Roku vs HTPC

Roku vs HTPC

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During the holiday season, I purchased a Roku 2 XD from Amazon hoping to use it as an additional Plex client on my network.  Since I have received it and set it up, I have noticed more people looking to use this as their complete HTPC setup and I wanted to touch on a few points on why I do NOT believe this should be your sole HTPC.

1.)   Content:

With the Roku, I do have a ton of streaming options (which for some this may be enough) but not many options for local content.  No add-on DVD player, with no possible way to stream DVD’s from a network connected computer either.  This is a minor annoyance as the only time it has affected me is when my girlfriend wants to do an exercise DVD on the Roku, and it’s impossible.  Local content playback sucks.  There I said it, there’s not full support for all content types and from what I’ve found, it doesn’t like most of my media.

2.)     Storage:

The Roku 2 does support external storage devices via USB which for some might be fine, but for me it’s a no-go.  I really appreciate local content, and full bitrate video.  USB isn’t the fastest bus however, and that feature set is only available on the top tier model.  My Mac Mini HTPC has firewire 400/800 and thunderbolt which are much more friendly.  Even ethernet isn’t available on the lower tier Roku models, so wireless N is a must have for streaming content over Wi-Fi.

3.)  Customization and Scalability:

With Roku, you get one interface and plugins.  No skin changing, no customization.  The app community isn’t great, there are lists out there with all the 3rd party apps to add pr0n, etc.  But I’m not impressed.  You can’t get apps like SickBeard and CouchPotato to run on a Roku, so if you are a Usenet user, Roku as a full HTPC isn’t the best option.  No torrent support, etc.  Even if there is a 3rd party app developed for these things, the storage scalability is limited.  Are you going to slave a 16TB RAID drive off of this via USB?  The processor in the Roku would explode trying to write data and read data for video playback simultaneously.

4.)  Limited Connectivity Options:

HDMI is the mother of all connections, I would agree and everyone who can use it, should.  However, there are still TONS of people who don’t have an LCD with HDMI.  Which would then necessitate and adapter to split the stream to DVI, or Analog.  Either way, adding a signal changer off of HDMI is going to change quality of the video.  If you’re stepping down from HDMI to DVI, you also will need to split audio off of the HDMI.  That’s a whole nother can of worms.

Wrap it up already!

In the war of Roku vs HTPC, HTPC is a clear winner to me, with Roku as a slave device.  If you have a fully automated HTPC grabbing content for you and disbursing it to your mobile device, Roku’s, AppleTV’s etc, you aren’t going to look back and consider “Oh hey, I can replace all of this with just my Roku”.  If you have a Roku, and haven’t experienced the magic of a fully automated HTPC, well then you should consider it.  Even if you dedicate an old desktop to grab content and be your Plex media server, you won’t be disappointed having Roku as your viewer.

I do feel, for those who are less tech savvy and just want to get YouTube and Netflix on the big screen, a sub $100 investment in a Roku is solid.  They are a great device and have huge potential for that market.  It’s a great secondary client for me to have in my bedroom to stream content from my HTPC.  I do love it for that and use it frequently.  But considering, Roku vs HTPC, go with a full fledged HTPC and then later slave on a Roku

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