna that is attached to the base connection hardware that connects to the television and audio devices through wired connection. The device acts as a receiver for content that is streamed from a compatible PC system or server. Anything can be streamed to the television, provided that it does not have special protection encryption. Commercial Bluray disks and DVDs have such an encryption in place and cannot be streamed from the PC to the TV. It has built in support for Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, and other services. It can also be linked to a keyboard and track pad, which simplifies navigation on the device.
The Veebeam is, in some ways, better than the Apple TV. In essence it is still a streaming media player for the television and audio systems connected to the hardware.
Sony Playstation 3
The Sony Playstation 3 is a gaming console and DVD-Bluray player. It is also capable of playing multimedia through the included media reader slots. In newer models, the media reader slots are removed but USB multimedia readers, storage devices, and even cameras and music players can be connected via USB interface. The console can be connected to the Internet via Ethernet LAN or wireless connection, which provides streaming capabilities. Some of the services that are readily available are YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu. Additionally, the Sony Playstation 3 can be used as a streaming media server with a home computer system. Anything streamed on the computer will be wired/wirelessly transmitted via the computer and displayed through the console. Unauthorized modifications that can provide even more capabilities can also be made to the console.
The Sony Playstation 3 is a very high end product, capable of higher functionality than Apple TV.
Note: Sony also has streaming specific devices such as the Network Media Player, which has very little limitations in connectivity or television display options whereas Apple TV does.
The Nintendo Wii gaming console is capable of streaming via wireless or wired connection. Wired connections require an additional accessory to connect the Ethernet cable to the system. Some of the applications available are YouTube via the Opera based browser and Netflix, which can be downloaded separately via the online Nintendo shop. The photo gallery can display photos and video from SD card media. With unauthorized modifications to the Wii, users can extend the capabilities of the console to become a multimedia streaming server with homebrew software. Connecting external media via the USB ports can allow the user to use the homebrew and access media stored on these larger capacity storage options.
In comparison to Apple TV, the Nintendo Wii has many features that are designed to offer a more complete entertainment experience.
Microsoft Xbox Live
Xbox Live is a service from Microsoft that applies to the Xbox family of consoles. The live platform allows all Microsoft devices to be compatibile with the console and includes options to connect and stream to services such as Netflix. Using the Microsoft Zune or Windows Media Player, users can stream media from their device or computer. Unauthorized modifications to the Xbox console can result in the banning of the console from the Live service in addition to non-refunded subscription fees. Although not recommended, modifications to the system can allow greater capabilities than are available on a stock system.
Microsoft Xbox live can provide many features that the Apple TV device cannot as well as greater diversity of file format compatibility.