Earlier this year, Apple released its third generation set-top-box, Apple TV, but they have been in the game for five years now, releasing the first generation in 2007. With Google’s release of Vizio Co-Star, users want to know which box is better and it’s a pretty close race.
For starters, both boxes are $99, a good price for all the action these little boxes can pack. They are roughly the same size, Co-Star being a little larger, and they are both sleek black boxes that are fairly portable.
Controlling the Devices
The first noticeable difference is the remote. Apple’s is a small, silver remote slightly larger than an iPod Nano. It has your basic remote functions (play, pause, volume, etc.), and uses infrared to connect to the box. For those who don’t like keeping track of remote controls, Apple has an app available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that works as a remote and can connect to Apple TV.
In contrast, Co-Star’s remote is a thick, heavy black controller with a plethora of small buttons. The remote might be harder to use, but it comes with more functions like a Bluetooth touch pad and universal capabilities so it can become the only remote that you need for all living room devices. The control isn’t backlit, so it’s hard to navigate in the dark.
Getting Apps for Extra Features
Apple accesses iTunes on Apple TV, which makes it possible to view or buy movies and TV shows. Reviewers have complained about the selection not being completely clear and Apple TV sometimes not showing movies that should be available. You also can’t make purchases on iTunes through Apple TV, so purchases have to be made on another Apple device and then streamed to the box to be viewed on the TV. AirPlay, which sends videos to the Apple TV box wirelessly using other Apple devices, seems to remedy this.
Unlike Apple TV, Co-Star has access to an app store, Google Play. This store offers a variety of games and shows that can be bought and downloaded onto Co-Star. The box also supports the Google Chrome browser and has Flash capabilities, both of which Apple TV is lacking.
Transitioning Between TV and Apps
Both devices come with a single USB port and HDMI output, but Co-Star features an HDMI input as well, making it possible to overlay Google TV and apps with live TV. This makes the transition between live TV, Google TV and apps seamless, a feature Apple is lacking. This is probably Google’s biggest lead when looking at the boxes side-by-side.
While both devices access Netflix, YouTube and Vimeo, Co-Star doesn’t have access to Hulu Plus, meaning Hulu users will need to use Apple TV to access their account.
Apple has had their hands in living room boxes for longer than Google and a lot of the bugs users have noticed since Co-Star’s release in August have already been worked out by Apple. Although updates for Co-Star have been rapidly attending to major issues with the box, reviewers have said that, “the Google TV platform still feels like a beta product” (http://blog.streamingmedia.com/).
What’s Your Goal?
As the battle between Apple and Google usually ends, they are creating the same product with different user purposes. For gamers, Google is usually going to be a better choice, and with HDMI input and Google Play on Co-Star, that rule stands true when it comes to set-to-boxes. However, if viewing in Hi-Definition is your goal, Apple’s new third generation TV box has 1080p capabilities and AirPlay that makes for crystal clear streaming.
Apple TV boxes are available online and at Apple outlets. Vizio Co-Star is currently sold out, after making just enough to fill pre-orders. Those interested in Co-Star will have to follow online to know when the boxes will be available again.
Which set-top-box do you think is right for you?