Now that I have both in my entertainment center and have been using both for the last month, there are some definite differences between the two. I think you might be surprised with what I’m about to say.
The Apple TV kinda sucks.
That’s right, I said it. The Apple TV, as a cord cutting device, isn’t that great. Let me re-phrase that. The Apple TV, as compared to the Roku box as a cable TV replacement device isn’t that great. All things in context.
The Apple TV is brilliant for anything Air Play related. Click on the stereo, turn on SomaFM and send the output to Air Play. Rad. Same with mirroring the screen of **any** of the Apple devices in the house. A cool YouTube video to share? Send it to the Apple TV. Playing back music from iTunes works great. Viewing photos in your photostream or Flickr is equally awesome.
But that is where the awesome ends.
As previously mentioned, video playback is very slow to get started. This is a bigger hurdle than I initially thought. I find myself going to the Roku box still for the majority of video content. The Amazon app on the Roku has the same selection of shows, at the same quality, for the same price. Sometimes it’s even less expensive than the Apple store too. That and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 5 minute short or a 3 hour movie, it starts in less than 2 minutes and plays continuously without any stalls or skips. Something that can’t be said of the Apple TV.
One thing that is almost the same on the Apple TV as on the Roku Box is HuluPlus. This is the worst experience of anything I have ever experienced. The software is so poor that it usually crashes the device it’s running on **every other time** we start it. And with the continued dwindling of top-tier content being made ‘web only’, I’m finding less and less value with the service and will probably cancel it soon.
If you are trying to do some cord cutting of your own, I would start with a Roku box with an Amazon Prime account. Get the Apple TV if you think you would get some use from it with the Air Play. But if not, save your $100 for now. Same with HuluPlus. Use that money for your Amazon Prime account instead.