Roku updates streaming video box line

Roku, Apple's biggest (but still distant) competitor in the digital set top box market, announced a new lineup of set top boxes, ranging from a redesigned LT to the new 1 and 2, with the previously released 3 rounding out the line. Prices range from $49.99 to $99.99.

Roku boxes work similarly to the Apple TV - you connect them to your television and your Wi-Fi network, and you can stream media using built-in "channels." In the U.S. more than 1,000 channels are available. Roku is also sold in Canada, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, where more than 450 channels are available.

The channels provide access to free streaming content and subscription-based and pay-per-view services like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, HBO Go and more.

The Roku LT is the entry-level set top box. For $49.99 you get a device that streams 720p-quality video either through a composite AV cable (for older analog sets) or HDMI. It includes a remote control.

The new Roku 1 supports 1080p video, while the Roku 2 adds a remote with a built-in headphone jack and dual-band 802.11n support for improved network speed. They're $59.99 and $79.99 respectively.

The HDMI-only Roku 3, introduced this past March, adds 100baseT Ethernet and a USB slot that enables you to watch video from a connected thumbdrive - supported formats include MP4 and MKV (encoded in H.264), AAC and MP3 audio, and JPG and PNG images. The 3 also includes an enhanced remote that supports motion-control for gaming. It's priced at $99.99.

Do you use a Roku instead of an Apple TV? What do you think is the better value? Sound off in the comments.

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