Please help me decide if XBOX 360 is the right streaming choice? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 09-01-2010, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm hoping that all you kind and learned folks here can help me out with my decision. Here's my dilemma:

Just dumped my premium cable TV today, well actually it shuts off in 10 days and reverts to basic 35 channels. My internet speed is 15mbps so I'd like to start streaming content, mainly Netflix for movies and online TV shows via Hulu, etc. After reading posts and searching it seems that the xBox 360 and PS3 are the two main devices that will allow both Netflix, Hulu-like content, and also can function as a local content media server of sorts, or front end if connected to a PC. My question is, is there any other device out there that can do the same? I really like the price point and simplicity of the Roku, but it lacks the Hulu stuff and as far as I can tell, cannot function as a media server/front end. Is there another device I should consider besides an actual HTPC?

Here's my comparison list so far, please feel free to comment and add to it:

XBox 360: I can get a new 4gb one for around $130-150, but need to buy PlayOn and Gold membership to access Hulu and Netflix. This would add $60-80 more to the total. Plus some more for a remote. Small storage capacity, but perhaps I can throw on an External HDD or replace the internal one? Not sure if that's possible. Anyone know? Net total around $200-$250.

PS3: Basically the same as XBOX but with more storage space, but I wouldn't have to subscribe yearly to XBOX Gold to get Netflix. This saves potentially $35-$50 per year, but the unit itself will cost at least $150 more than Xbox, so in essence it's actually a more expensive route until 3-4 years have passed. By that time I'll probably have moved on to another solution. It also has Blu-ray, but this is something I have no interest in. Downside is that it requires a disc inserted to stream Netflix and the Netflix interface is inferior to Xbox by most accounts.

Roku: Simple, very cheap, decent content offerings, but no storage or streaming of local content, and no access to Hulu and other online sites.

As of right now I'm strongly leaning towards the XBOX with PlayOn. What do you all think?
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-01-2010, 08:44 PM
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The 360 can have it storage increased with most usb drives.... you might even have a spare usb drive that you could dedicate to the xbox which would increase your storage.

FYI.... the playon solution is only temporary.... native hulu+ support is coming in early 2011 (currently on ps3 in beta form).
Also espn3 access (for those all important live sporing events) is coming with the fall update free for gold members (assuming your isp has a deal with espn3).
Not sure where you live but I assume you have cable internet based on your speed. If you do chances are good you can get a cheap $60 tv tuner card for your computer (windows vista or windows 7) and keep the locals in HD through your xbox with full dvr access. Video example here (really old video though) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJjvB...eature=related

On the ps3 side you can add mlb.tv access for baseball games if you have any interest in watching mlb games.
Also sony has a dvr device as well but it only works in europe (again not sure where you live from your profile)
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-01-2010, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jagouar View Post

The 360 can have it storage increased with most usb drives.... you might even have a spare usb drive that you could dedicate to the xbox which would increase your storage.

FYI.... the playon solution is only temporary.... native hulu+ support is coming in early 2011.
Also espn3 access (for those all important live sporing events) is coming with the fall update free for gold members (assuming your isp has a deal with espn3).
Not sure where you live but I assume you have cable internet based on your speed. If you do chances are good you can get a cheap $60 tv tuner card for your computer (windows vista or windows 7) and keep the locals in HD through your xbox with full dvr access. Video example here (really old video though) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJjvB...eature=related

On the ps3 side you can add mlb.tv access for baseball games if you have any interest in watching mlb games. also sony has a dvr device as well but it only works in europe (again not sure where you live from your profile)

Thanks for the reply and the tip on the TV tuner. That sounds like a good way to go as we often like to record local programming and watch later. As for sports, baseball is my game so lack of MLB.com on XBOX is somewhat of a drawback, however I usually only watch my team's games (Houston Astros, sadly),which I think I'll be able to get with the basic channels.

All in all it's looking like the XBOX is shaping up to be the winner. Keep the input coming!
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post #4 of 11 Old 09-01-2010, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dstrain View Post

Here's my comparison list so far, please feel free to comment and add to it:

XBox 360: I can get a new 4gb one for around $130-150, but need to buy PlayOn and Gold membership to access Hulu and Netflix. This would add $60-80 more to the total. Plus some more for a remote. Small storage capacity, but perhaps I can throw on an External HDD or replace the internal one? Not sure if that's possible. Anyone know? Net total around $200-$250.

