March 17, 2016

My Setup: Media Boxes

I’ve been a cord-cutter for about 10 years. While my current setup has its quirks — it’s a dream compared that first Mac Mini with Front Row.

Roku 2

When we moved to Miami two years ago, I opted for a Roku 2 — to the surprise of many. The main reason is that I use to sideload some content, and there’s a very simple streaming App for it. I also had Plex installed on my 2008 MacBook media center, which is great for content you want to look pretty and organized.

One small issue I had with the Roku was that it couldn’t control just my soundbar volume. Or to put it more accurately: I couldn’t figure out how to tell my Samsung TV to ignore the volume control, even though I had the audio disabled.

Enter the [Logitech Harmony 350]( Which worked pretty well, although the lag was very annoying at times. This was also a bummer, because the Roku remote is so well designed. I really love the size and weight, and the headphone jack is brilliant.

Apple TV 4

With the new Apple TV, the missing App’s were no longer an issue. Plex was in the store, and I was sure someone would do an App for

To my surprise, [Fetch], an App I had originally bought just to manage files one the iPad, introduced a tvOS version. Very quickly it has become the killer app in my Apple TV.

The easiest way to explain [Fetch] is to imagine a Plex version that runs in an external server. However, I have to say that the recognition engine seems to work even better than Plex. Which means it’s very good1.

One thing that’s not good at all is the Siri Remote. It did manage to configure itself perfectly to only control the soundbar. Hurray for Apple elegance. But, unless you are a certified hipster™ and watch TV on the floor — where the remote has nowhere to hide — then it’s an elegant slab of slippery invisibility.

The makes matters worse, there’s the Touch surface of the remote. I can imagine the same hipster Apple engineer sitting on the white room and smoothly scrolling back and forward his favorite movie… but never turning off the lights and watching the whole damn thing without letting go of the remote.

All the innovation in scrolling the remote brings — and its by far the best — is lost by all the times you move in your couch and the video pauses because the remote thinks your butt wants to skip ahead.

We mostly watch the Apple TV now, but I do arrive home sometimes to the TV source changed to the Roku. Which means the average user in my home sometimes prefers the 2 year old Roku, which is about 1/3 of the price.

This isn’t exactly a clear win for Apple’s future of television.

  1. I’m excited that Cocoondev is bringing the media recognition to iOS. [Fetch]: Fetch - for iOS”↩︎

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