Google TV vs Apple TV vs Boxee vs YouView

There is little doubt that a fully realised internet TV experience could revolutionise the average sitting room, but is that available yet? And if it is, which one is right for you? To find out, we've examined the myriad services already here or coming soon. Here's an explanation of what's on offer from the top web TV contenders.

Google TV

Google tv

According to the company's official blurb, "Google TV will enable you to go from hundreds of channels to millions of channels by bringing the web to your TV, and will help you find what you want to watch. Now you can get what you want, when you want it, on the best screen in your house."

Google TV puts the company's search algorithms to work to help you find what you want to watch based on what you've recorded, the traditional TV channels, catch-up services, web-streaming services such as YouTube and premium sport and film-streaming sites. It adds choices from the whole internet to your TV guide.

Not only does Google TV let you find content and display it in 1080p full HD, it enables you to multitask using screen-within-screen technology, so you could browse Twitter while the match plays in the corner of the screen. You could carry on watching a film while using the overlaid transparent Google search to find out who that actress is and where you've seen her before.

From the comfort of your sofa, you would no longer have to drag out your laptop or phone to check the cricket scores – it would all be there in one central device.

So how will Google TV make money? That's easy: it provides an avenue for targeted advertising. If Google knows your viewing habits as well as your search habits, soon it will get a pretty complete picture of what products and services you're likely to be interested in, and serve you ads about them directly to the device many people spend the most time looking at.

This is attractive to advertisers too, because Google's AdSense reporting will tell them exactly how many people have viewed their ad, at what stage someone clicked through, and which programme or service they clicked through on. This is a major leap forward in TV advertising, where audience figures have been inaccurate at best.

Google TV will let advertisers target people in just one area, or people who have searched for a particular term, and they'll know that exactly the number of people specified will have been exposed to the advert.

AdSense will also offer TV advertisers instant feedback on which areas are best for them, enabling them to change where they place their ads mid-campaign. Never before have advertisers been offered such control, and it may well turn the advertising industry on its head – not to mention the fact that it would make Google rather a considerable sum of money.

So where's the catch? Well, sadly, it's only available in the US, and with a Google spokesperson telling us there is 'no timeline' for its appearance in the UK, this isn't one to hold your breath for.

However, Rishi Chandra, lead product manager for Google TV told TechRadar that "next year you should expect us to roll out in multiple countries," so it may be coming to our screens at about the same time as YouView.

Somewhat inevitably, there has been a few teething troubles, notably that some major broadcasters – including ABC, CBS and NBC – are currently refusing to let their more popular programmes be shown on the device. And the outlook doesn't look good – even more networks have signalled that they won't take part.


Search your TV, PC, phone and every corner of the web for media, and have it presented to you as a recognisable TV guide. All watchable media (depending on quality) can be displayed in full 1080p HD.

You can also pair your Android phone up with your TV and use it to swap content between the devices, as a remote control, or for voice search functionality. Picture services such as Flickr are supported to browse and upload your photos, along with music streaming services such as for audio.

You'll be able to browse the web and interrogate Facebook – all while still watching a TV show.


The lack of any planned UK support. Without the backing of major broadcasters, some of which have stronger ties to companies such as Apple, your Google TV won't be able to stream their content. It also doesn't come with internal storage for downloads.

Apple TV

Apple tv

Apple itself describes Apple TV as "an easy to use and fun way to wirelessly play all your favourite iTunes content from your Mac or PC on your widescreen TV, including movies, TV shows, music, photos and podcasts."

As you can see from the description, Apple views its product as an add-on for your existing setup – a peripheral device to enhance what you already do. Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs described Apple TV as a 'hobby'.

Despite this, Apple TV is now in its second generation, with the new, much smaller iteration unveiled in September 2010. At a mere 4 x 4in, you can hold the device in your hand. It's silent too, with no fan or internal hard drive.

This means you can't buy content and store it on the machine. Instead, it merely acts as a control device, gathering content from the internet, your Mac or PC, your iTunes installation, or your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, and then streams it to your TV. It can display HD content, but only at a maximum resolution of 720p.

Apple TV is an impressive pieceof kit for £99, so it isn't too surprising to learn that it sold 250,000 units in the first week of its launch. Not bad for a hobby.

So how does Apple intend to make money from Apple TV? Judging by the way the company is positioning the product, and by the price, the service seem designed to enhance your enjoyment of your other iOS products – it's not intended to be a main revenue stream by itself. Whatever will play on your iPhone will also play on Apple TV, and will appear there at the touch of a button.

It will also encourage more people to use the iTunes video service. In the US, Apple has partnered with on-demand video streaming service Netflix. If it's able to organise a similar partnership in the UK via a company such as Lovefilm (whose movie-streaming service is now available on the PlayStation 3), there's definitely plenty more money to be made next to the TV.

There is a further possible long-term strategy, although it's not one that's been confirmed by Apple so far. What if, one day in the future, the company added App Store functionality to the device, enabling third-party developers to provide their content for it?

The Apple TV device certainly has the processing power for it, and the inclusion of TV applications could transform Apple TV from something of a one-trick pony to a real creative powerhouse.


It's cheap (£99), quiet, very small, easy to install and energy efficient (it uses only a thrifty six watts of power). On top of that, the powerful A4 processor makes it very responsive, and may allow more app functionality in the future.

Any video you can watch on your iOS device (H.264 video) will play on your Apple TV using Apple AirPlay.


This is very much a companion product. There's no local storage fordownloaded files. It can't play Flash-based video and is only 720p, not 1080p Full HD. It's also tied to iTunes for content in the UK.