Three reasons to dump your cable provider: Boxee, Roku and Apple TV (updated)

I don't know of anyone that doesn't want to cut the cord with their cable provider and now it's possible thanks to several inexpensive solutions like: Boxee, Roku and Apple TV.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

I don't know of anyone that doesn't want to cut the cord with their cable provider -- at least the television part, that is. Now it's possible thanks to several inexpensive solutions for Internet and streaming TV that are worth looking at including: Boxee, Roku and Apple TV.

The $99, second-generation Apple TV is a great Internet-to-TV streamer. It excels at Netflix, AirPlay and AirTunes, but it doesn't get you all the way there. It's not 1080p and doesn't have Hulu Plus. Luckily it has been jailbroken and is eminently hackable. If you have all your content in iPhoto and iTunes and like to buy and rent content from Apple, the Apple TV is your ticket.

I found that the $99 Roku XDS was more my speed. It has Netflix, Hulu Plus, 1080p and a USB port where you can connect a big old drive full of movies (as long as they're .mp4, that is). Roku is the same price as the Apple TV but with a different, arguably better, feature set. If you're not locked into iTunes and like USB support, then Roku's your play. [Update: many people go with Roku for its support of live sports, incluing MLB, UFC, NHL and shortly NBA.]

If you have a large library of video content that's not in .mp4 you should probably consider a $200 Boxee Box (or rolling your own). It has more apps, movies and TV shows than Roku and supports an insane list of codecs (audio, image and video) and play your own content locally from USB or SD card or you can stream it from another computer.

Here are my notes on the three competitors in the $200 and under space:

AppleTV 2G - $99

Roku XDS - $99

  • 1080p
  • 75 apps
  • Netflix
  • Hulu Plus
  • Amazon VOD
  • USB (only MP4 video)
  • Private channels

Boxee Box - $199

  • 1080p
  • 400 apps
  • More movies than Roku
  • More TV shows than Roku (40k)
  • insane list of codecs (audio, image, video)
  • play from network, USB drive, or SD card
  • full Webkit browser (with Flash)
  • QWERTY remote
  • Netflix
  • NO Vudu
  • NO Hulu Plus (January)

Obviously, picking a streamer depends on your specific requirements and tastes, but the current crop of devices are probably keeping cable company executives awake at night. Unfortunately none of the current crop of stream does it all and you need all three to have the most options -- and you still won't have live sports.
At the end of day, with a few compromises I could live on a budget of $16 per month - $8 for Netflix and $8 for Hulu Plus. It beats the hell of out the $75 per month that I'm paying Comcast now.
What about you? Considering cutting the cord? What video streamer would you chose if you had $200 to spend?
Update: Danny Sullivan has also posted an excellent comparison of the Roku, Apple TV, Boxee & Google TV -- that is recommended reading.

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