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Roku 2 XS vs Vizio Co-star? Which to buy?


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#1 en2ec

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 12:41 PM

I currently have a big bulky full tower hackintosh serving as my HTPC, and I have Plex on it, which I love. It runs both server and client. I'd like to 1) not have a big black box sitting next to the TV 2) be able to use this computer for more than just an HTPC. Just the cost of an HTPC style case is way more than the cost of a tiny media player.

I've been thinking of getting a Roku 2 XS to use for my Plex client, but then I saw that Vizio is coming out with a Google TV-based media player called Co-star. I'm still leaning toward the Roku. I'm quite technical and don't mind jumping through some hoops, but I need absolute ease of use for my wife.

The big selling point of the Co-Star is that you can install Google TV compatible apps from the Android marketplace. A browser with flash is also nice, but apparently nearly every streaming site blocks its content on Google TV devices, so that largely defeats the benefit.

I don't subscribe to Hulu Plus, but it isn't available on Google TV. Not a big deal, but I may want to subscribe at some point.

The Co-Star has what looks to be a brilliant remote.

I have Amazon Prime, but not Netflix. Both are available on both devices.

I'm unable to test them out in person (the Vizio isn't shipping yet, and you can only order it anyway). I'm American, but I live in Europe. My parents are coming over in September, and I was going to order one for them to bring me. That, and a DD-WRT compatible router so that I can use my VPN service with the Roku or Vizio.

Any thoughts?

My alternative to both is to build another much smaller, less powerful HTPC, but that will still cost a lot more than a media player.

By the way, I watch some sports through ESPN3 (or whatever they're calling it today). Will this work on either player?

#2 en2ec

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 12:55 PM

I currently have a big bulky full tower hackintosh serving as my HTPC, and I have Plex on it, which I love. It runs both server and client. I'd like to 1) not have a big black box sitting next to the TV 2) be able to use this computer for more than just an HTPC. Just the cost of an HTPC style case is way more than the cost of a tiny media player.

I've been thinking of getting a Roku 2 XS to use for my Plex client, but then I saw that Vizio is coming out with a Google TV-based media player called Co-star. I'm still leaning toward the Roku. I'm quite technical and don't mind jumping through some hoops, but I need absolute ease of use for my wife.

The big selling point of the Co-Star is that you can install Google TV compatible apps from the Android marketplace. A browser with flash is also nice, but apparently nearly every streaming site blocks its content on Google TV devices, so that largely defeats the benefit.

I don't subscribe to Hulu Plus, but it isn't available on Google TV. Not a big deal, but I may want to subscribe at some point.

The Co-Star has what looks to be a brilliant remote.

I have Amazon Prime, but not Netflix. Both are available on both devices.

I'm unable to test them out in person (the Vizio isn't shipping yet, and you can only order it anyway). I'm American, but I live in Europe. My parents are coming over in September, and I was going to order one for them to bring me. That, and a DD-WRT compatible router so that I can use my VPN service with the Roku or Vizio.

Any thoughts?

My alternative to both is to build another much smaller, less powerful HTPC, but that will still cost a lot more than a media player.

By the way, I watch some sports through ESPN3 (or whatever they're calling it today). Will this work on either player?


I forgot to ask the obvious: Which has a better experience: Plex for Roku or Google TV?

#3 schuyler

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 03:07 PM

The good news is that I think either one is a pretty good option. I actually got to play with the Vizio a fair bit at Google IO, and I think it's my favorite Google TV so far. I'm biased in favor of the Roku (and others in this subforum may be as well), but here are a few balanced thoughts:

The UI will be different. The Google TV has a richer UI that will look a lot like the Laika UI that you're presumably used to. The Roku has a simpler UI that uses Roku SDK screen types. You can see some screenshots of the Roku UI on the blog post. I suspect there are a handful of places you can find screenshots of the Google TV UI, including this blog post.

The remotes are *very* different. The Roku uses a tiny remote with a handful of buttons. It's more like an Apple TV in that regard. It's really simple to use. The Vizio has a remote that I personally prefer over other GTV remotes, but it's a GTV remote, so it's got oodles of buttons. If ease of use is a primary concern, especially for people other than yourself, the remote may be an important consideration.

The Google TV does more, for better and worse. Do you want a browser on your TV? Most people don't seem to, but maybe you do. I'd say there's definitely a tradeoff between ease of use and scope of functionality. GTV can do more, Roku is super easy to use.

