Surprise! Roku LT is a better buy than Apple TV

October 10, 2013: 2:06 PM ET
roku lt
The Roku LT is CNNMoney's Best In Tech for set-top boxes, because it offers more content at a much lower price than Apple TV.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The $50 Roku LT hits the perfect sweet spot of low cost and abundant content, which is why it is CNNMoney's Best In Tech for the set-top-box category.

Using the Roku LT, you'll find the obligatory Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu apps, along with HBO Go. But in addition to those staples, there's also the likes of Amazon (AMZN) Instant Video, Crackle, Epix, PBS, Fox (FOX), Blockbuster, Time Warner Cable (TWC), Syfy, and the music video app Vevo. There's access to streaming music services like Rdio, Spotify and Pandora (P), and live pro baseball, hockey, basketball and soccer games.

And that just cracks the surface. There's a lot of content you won't currently find on an Apple (AAPL) TV or Google (GOOG) Chromecast.

The Roku box itself is small, quiet and more than up to the task of handling HD video. The top resolution of streaming content is only 720p, but the vast majority of people will be hard pressed to notice the difference in quality from the top-of-the-line (and twice-as-expensive) Roku 3.

Navigating through content on the Roku isn't rocket science, though it isn't as easy, fast or beautiful as the Apple TV. Flipping stations on the Roku is more elegant than the Chromecast, which requires a phone, tablet or computer to use -- though streaming direct from a device is a mostly lacking feature on the Roku LT.

Related story: Google Chromecast offers more questions than answers

The Roku mobile app allows users to do some rudimentary photo streaming, and installing the Plex app lets your Roku access files on your computer. But those options offer far less quality and simplicity than Apple's AirPlay, which lets you use your Mac or iGizmo to push music, photos and video to your $99 Apple TV. (If you don't use Apple products, of course, this point is moot.)

Ultimately, there are other set-top boxes capable of more than the Roku LT offers -- but none of those devices costs just $50. And while the Roku LT may not be $35 like the Chromecast, the Roku offers far more content, and you can just pick up a remote to use the thing.

It's hard to go wrong with any set-top box on the market right now, but the Roku LT is the best option.


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