PS3: Basically the same as XBOX but with more storage space, but I wouldn't have to subscribe yearly to XBOX Gold to get Netflix. This saves potentially $35-$50 per year, but the unit itself will cost at least $150 more than Xbox, so in essence it's actually a more expensive route until 3-4 years have passed. By that time I'll probably have moved on to another solution. It also has Blu-ray, but this is something I have no interest in. Downside is that it requires a disc inserted to stream Netflix and the Netflix interface is inferior to Xbox by most accounts.

Roku: Simple, very cheap, decent content offerings, but no storage or streaming of local content, and no access to Hulu and other online sites.

As of right now I'm strongly leaning towards the XBOX with PlayOn. What do you all think?

I'm in the same boat as you. I'd ideally like a box with hard drive, streaming video capability, internet surf-able (for video sites-CBS, Hulu, NBC, Funimation, etc, not to read microscopic fonts on webpages) and digital tv tuner. At the moment, only a home theater pc fits the the bill, but I'd like something with a small footprint as my entertainment center is already over crowded.

You should know regarding the PS3, that Netflix's exclusive arrangement with Mircosoft will end sometime this fall, and NF will allow their sevice to be embedded within the PS3 without the disc, and they will upgrade the software to bring it up to the slick XBox version.
http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/...-without-disc/
http://ps3.ign.com/articles/110/1107663p1.html

The Xboxes are cheaper-and used ones can be found on ebay at less than half retail, but I just hate the thought of subscribing to a paid tier to access something you're already paying for.

Dazed and confused over high tech.

Sigh...Concrap. The Internet Overlord Cometh
They're not com-tastic!
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post #5 of 11 Old 09-02-2010, 04:55 AM
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What about using windows 7 as the head end? youd get all the online stuff without the need for gold.

I want to die in my sleep like grandpa... not kicking and screaming like the people in his car.
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post #6 of 11 Old 09-02-2010, 05:11 AM
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You can use an external drive with the X360 (read only), but it must be formatted to fat32 which means a 4GB file size limit.

Another advantage of the PS3 to keep in mind is if you want to expand your storage you can use any 2.5" sata notebook HDD.

I went through this same process a few years ago. Went with the PS3, and with PS3 media server it's done everything I needed (we have Satellite so don't care about hulu etc.) The PS3 was also a lot quieter.

The X360 has a lot more options available than it did when I was comparing the two so it may be just as good for serving media.

PSN: MakoCSH
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post #7 of 11 Old 09-02-2010, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Here's a follow-up question:

Can the XBOX also serve as a front end to media stored on my PC? I'm currently running WinXP. Would I need to upgrade to a different OS on the PC?
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post #8 of 11 Old 09-02-2010, 08:19 AM
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While you can connect an external hard drive to the xbox, it will only recognize 16gb. You can hook up 2 for a total of 32gb external memory. Don't go thinking you can hook up a 2TB HDD directly to the xbox.

The xbox is the way to go. We've dumped cable completely. We use Windows Media Center (Win 7) to record TV broadcast OTA. That's most of the television programming we watch. In your case, you might be able to feed WMC with your basic cable, instead of relying on the cable company's box. With WMC, you simply attach a 1TB or 2TB external hard drive to your PC and you'll never run out of space for recordings. Plus, you then have the program in an easily-archievable format. If you're a tinkerer, there's a whole community of people out there tweaking WMC with add-on software. For example, I can schedule a recording on the go via my blackberry and, sitting here at work, can pull up and stream from my home PC the cartoon I recorded for my kids this morning. It's your media and you can do whatever you want with it - you're not constrained by the cable company. We also put our movie collection on hard drives, as well as HD home movies, music, photos, etc. and access it all on the living room TV through WMC streaming to our xbox.

We can also stream from Hulu (via PlayOn) and whatever is not available on Hulu we usually find on Zune (not free but fairly priced for breathtaking quality, including new releases in 1080p). PlayOn also gives you access to Amazon OnDemand, but there isn't much there that you can't get elsewhere. Netflix streaming is also great, plus the included disc service provides an economical way to watch newish releases not available via streaming.

We started from scratch and have been doing this for over a year. At first, I was trying to get streaming to work via the DLNA capabilities built in to my TV, but it was too buggy. Particularly if you think you might go the WMC route for a full cable-replacement (and so much more) solution, the xbox "just works."

I (and especially my wife) couldn't imagine being cable-free without PlayOn, but if I were starting out right now, I'd consider (and probably reject) waiting to see what the Hulu Plus implementation is going to look like on xbox in early 2011. I suspect it will be a slicker, better integrated interface than PlayOn, but at some added cost.
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post #9 of 11 Old 09-02-2010, 02:05 PM
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I would just like to chime in a bit.

