I use an Apple TV at home and am pretty happy with it. But last year Avisi held one of their techdays about the Raspberry Pi. One of our colleagues had one at home and showed us some of its capabilities. I have to admit my interest was piqued.
I had the opportunity to bring one home for the christmas vacation and it was the perfect opportunity to discover the device and play around with it a bit…
You can configure a lot in Xbmc. I won’t explain everything in detail, but basically what I did was add my NAS as a source folder and then configured the IMDB scraper to show movie information.
My movies, along with their IMDB information were shown perfectly. Files of different types (Avi, MKV, MP4, etc.) with external subs worked right away, without any issue. I did have one problem with an ISO file though. The movie rendering itself was very decent. Fast forward works but the movie did have to recover for a few seconds.
I configured my TV remote to work with the Raspberry Pi and that worked great.
You can also show your pictures through the device. Small pictures are no problem but when I wanted to show larger pictures (from 1 to 2 MB) the device crashed. So that was a bit of a disapointment.
Another thing is if you use the TV to power the Raspberry Pi (through the USB port) like I did, then it is rather annoying that when you turn the TV on, it switches automatically to the Raspberry Pi. If you switch back to TV source, the Raspberry Pi will once more switch it back. That’s because the source switch is triggered by the console starting up first and again when the userinterface of Xbmc is started.
Apple TV 3
My Apple TV shows pictures perfectly without any problem, also with Fotostream it just works great which is a big plus for me!
Buffering of movies is better here than on the Raspberry Pi too. But playing movies from a Nas is certainly a lot more complicated… I use a Western Digital Nas and they offer an Ipad app for it (WD 2 Go) and it works. However all movies must be in a format the iPad (Apple) can handle. So there is some extra work to do (with HandBrake for example) to convert all the movies to Mp4, an Apple friendly format.
Unfortunately, I also miss out on all the IMDB information.
With a MacBook you can use AirVideo Server to stream all your movies without converting them for the iPad. With the AirVideo App on the iPad you can stream them to the Apple TV. I tried this a couple of times and it worked just fine.
So for movie files the Raspberry Pi is better suited for now, but if a jailbreak was available for the Apple TV, then I guess I would still prefer the Apple TV.
If you don’t have a media player at home however and you just want to use it for movies, I think the Raspberry Pi is a great choice. It’s a very small device, it makes no noise and it’s very affordable.