Both of the Plex clients work well and are officially supported. If there are any particular features that matter to you then I'm sure people will chime in if they're better on one client or the other. ESPN3 should work equivalently on the two clients.

#4 jimberkas

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 04:34 AM

The good news is that I think either one is a pretty good option. I actually got to play with the Vizio a fair bit at Google IO, and I think it's my favorite Google TV so far. I'm biased in favor of the Roku (and others in this subforum may be as well), but here are a few balanced thoughts:

The UI will be different. The Google TV has a richer UI that will look a lot like the Laika UI that you're presumably used to. The Roku has a simpler UI that uses Roku SDK screen types. You can see some screenshots of the Roku UI on the blog post. I suspect there are a handful of places you can find screenshots of the Google TV UI, including this blog post.

The remotes are *very* different. The Roku uses a tiny remote with a handful of buttons. It's more like an Apple TV in that regard. It's really simple to use. The Vizio has a remote that I personally prefer over other GTV remotes, but it's a GTV remote, so it's got oodles of buttons. If ease of use is a primary concern, especially for people other than yourself, the remote may be an important consideration.

The Google TV does more, for better and worse. Do you want a browser on your TV? Most people don't seem to, but maybe you do. I'd say there's definitely a tradeoff between ease of use and scope of functionality. GTV can do more, Roku is super easy to use.

Both of the Plex clients work well and are officially supported. If there are any particular features that matter to you then I'm sure people will chime in if they're better on one client or the other. ESPN3 should work equivalently on the two clients.


I would love to get the vizio, but probably won't because my kids use the TV way more than I do and they have no problem with the roku. They are 3 and 6. I think the vizio remote would be too much for them, and the wife. But I think it looks awesome. We have three rokus and everyone loves them, used mainly for Plex and Netflix.

#5 en2ec

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 08:12 AM

Thanks for your thoughts. I have another wrinkle. I had completely dismissed an ATV3, but then I started looking into Airparrot (my computer isn't Sandy or Ivy Bridge, so the new Mountain Lion mirroring capability won't work for me). But it is a Core2Quad with 8 GB RAM, so it should be able to transcode anything on the fly without a problem. Airparrot and an ATV3 would basically let me move my computer but keep the ability to watch it on TV mirrored through the ATV3. The ATV3 would essentially become a wireless HDMI cable. I'm not sure, though, if this works well enough for day in day out usage or if it is meant only for a movie once in a while. All in all, I think this option has the most risk but could be great if it really worked well and easily.

It also has an advantage in that I wouldn't need to buy a DD-WRT router since all I'd use it for is to mirror my hackintosh, which has VPN. The downside is that it becomes a "dumb" device, and we would have to still use our ipad or phone as a remote for PLEX and for anything else, we'd have to go to the desk in the back of the room where the computer would be. I suppose I could use the ATV3 natively for music since most of it is already in itunes, but other than that, I don't think we'd use any of the ATV3 core functionality, which seems a waste. But mirroring the computer's capability means we'd have more function to the computer than a Roku or Costar could provide. But again, it all depends on the reliability and ease of use of Airparrot. I suspect that the WAF for ease of use with this configuration would be pretty low. That still leads me back to Roku. I have a MBP. I suppose that for anything that doesn't stream through the Roku, I could use the MBP ... that's only a few times a year probably.

Choice is great, but sometimes it is difficult.

#6 en2ec

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 12:56 PM

OK. I think I've found the solution. I'm going to get a Roku 2 XS and an Apple TV 3. This combination seems like I'll have just about everything covered. It still isn't nearly as expensive as building another hackintosh (and will be a lot easier to use for my wife).

I was considering Playon so that I could stream more content through the Roku, but the software costs $79, and I'd have to run it through Parallels on my hackintosh. For $20 more, I can get the ATV3 and use Airparrot to mirror non-Plex streaming content from my computer. I can also nearly have Plex on the ATV3 via Airplay from my Plex client on my ipad -- not ideal, but could be worth playing around with. I'd still use the Roku as my main plex client and also for things like Amazon instant video (don't currently have netflix or hulu plus).

If Plex ever incorporated Airplay directly into the PMS, then an ATV3 would be a great solution, and I wouldn't really need the Roku.




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