Switching to Roku Thanks to Aereo

For about 4 years now we’ve been a cable-free household. But to do that right required setting up an HTPC. If you’re curious about that, take a look at Jeff Atwood’s posts:

So recently when our PC finally died on us, being the techie that I am, I was super eager to build a new one. I ended up pricing this out:

  • SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum MILO Series ML03B ($60)
  • ASRock H77M Motherboard ($70)
  • Intel Core i3-2120T Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz ($135)
  • G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 ($38)

I was just going to re-use the SSD and Windows 7 license from my existing HTPC. So a total cost of about $300. But it was also sure to be bulky and noisy, despite my best efforts.

Then, just for fun I started looking at the leading non-HTPC options. Right now that’s:

  • Roku
  • Apple TV
  • Buying a Blu-Ray player with “Smart TV” functionality
  • Buying a new TV with “Smart TV” functionality
  • XBox/PS3

When looking, I was basing things by looking for something that could do:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu (We pay for Hulu Plus)
  • Network TV
  • Skype
  • And some way to play other movies when we want

I eliminated the “Smart TV” options right away. They might do what I want now, but that functionality almost certainly isn’t the focus of companies like Panasonic and Sony. I also have no desire for a game console, so I dropped those options. That leaves Roku and Apple TV and Roku just came out with a new version of their product while Apple TV has been stagnating (and is likely being rebuilt at Apple?).

All well and good, but no network tv, which is a bit of a dealbreaker for us. Right now we have an antenna on the roof that gets great HD reception, but only buying a new TV would allow us to keep using it without an HTPC. That’s where Aereo comes in. For $8/month we get basic network channels (FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, and a bunch of other smaller stations that broacast around Boston) and 20 hours of “DVR” service. And if they can get past their ongoing legal troubles, I hope to keep them for a while.

So now instead of an HTPC that needs to do Windows Update every week, I have a Roku that’s the size of a deck of playing cards that has everything we need on it…. well… except for Skype. But every other device in our house has Skype on it, so I’ll make a compromise on that one.