HTPC Vs Roku Vs Android TV Boxes

Why an HTPC is The Ultimate Media Streaming Machine

With the wide proliferation of lower cost Android TV and Roku media streamers, the HTPC has fallen out of favor. Or, at least not given the attention it truly deserves.

Roku vs Android TV Boxes Vs HTPC

Both Android and Roku give you many options when it comes to cutting the cord and watching TV. There is no doubt their lower cost makes them popular with a wider segment of the media streaming community.

Let's not forget, these devices cost less for a reason. They are made to entice users to their platform so Google and Roku can sell advertising which represents their single greatest revenue source.

Roku controls their own operating software. Google own's and controls the Android operating system that runs on all Android TV box clones, the Nvidia Shield, Amazon Fire TV and also the popular Fire TV Stick. Both Google and Roku are at the mercy of the whims of large, rich content providers.

If a content provider or large media company objects to a channel that may have questionable content. Roku or Google may be forced to take action and remove the offending channel or risk a provider leaving. This can cost their company a lot of money.

If a channel competes heavily, by driving viewers away from provider owned content channels like Amazon Video or Google YouTube Red, then the offending channel or app at some point could even blocked on media streaming devices that they control.

What is an HTPC?

HTPC stands for Home Theater Personal Computer. It is really just a computer that attaches to your TV with an HDMI cable and has software specifically installed like Kodi or Plex, to let you play movies, TV shows and Internet Radio Stations along with your personal music CDs, DVDs or digital files.

Tired of the Walled Garden? An HTPC Lets you Watch Anything

Since an HTPC runs a full computer operating system (OS), typically a desktop version of Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. You will always have full control over which apps, channels and content you want to use. It is not restricted in any way and as new video technology becomes available, you can install new codecs and keep using your HTPC any way you please.


Use Plex or Kodi Without Limits 

Using Plex or Kodi on an Android TV Box has it's limitations.  The Plex Server software will only run on the Nvidia Shield. It will not run on any other Android TV box or on Roku so you still need a PC to run the Plex Server software.

Even though it runs on the Nvidia Shield, Plex is crippled as it comes from the factory unless you want to risk rooting your Shield. This is because they put the Plex Channels folder in a protected system memory area where need to add channels from the  Plex Unsupported App Store.

This means you are limited to only "Official Plex Directory Channels" a list of OK channel but not what most Plex users really use Plex for.

"Plex Channel Directory Channels are considered stable, typically work on a majority of apps and do not contain content that may be considered offensive or questionable."

Kodi Runs Better on an HTPC Than on any Android TV box!

Kodi runs reasonably well on most Android TV boxes. Except, there is a problem with Android. The Android OS is full of extra system apps, and junk that runs in the background and puts a lot of extra demand on the limited system memory most cheap Android boxes have. 

By running all these processes alongside Kodi, it does not let Kodi have the same performance as you would get by running it on a computer which typically has a lot more memory and a faster graphics card.

An HTPC lets you fully control background apps, extensions and even turn off what may be conflicting or causing performance issues with Kodi.

Use an HTPC as a DVR to Record Live TV from An Antenna

If you are lucky enough to get most Network HD channels for Free from an Over the Air Antenna, use your HTPC to build an HD DVR free from monthly fees. It will require using an additional Network Tuner like an HDHomeRun, then you can record live HD TV. You can also pause or rewind live TV, watch your pre-recorded shows on demand or zip quickly through commercials.

Special software is required to record from your tuner onto your computer and play it back.

Popular DVR Apps for an HTPC

Windows Media Center, EyeTV, MythTV, InstaTV and Silicone Dust all have software for recording Live TV from an antenna.

If you have a Mac, EyeTV should be your first choice. This makes recording and watching your shows and movies a breeze.

Windows Media Center is also a great choice for DVR duty. Windows 10 no longer comes with the Media Center software installed. Here is how to install it.

NextPVR is also a great choice for DVR software and it is free on Windows.

Linux users will want to download and compile MythTV

Install Any Channel, App or Watch Any Content Without Restrictions

Did your favorite channel get removed from Roku? You will never need to worry about it happening on your HTPC. Android is generally less restrictive than Roku, but Google has even removed certain apps from their Play Store that have had infringing content. These apps are still available to download directly and must be installed manually as (apks).

With directly installing apks instead of adding them from the Google Play Store, there's always a chance that someone can inject a virus, or malware into an apk that could steal your personal information or corrupt your device.

Always  be sure to run virus protection on Android and also when using an HTPC especially when using a Windows operating system.

No low cost media streaming device can match an HTPC because it will give you full control of what you can watch and where you can watch it without any restrictions.

Full Web Browser

If you visit our huge Internet TV Channels List you can watch any of these streaming sites from your HTPC, on your TV without restrictions from your web browser. Many of these streaming sites will work from a tablet or phone using a web browser.

Roku has no web browser, and even though Android does, it is still restricted because some movie streaming sites require Adobe Flash which is not installed on Android or iOS devices from the factory. Although it can be installed in a round about way, it is still clunky and won't work as well on these devices as it does on a more powerful HTPC.

Most Powerful Media Streamer on The Planet

While modern media streamers like the Nvidia Shield and Roku Ultra are incredibly powerful compared to what was available just a few years ago. A computer can be built with much higher specs and customized with much more memory and file storage.

Why and HTPC may be the Ultimate Media Streamer

Modern HTPCs are no longer the obnoxious large clunky towers of yesterday with loud spinning fans and clicking hard drives. Now you can get an HTPC that is not much larger than your Roku, or Android TV box. Some no longer contain fans, have silent solid state drives along with powerful processors and graphic cards that shred through games and 4K movies with ease.

