In previous articles I’ve both talked about my HTPC setup and how I mounted a Roku LT player on another TV. The following is a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of each streaming device. If you’re considering “cutting the cord” as I did, you may find this useful.
- Upfront Cost – In this department the Roku LT has a definite advantage. One will most likely spend $300 + on a new HTPC, while the Roku LT comes in at a paltry $49.99. Advantage: Roku
- Monthly Cost – Although there is no fee associated with the Roku directly, if you want to watch almost anything worthwhile, you have to pay for it. Standard Hulu as well as ESPN3 are available on your computer without cost, even if you probably want to get Netflix and/or Hulu Plus anyway. Advantage: HTPC
- Size – There’s really no comparison here. The Roku player at 3.3 x 3.3 x .9 inches is tiny. Even the smallest PCs are much bigger. Advantage: Roku
- Interface – This is a tough call. On the one hand, the Roku remote works very well, flawlessly even, and everything seems well set up for a TV watching experience. The computer keyboard, however, makes searching easier. In a technical person’s hands, the keyboard may be more familiar, but for just watching and not thinking about the technical aspect, the Roku has the edge. Since the point of watching TV is watching and not fooling with it, I’m going to say Advantage: Roku
- Storage – Although some media players, like the Sony SMP-N100, have capabilities for playing local or networked media, the Roku LT does not. A HTPC has huge capabilities to store media locally or on a network. Advantage: HTPC
- Channel Availability – A HTPC can get anything on the Internet given the right software. As of this writing, ESPN3 and YouTube are absent on the Roku lineup, which could be a dealbreaker for some. Advantage: HTPC
- Other Features – A HTPC can be used for any number of other things like syncing your iPod or checking sports scores. A definite bonus, even if it’s not the primary purpose of your system. Advantage: HTPC
So the raw score is Roku 3, HTPC 4.
In the end, for my situation I really like having both. If I had to have one or the other, I’d probably choose the HTPC simply because of access to ESPN3. However, if you don’t care about this, the Roku player is definitely a device worth looking at.