The principal issue when it comes to delivering music and video entertainment is whether the device maker has a vested interest in delivering one service over another. Both Apple and Google are in such a predicament, which limits their content.
First and foremost, Apple TV is designed to deliver movies and music from iTunes. Therefore, it has a limited number of choices, unless you want to purchase everything from iTunes and forgo a lot of the apps and services the other devices offer.
Yes, Apple TV has YouTube, Netflix, MLB.com, HBO Go and Hulu, but not Pandora or Spotify. You get iTunes Radio, instead, which is unfortunate, given its poor initial streaming audio quality.
There's also a lack of social media integration on Apple TV. There's no support for Facebook or other major social-networking apps. Apple does make an effort with some offbeat channels, such as KORTV, which delivers Korean shows and movies for a fee. And you can find some free programs; we watched a classic 1978 performance by Tom Waits on Austin City Limits.
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However, cord-cutters (those who have chosen to get rid of their cable-TV service) would have a difficult time getting by with Apple TV alone.
Google's Chromecast isn't nearly the entertainment retail outlet that Apple TV is, but it is more than just a storefront for YouTube and Google Play. It has the big four online services — Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus and Pandora — but not much else. Yes, there's Google Play TV, with "thousands of TV shows and movies," but the paucity of choices is painfully obvious. If you leave your PC on, you can cast any Web-based video to the device, but if the site doesn’t explicitly support Chromecast, the video will play on both the PC and your TV at the same time, slowing both down and leading to an awkward user experience.
In contrast, Roku's Channel Store is the inspiration for people who have chosen to ditch their cable company. It has a cornucopia of hundreds of subscription, on-demand and free Internet video and music channels. The options range from spiritual shows to libertarian programs. Because it doesn't have its own movie or music service, Roku doesn't care where you rent or buy your movies from, so there are plenty of competing services, such as Redbox, Amazon, Blockbuster and Netflix. Roku offers many offerings that Apple TV lacks — Pandora, Spotify, Stitcher and Facebook, to name just a few.
Winner: Roku. When it comes to programs, video and music, more is merrier, which is why Roku makes the most people happy.