2013 has meant major upgrades for numerous media streaming devices, with the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 this month only intensifying the battle. Below is a comparison of these devices’ technical specs, price points and what content platforms they support. Let the battle begin…
Xbox One vs Playstation 4
At $399.99, the PS4 has a pricing edge over Microsoft’s $499.99 console, though Sony’s box doesn’t include the PlayStation camera that sells separately for $59.99. Xbox1 comes with Kinect 2.0, a fully-featured depth sensing camera that also works as an IR blaster for set-top boxes. Both consoles support 4K features, and sport Blu-ray drives, 802.11n WiFi and 500GB hard drives. Entertainment capabilities might be what really set the 2 apart: Microsoft has focused on features such as direct access to live TV using voice commands and access to multiple on-screen programs, making it an attractive option for gamers with cable service. But while Sony has reportedly looked to ink deals with Viacom, Disney and other cable nets to bring their channels onto PS4, its console’s main focus remains the more than 1 billion global gamers (Cfax8/19). The different focus colors the companies’ advertising campaigns, with Microsoft marketing the device as a mass-market product for any living room while Sony’s ads focus on hardcore gamers. That doesn’t mean Sony will give up the non-gamer or casual gamer market: The new PlayStation app offers 2nd-screen capabilities across mobile devices and tablets, and Sony’s own PlayStation Vita lets gamers extend PS4 titles to a 2nd gaming screen via WiFi.

Google’s Chromecast vs MediaMall Technologies’ PlayCast

With its ability to stream web video to TV, newly launched PlayCast from MediaMall Technologies is a lot like Google’s Chromecast. The company even acknowledged the similarity in its press release: “PlayCast gives Roku users the Chromecast-like ability to send virtually any video from a PC browser to a Roku-connected TV.” When used in conjunction with PlayOn, PlayCast lets users cast videos from the browser of their choice including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera. The difference between the two is obvious. Not only is Google’s dongle seemingly easy to use (plug in and play), but its $35 price point made it affordable to almost everyone. And it helped to have the 3-month free trial of Netflix that Google offered as part of its launch promotion, though the deal was suspended soon due to high demand. PlayCast, on the other hand, requires an entertainment console like Xbox, PlayStation, Wii or Roku. While the app is free, subscriptions to PlayOn’s service isn’t. Prices range from a monthly $9 to an annual $39.99 to a lifetime membership of $69.99. 
Roku 3 vs Apple TV
The 1st generation Apple TV was launched years ago and Apple in Jan released a 3rd generation “Rev A” that included component changes. Roku launched its Roku 3 in March with a CPU that’s 5 times faster than the previous generation and a WiFi direct remote in place of Bluetooth. Both devices are well-designed, receive regular updates and remain the most popular mainstream devices for streaming content to TV. For all the Apple devotees out there, Apple TV is THE streaming device to buy. And despite the fact that it offers less content than Roku, Apple has its secret weapon: AirPlay, which allows users to beam any of their apple products to the TV. The device is also closely tied to iTunes, allowing users to purchase content on iTunes and play them on TV. YouTube is available on Apple TV but not Roku (the companies are still in talks to put the channel on Roku channel store). As for Roku, its biggest advantage is perhaps the impressive lineup of content, which includes all the major streaming providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus as well as cable channels like HBO Go, ESPN and Disney nets and more. The company will focus on adding more cable channels in 2014. Both devices are under $100.

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