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Best alternatives to Apple TV

We look at rival media streamers you should consider over Apple's TV

3. Roku 2 XS

You’d be forgiven for confusing the Roku 2 XS with the Apple TV: they're both black and around the same dinky size. They even cost the same at £100 on the nose. See also: Digital Home reviews

Like the new Apple TV, the XS supports full 1080p HD output but has a wider range of services including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Vimeo, Flickr,  and Crackle (free films).

Roku 2 XS

Unusually, you can also play casual games via the Roku on your TV, including Angry Birds and Pac-man.

The Bluetooth remote control, like Nintendo's Wii, supports motion-based control for easier gameplay. A micro-SD card slot means you can add storage for more games in the future.

There's Bluetooth but no DLNA capability, and video format support isn't the best. Via USB, for example, you can play only MP4 (H.264). There's no MKV or DivX support.

4. Xbox 360

Xbox 360 S

Microsoft has updated the Xbox 360 constantly since it launched, and it's now a solid media player and streamer. Not only is there plenty of content to buy from the Zune Marketplace on Xbox Live, but the Xbox 360 can also handle DivX, H.264 and MP4 files. Only original Xbox 360 consoles lack an HDMI output, with more recent models supporting full 1080p output and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

The new Metro-style interface means it's easy to use, and the built-in DVD player means you can watch your DVD collection too.
Let's not forget, of course, that it's also a formidable gaming machine - the Apple TV has no answer on that score.

You can pick up the new slim Xbox 360 for £140 with a 4GB hard drive, or £180 for the 250GB model. Alternatively, turn to eBay and pick up an older, used model for under £100.

5. Sony Blu-ray player BDP-S490

Sony BDP-S490 Blu-ray player

For just a few pounds more than the Apple TV, you can pick up Sony's new Smart Blu-ray player. Not only will it play 1080p Blu-ray movies with HD audio (obvious, but a great advantage that the Apple TV lacks), but it also upscales DVDs to HD. It also plays 3D Blu-ray films, but if you don't need 3D, the BDP-S390 is a little cheaper but the same in every other respect. A Wi-Fi enabled version of the BDP-S490 costs around £140.

The S490 Blu-ray player plays a wide variety of video formats from USB drives and can also stream across the network from DLNA servers. File formats include: MKV, AVCHD, Xvid and MP4.

Internet services include iPlayer, LoveFilm and Demand 5, making it one of the best alternatives to the Apple TV, especially if you want catch-up TV services.

 Follow Jim Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

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