HTPCs Are More Future Proof and Feature a Longer Upgrade Cycle

If you buy a low cost Roku or Android Box, chances are you will be upgrading it with a newer model every few years. Technology advances quickly and in the case of Roku all but their newer boxes can take advantage of live streaming TV channels.

Pretty much every Android TV box manufacture requires that you purchase a new Android TV box when a new Android software version update comes out. They typically never update their boxes with a completely new OS version updates so you are stuck with a version that may not have the latest security patches or features unless you upgrade to a newer box.

The only exception is the Nvidia Shield. It has hardware that is powerful enough so even their older model was upgraded to an entirely new Android operating system version.

HTPC's Are More Durable, Run Cooler and Are Built to Last Longer

Since an HTPC is really a computer, they are built a lot more durable than a less expensive Android TV Boxes or Roku media streamers. Internally they tend to have more space for individual parts and overall provide better cooling for longer term reliability.

An HTPC can last for many years. You will have replaced several Roku players or Android TV boxes before you would ever think about replacing your HTPC for lack of performance.

Bypass Geo Blocks, Block and Watch Free Porn with An HTPC

Unlike media streamers like Roku which require you to use your Router and a VPN to bypass Geo-Blocks to watch Free content that may be blocked outside the USA. An HTPC lets you do it locally right on the device itself.

The downside of changing your location it at your Router is every mobile, media streamer or other devices you use on your network will also be affected. This could mean you may then be blocked from sites with in the USA which you normally use unless your change your Router settings back.

By only changing the location on your HTPC, you can continue to use the rest of your devices as you normally would.

Even though you can Watch Free Porn on Roku, and also Android. The Internet is full of free porn and all of it can be watched on your TV with an HTPC.

Downside to an HTPC

As great as an HTPC sounds they are not for everyone. They do have some limitations which may make many streamers lean more towards a Roku or Android TV streamer.

 - HTPC is Harder to Setup and Maintain

With an HTPC you will need to load and install your own software onto an HTPC. This means installing and updating drivers, codecs, apps and anti-virus software.

It's not really that bad, once everything is setup you rarely need to touch it except for updates. Mac and Linux is a less work as they don't require nearly the amount of updates as Windows.

Still, this is where both  an Android TV Box or Roku shines. They are pretty much hands off. All updates are done by the manufacturer and you rarely need to worry about what is happening under the hood. Unless of course a recent software update messes up your box which has been known to happen.

 - HTPC Can Cost A Lot More than a Roku or Android TV Box

Depending on which specs you choose, owning an HTPC can cost more than an Android TV Box or Roku media streamer. The Intel Minix Neo can be one of the least expensive.

If you choose to build your own depending on which parts you choose, the price can really begin to add up.

Android TV boxes can't compete with an HTPC
EVANPO T95Z S912 Octa Core Android TV Box

Best HTPC Software

To get your HTPC to run you will need to choose between Windows, Linux and Mac OS. If you only plan on running Plex or Kodi on your HTPC any of these operating systems will work fine. Linux will use the least resources so it may be best for a Kodi only install. 

Android Emulators

Mac OS X and Windows and Linux all have emulators if you plan on running Android apps on your HTPC.

There is good software available that emulates the Android OS on your HTPC. From inside the emulator software, you can run your favorite Android TV apps without actually needing to own an Android device.

Bluestacks - is the best Android emulator for both Mac and Windows
Genymotion – is one of the Best Android emulators for Linux

Media Player Software

Kodi  - is the most popular software ever made for TV streaming due to the wide selection and availability of add-ons and repos.

Plex - is also popular and works well for media streaming and playing your own library of content. Many people choose to use Plex for unsupported apps though.

Popular HTPC Models

Intel NUC
Best Media Streamer

Buying a pre-assembled HTPC can save you time and aggravation.

Three Popular Options for a great out of the box HTPC 

1. Mac Mini which can be ordered with an i5 to i7 Intel CPU
2. Intel NUC - can come with 7th Generation Intel Core i5 and Up an i7 with up to 32Gb memory.
3. MINIX NEO Z83-4 Fan-less and capable of 4K, this HTPC comes loaded with Windows 10.

Build Your Own HTPC

Building your own HTPC can be rewarding and also challenging. You can choose from many different components, and assemble a nice smaller computer yourself. This is usually the most difficult way to go because you need to research the best components, download drivers and patches and put everything together.

If you have the patience and skill, this is really not a bad way to go. You may not save a lot of money but you can choose every single component that goes inside your HTPC.  This let's you spec out higher quality parts, and put together a really nice box that will last for many years. 

Android TV Box or Roku? HTPC beats them both


While an HTPC offers significant benefits, it may not be for everyone. If you want a device that is super simple and are content to stream a large majority of your content from Amazon, Netflix or Hulu. Get a Roku They still offer one of the nicest and easiest to use software.

Plus Roku gives you full access to Thousands of Roku Channels with many that are free so you will always find something good to watch.

If you want to step out of the walled garden a bit further, an Android TV box should be higher up on your list. They currently give you more freedom to use many great streaming TV Android Apps or even Kodi Add-on.

For the ultimate media streamer, a high performance HTPC is the best most adaptable media streaming device you can get. It is the most powerful, completely unrestricted and offers the longest life span. An HTPC can do a lot of things and Android TV Box or Roku can't. Every commercial streaming TV service will work on a computer so an HTPC really is the ultimate media streamer.

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