The battle for your TV - Internet set-top device market heats up

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Boxee Box and remote

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The latest player in the Internet-to-your-TV world is the Boxee Box by D-Link. This Linux-based set-top device and media extender is likely to put up a fair fight in the face of some big name competition including Apple TV, Sony Internet TV (armed with Google TV) and Logitech Revue (also running Google TV).

Boxee Box and Apple TV

What the Boxee Box offers that Apple TV doesn't is simple; more processing power (equipped with Intel Atom), higher definition HDMI output (1080p compared to 720p), more options for connecting other devices (two USB ports plus an SD card slot), and access to more online content.

The biggest difference between the Boxee Box and Apple TV, however, is the available content. While Apple TV offers streaming content from providers such as iTunes, Netfilx, ABC and FOX, it is a pay-per-view system, kind of video rental store in your lounge room. At 99c per TV episode or US$3.99 per feature film this detracts from the cheaper initial cost of the device (US$99), which is half that of the Boxee Box ($199).

While the D-Link Boxee Box also offers content from providers such as NetFlix and VUDU, it connects users to a wider range of Internet content, bringing it together in an easy to access package. As well as providing access to online video sites including MUBI, OpenFilm, IndieMoviesOnline, and EZTakes, it also provides access to a library of around 40,000 TV episodes and live content from providers such as BBC and Major League Baseball (MLB).

The Boxee Box will also support most file formats and with multiple USB ports it can easily be connected to an external storage device for uploading or storing files, while the remote with a QWERTY keyboard on the back provides more functionality than the Apple TV remote.

Boxee Box and Google TV

So far Google TV is offered by both Logitech and Sony as a built in browser system. The Logitech Revue (US$299) and Sony Internet TV Blu-ray (US$399) also have some neat features of their own, such as remote keyboards but we'll focus on Google TV at this stage. You can also use Google TV as a regular web browser which can be displayed simultaneously with a TV program, letting you surf the net while watching your favorite shows. The web browser (powered by Google Chrome) is assigned it's own channel, making it easy to access.

Google TV also lets you to access pay-per-view content at sites such as NetFlix and Amazon On Demand. The Google TV browser also offers the same level of access to free content as the Boxee Box but comes with some interesting extra features. One cool feature of the Google TV devices is the ability to use your Android phone or iPhone as the remote. You can also “Fling” Internet content from your phone to the TV. The advantage of the Boxee Box is the simplicity of the browser. Tell it what you want to watch and it does all the hard work for you. But then you don't get the freedom of being able to use it as a traditional web browser which is a big disadvantage.

Choices, choices, choices...

As with most things, the big question you need to ask yourself is “what will I be using it for?” If you just want a no fuss way to view single episodes of your favorite show or the latest box office movie, then you'd probably be best served with Apple TV. If you want a device that will allow you to simply download and watch free Internet videos by just punching in a title and letting the device do the work you probably want a Boxee Box or something running Google TV. If you're looking to use your TV to surf the net while being able to easily access online video content then a Google TV system would probably work for you.
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