If you use the XBOX, you are stuck with either a Gold account for Netflix or Playon. With Playon, you will NOT get HD streams from Netflix. You will NOT get FF functionality (past the end of the buffer) like you do with the devices. PlayOn is more like streaming a video where you can only watch what you've downloaded. You can't jump to (for example) 1 hour in.

If you use the native players, you can FF and Rewind just like if it was a disc (no chapter skip, but you can FF up to 120x I think, so it's pretty speedy), and then it just starts from there.

I cannot in good conscience recommend PlayOn for Netflix streaming given the lack of HD and decent controls while watching the movie.

Given that, I would recommend getting a PS3. It does media streaming just fine, PlayOn works fine with it, and you can also watch Netflix through a native player getting full benefits of the streaming offerings. Plus I believe you can plug a 1TB FAT32 drive right into the PS3 (I think...not sure)

PS3 doesn't work with Windows Media Center though, but there are plenty of other options.

I just don't see why you'd get an XBOX + PlayOn for this, when you could get a PS3 + PlayOn and basically have media-streaming from the PC and Hulu, plus the added benefit of a built-in Netflix streamer (I say built-in because even though it does require a disc right now, it's still a "native" streamer in the fact it gives you full FF/Rewind/Browse functionality and HD streams).

That being said, I use my XBOX + PlayOn, but I have a gold account for gaming, so it's not like I feel I'm paying extra for Netflix since I already had the gold account. I'd use my PS3 for it if it turned on with my remote (Yes, I am that lazy that I hate to get off the couch to turn it on and put in the disc)

Finally, one thing to keep in mind. The XBOX has Zune 1080p smooth streaming with 5.1 sound. This works amazing (see my impressions here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1191057). But the PS3 has the PSN which is ok for the most part.

Honestly, no matter what you decide, you're going to be making some trade-offs....but if your primary focus is Netflix + Hulu (without having to pay extra for Netflix or Hulu+), I would go with the PS3+PlayOn solution over the XBOX+PlayOn solution. You'll get the same Hulu experience, but a much better Netflix experience.
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post #10 of 11 Old 09-06-2010, 11:51 AM
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Don't get PlayOn, it's really not worth it. The Netflix is horrible, and in my experience, it doesn't really work that well with other services either. Having to keep a computer on all the time is a pain. It's such a hacked solution, and it's WAY too expensive.

Frankly, Xbox Live Gold isn't that much ($50 for a year, but they are increasing it to $60 starting November). You'll get great HD Netflix integration, ESPN3 in HD in November, and if you ever think about subscribing for Hulu Plus in 2011, the ability to stream on Xbox. No regular Hulu though.

Windows Media Center integration is superb, like jsirbak said, but since you still have basic cable, you could use it just to stream your home media to the tv. The Zune Marketplace 1080p streaming coming in November looks really good, and it pretty has similar content to iTunes. Most shows that aren't on Zune, you could probably get from Amazon VOD. You can't stream Amazon directly, but you can download it on your PC and stream it through your home network.

If you grab an Xbox, there's not really a reason to get the new one besides the built-in wifi. You can probably snag an unused old model with a hard drive and the wifi adapter for the same price as the slim with a drive.

The PS3 is a good media box too. Of course, Blu-Ray is built in, and I'm betting they'll have a disc-less Netflix player in a few months. If you like baseball, MLB.TV is a steal, with all non-local games for $25 a season streaming in HD. Hulu Plus integration will be free after the beta, but of course you'll have to pay $10/month for the Hulu subscription. And again, no regular Hulu.

If you want good Netflix integration and Hulu.com (not Hulu Plus), I would either go the HTPC route, or get Google TV. The Logitech Revue comes out this year, and you can watch any Flash content inside Chrome. It looks like it has a native Netflix player, and you can stream Amazon VOD from Amazon's website in Flash. It'll add some slick search functionality to your cable box too. A little pricey, but not much more than an Xbox. Even though there's no price point yet, I'm guessing $200-$300. If you don't mind spending a little more, I think Google TV is a pretty neat device.

Also, Boxee Box is $199 and will have a built-in browser with Flash and native Netflix, but I doubt the Logitech Revue will cost much more. Google TV seems slicker.
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post #11 of 11 Old 09-15-2010, 09:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexlai View Post

If you want good Netflix integration and Hulu.com (not Hulu Plus), I would either go the HTPC route, or get Google TV.

Unclear yet if Hulu.com will work on Google TV, it's always possible Hulu could try to block or break it, they are just that evil...
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