I'm getting closer to the final setup for my Internet TV. I've added a Windows Media Center device to the mix. It's now:
Yes, I've been saying TiVo rocks for some time. And it does. If you want a simple, easy-to-use setup, I'd suggest TiVo ... because it's awesome.
But, my whole project is to lower the cost of TV. And, as good as TiVo is, it runs $12.95/month. Not a bad deal, but if I can get the functionality some other way, there's no reason to stay with TiVo. You'll see in a minute how TiVo became expendable.
Apple TV allows me to feed iTunes content through the TV. Now, the original reason for getting it was to play music through the sound system, it also allows me to rent TV or movies, or play TV or movies that I purchased and downloaded to my computer or iPad.
It also supports Netflix streaming, which is pretty much standard for devices today.
Roku lets me access Amazon Video on Demand content. While TiVo also lets me watch Amazon Video on Demand content, it must be downloaded to the device. Roku lets me stream Amazon Video on Demand content.
Hulu Plus content is also available through Roku. While Hulu Plus is premium content ($8/month), it's a good way to get lots of content. I could purchase the content through Amazon Video on Demand or iTunes, but, because of the number of Hulu Plus shows I watch, Hulu Plus is a better bargain.
Of course, Roku supports Netflix. It also has other sources ... via apps ... that can be added; some free, some you pay for.
Windows 7 Media Center
The newest addition to the mix is the Dell Zino has a TV tuner connected through a USB port. The HDTV antenna is connected there.
Windows 7 Media Center has the capability to record programs it receives through the tuner. While current TiVo devices have two tuners, Windows 7 Media Center supports only one. That's a drawback. But, it does record TV, and that made TiVo expendable.
The apps that can be added to Windows 7 Media Center make it even more powerful. Hulu Desktop runs on Windows, and there is a plugin that can be installed to Windows 7 Media Center that allows it to launch Hulu Desktop. Now, the Hulu Desktop interface isn't as friendly as the Hulu Plus interface of Roku, but it's functional. It does have the advantage of playing on your TV, if your Windows Media Device is connected to your HDTV as a monitor. So far, that's the only proper way of playing Hulu standard content on the TV. The problem with Hulu is that Hulu Plus content can play in a browser, on Hulu Desktop, or on a device such as Roku, while Hulu standard content can only play in a browser ... or on Hulu Desktop. Running Hulu Desktop on the Windows Media Center device -- a small dedicated Windows 7 computer -- lets all Hulu content play on the TV ... if the TV is the computer's monitor.
Another app that runs on Windows is Boxee. It's similar to Roku in that it's a device that allows connection to content via applications. Or, if you run Boxee software for Windows (it's also available for Mac and Linux), you can turn your computer into a Boxee box. And, if you have an add-on for Windows Media Center, you can launch Boxee from Windows Media Center. That opens up lots of content. And, of course, it supports Netflix. Everything worth a darn supports Netflix.
Why so many?
This is a lot of stuff to hook up and/or install, just to watch TV. That's why so many people have cable or satellite TV. And pay for it every month.
Or, for putting out some money up front, you can do away with those bills and watch TV over the Internet.
This isn't for everyone. And, it has its drawbacks.
For one, there's the money up front. The three devices cost combined $600 or more, depending on how much you put into the Windows Media Center device. However, you may decide that Apple TV is, in and of itself, something you want to add to your current system. That's what I did.
You may decide that a Roku device is something you want to add. Unless you have a need to play iTunes content through your TV or sound system, I'd recommend Roku over Apple TV because of the number of sources of content.
If you decide you need iTunes content on your TV, add an Apple TV to your system.
If you decide you need Amazon Video On Demand content, or want to watch Hulu Plus content on your TV instead of through the browser, you should get a Roku.
Adding both Apple TV and Roku will run you from $160-$200, depending on which Roku device meets your needs. I got the $100 version, but the $80 or $60 version may work for you.
Money money money
The total cost of the Internet TV setup I have, less the amount I'm saving by not paying for cable or TiVo, means that, this year, I'll break even. Next year, it's all savings.
Unless I find something else to buy and add to the system.
I can hardly wait.