Google TV vs. Apple TV vs. Roku: Set-Top Box Smackdown

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Google TV vs. Apple TV vs. Roku: Set-Top Box Smackdown
The battle for living room dominance by tech companies heated up Wednesday when Logitech unveiled its Google TV set-top box called Revue. The device that weds Internet-based content, Web surfing, and productivity apps with your HDTV goes on sale later this month for $300. Its chief competitors are the freshly revamped Apple TV and Roku's Netflix set-top box.

For couch-saddled consumers confused by a plethora of boob-tube gizmos we offer answers. Here we compared the Revue alongside three other similar products - Apple TV, Roku XDS, and Boxee Box from D-Link. For a summary overview of features, prices, and specs see our comparison chart.

Revue Overview

For $299, the Logitech Revue comes with a keyboard remote control, which is roughly the size of a regular computer keyboard, but adds a touchpad and D-pad used for searching through your media and browsing the Web via Google's own Chrome browser.

The Logitech Revue is just the hardware. The brains behind the box is Google's operating system for set-top boxes, called Google TV. This allows you to use the Revue to browse the Web from your TV (yes, including Flash sites like Farmville, Twitter, and Facebook) and search and watch videos from the Web (Except for Hulu which is banned from Google TV). Google TV also delivers content from a growing list of partners (HBO, CNBC, Twitter, Netflix and Amazon) that each have custom Google TV channels.

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The Revue can also be used to place HD video calls, but you will need a separate camera that costs $149. You can also buy a palm-sized mini remote for $129. If bought with all the accessories, the Logitech Revue would set you back around $570.

The Contenders

Apple, has its own alternative, the Apple TV, which is aimed at those with large iTunes libraries and want to stream their videos, music and photos on to their TVs, alongside Internet videos and Netflix streaming.

Roku also makes a small inexpensive box (see chart for price comparisons) designed to stream videos on demand over the Internet to your TV, from a variety of services like Netflix, Amazon and even Hulu (Plus).

Approaching a more Google TV-like strategy, the Boxee Box brings together Internet videos with your personal video collection, that you can hook up to via an external drive or stream to your TV via the box.

Next week Sony releases a line of TVs with built-in Google TV functionality. If you're a Dish Network satellite TV customers Google TV will be available as a software option in satellite DVR boxes later this month for a charge of $179.

A/V Connections

All four boxes sport HDMI and Optical Audio jacks. The Revue and the Apple TV however, do not have ports for Composite Video or Audio. Roku, on the other hand, features both digital and composite audio and video connections.

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