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The new Apple TV is finally here. After the original debuted back in 2007, Apple unveiled the latest version of its streaming device on Wednesday at an event in San Francisco.
The company faces a crowded market, with Roku, Google and Amazon all firmly entrenched with streaming devices of their own. At $150, the new Apple TV will have to be significantly better than the competition to get people to open their wallets.
So what does Apple TV offer that other streaming devices don't?
Pros: The Apple TV remote features a touchpad, which lets users swipe and click across the screen like they would on their iPhone. It also serves as a motion-sensitive gamepad, much like on Nintendo's Wii Remote.
The Siri-powered voice search not only sorts through video services like Netflix, Hulu, Showtime and iTunes, but also searches for apps, sports and digs into your local media library. Nice for anyone deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem.
Cons: Although the interface is definitely more slick than the competition, there isn't much new here if you just want to stream TV.
Who should buy it: Apple die-hards, power TV watchers who want to watch two shows at once or play games while their kid watches cartoons, and people who love talking to their TV.
Pros: Press a button, say the name of a movie, actor or director, and the Roku 3 will find relevant search results. Unlike Apple or Amazon or Google, Roku has no streaming service to shill -- that means the voice search is less likely to nudge you toward its own product.
The Roku 3 also has a headphone jack in the remote control, perfect for watching TV while someone else in the room is sleeping or trying to read. Roku also offers more streaming apps than anyone else.
Cons: It actually has the same processor as the Roku 2, a cheaper device ($70) that might be a better option for those who don't care about voice search. It also doesn't offer as strong of a gaming experience as some of its competitors.
Who should buy it: People who want an easy-to-use device with lots of media options at a decent price.
Pros: We were going to feature the Amazon Fire TV -- a graceful streaming box with voice search and available game controller -- but Amazon sold out of the device amid rumors that it's going to release something new. (Refurbished versions are available online). So instead let's look at the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
It plugs into a TV's HDMI port and lets people connect with Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO NOW, Hulu Plus and plenty of other streaming services. It's also tiny, making it a great accessory for business travelers looking to watch their favorite shows on the road. The device's dual-core processor makes it faster than every other streaming stick available.
Cons: Its remote doesn't feature voice search; that feature can only be accessed through the Fire TV app or with a more advanced remote that is sold separately. It's also not blazing fast, which can cause some games to run slowly.
Who should buy it: This device is great for streamers on the go who already consume a lot of media on Amazon.
Pros: The sleek design means it won't look ugly next your fancy HDTV. It features voice search, the ability to cast from most smartphones, tablets and PCs, and a sync feature with some apps that lets Android users pause something on a tablet or phone and resume watching it on the Nexus Player.
Cons: Not everyone is sold on its operating system, Android TV. The game controller looks nice, but it also costs an additional $40.
Who should buy it: Android users who watch everything through Google Play.
Pros: Like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, this device is a dongle that plugs into a TV's HDMI port. It doesn't have a remote. Instead, it mirrors whatever is playing on your phone or tablet through the Chromecast app. With no remote, this tiny device is extremely portable, plus it's the cheapest option on the market.
Cons: There are certainly faster streaming devices out there, but casual Netflix watchers probably won't notice. The whole casting aspect might confuse users who aren't tech-savvy.
Who should buy it: College kids who understand technology and don't have a lot of money.