The battle of "over the top" boxes heated up this week, with new enhancements for Western Digital and Roku media players bringing far away content to your TV.
You Can Take It With You: The ability to watch every channel (and recorded show) that's on your cable or satellite box on an unconnected TV (near or far away) is the most significant improvement to Western Digital's TV Live and TV Live Hub media players ($99.99-$199.99.)
To pull off the feat, you must also buy and connect a Slingbox Solo or HD Pro Player ($120 and up) to the cable/satellite receiver and your home internet network. Signals are then sent through the interweb to the WD box, likewise linked (in wireless or wired fashion) to an internet provider. You do lose a bit of image resolution in the process, though the shows are still quite watchable with DSL or better "high speed" broadband connections.
Both WD media boxes also pull down a bunch of web based services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and Spotify and the newly added AOL On Network and Red Bull TV. Because it has a 1 Terrabyte hard drive, the fancier $199 Western Digital WD TV Live Hub also can download and store VUDU rental films in the HDX video format featuring 1080p video and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 audio. Both WD players also stream content stored on home computer drives.
Roku Rocks the World: If your heart (or lots of family and friends) reside elsewhere besides the U.S., Roku's just added streaming channel offerings from DISHworld could prove appealing. Previously available only on DISH satellite, this "best of Arabic, Hindi, Brazilian, Urdu and Bangla channels" can now be nabbed on a current generation, internet (and TV) connected Roku 2 XD or XS box. And more channels serving more ethnicities are "on the way." The international programming starts at $19.95 a month, while refurbished Roku 2 boxes (which carry a 90 day guarantee) are being offered as a "Father's Day" special at $59.99 and $74.99 with free shipping.