Consumer Reports rates current set-top web TV boxes

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Have you been considering one of the recently released set-top boxes to bring streaming Internet content to your home’s television? The good news is that Consumer Reports has already done a good bit of research on the subject and weighed in on the four major web TV boxes currently on the market. The bad news is that all of the contenders seem to have drawbacks that could leave buyers longing for the next-generation offerings.

Consumer Reports recently put set-top boxes from Apple, Roku, D-Link, and Logitech through the paces of their testing labs, and here’s how they all rated:

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Consumer Reports rates current set-top web TV boxes

Logitech Revue (Google TV)

Logitech’s Revue, which may be better known as the hardware platform for Google TV, is the most expensive of the four at $300. While testers found it easy to navigate the interface’s full-featured web browser with the included keyboard, they found the size of the keyboard compared to the more traditional remote controls of the competitors a bit of a turn off.

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MyCE readers may also recall that Logitech halted shipments of the product in late December to overhaul the product in 2011. We have yet to see any results from that action.

D-Link Boxee Box

The crooked cube-shaped Boxee Box is moderately priced at $200, but testers had a difficult time navigating the user interface. They found the remote control difficult to use and the amount of content too limited.

Since the test took place, however, Boxee has picked up both Netflix and Vudu support. The addition of Netflix alone could make the difference for potential buyers.

Apple TV

Apple’s web TV offering is already in its 2nd generation with a lower $99 price tag and redesigned hardware.  Consumer Reports rep Jim Willcox described the user interface as “easy” and “slick”, and stated that the product had the “best integration with Netflix of any box that we’ve seen.” However, he faulted Apple TV’s lack of a web browser and the overall lack of content, pointing out that at this time videos can only be rented and not purchased on the platform.

Roku X-D-S

Though Roku boxes start at only $59.99, Consumer Reports chose to review the most expensive of the company’s three choices, which is still relatively inexpensive at $99.99. Like Apple TV, Roku also lacks a web browser, and testers faulted the user interface for being “confusing”. As for content, buyers can expect to access films and TV content from Amazon and Netflix, but the fact that YouTube is inaccessible (without some serious digging) could be a deal-breaker for some.

Final Thoughts

Consumer Reports stopped short of actually recommending any one of the current Internet-streaming set-top boxes over the others, but they did say that potential buyers should “figure out what kind of user you are, how comfortable you’re going to be using the interfaces, and whether these boxes offer the kind of content you really want.” They also point out that some Blu-ray players, such as Panasonic’s $170 DMP-BD85, offer streaming web content too.

Ultimately, the internet-streaming device you choose for your TV is going to come down to a matter of personal preference, so it is still a good idea to do your own research before making a choice.

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