If you want to enjoy video streaming on your TV, there’s an abundance of smart TV options out there. At the same time, many smart TVs may not offer the kind of user experience you’re after. Or you may not be planning to spend too much on a new one. When that happens, streaming media players come to the rescue with impressive features and straightforward usage — all for a much lower price than smart TVs.
Among these media players, Apple TV and Roku devices are the leading options. Both options offer powerful features and a smooth user experience that make them a popular choice. The main difference is that the Apple TV models are much pricier, but they also offer seamless integration for diehard Apple fans.
In this post, we help you compare Roku vs. Apple TV, with a focus on the most high-end models from each range — the Roku Ultra and the Apple TV 4K. But since you might be interested in other models from these brands, we highlight all of them so you can make an informed decision.
Apple TV 4K vs. Roku Ultra features and specs
|Apple TV 4K||Roku Ultra|
|Dolby Vision support||Yes||Yes|
|Google Assistant compatible||No||Yes|
|Dimensions||3.9 X 3.9 X 1.4 inches||4.9 X 5.0 X 1.0 inches|
Apple TV vs. Roku models and cost
As you can see from the table above, there’s a stark contrast in cost even with the most high-end models of both types of streaming devices. The Apple TV 4K is currently the most high-end streaming device available in the market, with the 32 GB option costing $179 and the 62 GB version costing $199.
So even the smaller storage option for the Apple TV 4K will cost you almost twice the price of the Roku Ultra, which is available for $99.99. While Roku doesn’t specify how much storage the Ultra has, you do have a USB port for local playback. Older versions of this device came with a MicroSD slot for expandable storage, but this was eliminated in the current Ultra iteration.
When it comes to choices, Apple TV devices fall behind Roku as there’s only one other model — the Apple TV HD. This only comes in 32 GB and costs $149, which is still more expensive than the Roku Ultra. And as you can guess from the name, it doesn’t support 4K streaming.
On the other hand, Roku gives you six additional options besides the Roku Ultra. This includes a few retailer-exclusive models that are no longer available on the official Roku website. The most basic model is the Roku Express, which comes with HD streaming and a simple remote and costs just $29.99.
You can get a slight upgrade with the Roku Express+, which comes with voice search capabilities and HD streaming for $39.99. For the same price, you can also get the Roku Premiere, one of the most affordable 4K streaming devices. This option gives you brilliant picture quality with 4K and HDR (high dynamic range) streaming.
Next, you also have the Roku Streaming Stick, which costs $49.99 and comes with smooth HD streaming and impressive voice search functionalities. This device offers excellent portability due to its compact size, which makes it great for traveling. But this model recently went out of production, although some retailers still have it in stock.
Also for $49.99, you can get the Roku Streaming Stick+. This offers everything the regular Streaming Stick provides, plus a few upgrades. It comes with 4K and HDR streaming capabilities and long-range wireless for superior streaming quality.
And for those who want the same features as the Roku Ultra but at a lower price point, the Roku Ultra LT is an excellent option. At $79.99, this option costs slightly less than the Ultra. But it still gives you 4K and HDR streaming and powerful wireless. The only difference is it doesn’t have a USB port for local playback and it comes with a slightly less impressive voice remote.
You can read more about all the Roku models and their features in our detailed review of different Roku devices. This will help you figure out the main differences in features and pricing so you can make an informed decision and choose the right Roku model for your streaming needs.
Apple TV vs. Roku interface and personalization
Winner: Apple TV
When it comes to interface and user experience, both Apple TV and Roku devices stand apart from the competition with simplicity. Both devices offer a straightforward interface that’s easy to navigate and understand, even for novice users. Plus, personalization is a breeze, with each option allowing you to create a home screen that feels just right to you.
Apple TV gives you a clean, grid-based layout, highlighting a few apps in the top row. You have the option to customize this row with your favorite apps. If you select an app here, the background will show you a preview of its content so you can get a glimpse of what it offers. You can even switch between light and dark themes to create a different vibe.
Besides this, you can further personalize your experience by sorting apps into dedicated folders. For instance, you can create a folder for music apps. Or if you stream movies and shows regularly, you can also create an entertainment folder. You might even want to create a kids folder if you have apps your kids regularly use.
The Roku range of devices also offers a clutter-free interface users can easily navigate and understand from the get-go. The home screen prominently displays your apps in a grid-style layout. You can freely navigate between different sections on the left-hand side of the screen, which also houses tabs to access your feed, settings, and search.
As for personalization, Roku lets you rearrange the apps on your home screen to prioritize your favorites. The biggest highlight is the variety of themes. You can choose from an expansive selection of visual themes on the Roku Channel Store, which often includes seasonal designs as well.
While Roku doesn’t let you sort your apps into folders, it has a unique personalization feature in the form of “My Feed.” This feature makes it easy to create a personalized feed of your favorite TV shows and media personalities. WIth it, you’ll see updates about the latest episodes of shows you’re watching or any new projects your favorite actors and directors may be working on.
Apple TV vs. Roku streaming quality
Even when it comes to streaming quality, the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Ultra are on par. Both devices allow 4K and HDR streaming, so you can get brilliant picture quality with a compatible display. They also come with Dolby Vision support, which gives you even more vivid colors to further enhance your viewing experience.
Both devices also come with powerful wireless to support this high-quality streaming, with both devices having dual-band connectivity. They both come with Ethernet ports as well, so you can stream with a wired connection and enjoy uninterrupted playback.
As for the other models, the streaming quality varies across different options. But overall, Roku offers devices that support the same streaming quality at a much lower price point.
Apple TV vs. Roku compatibility
Both the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Ultra work with a wide range of TVs. The Apple TV 4K is compatible with HD and UHD (Ultra HD) TVs, and the Roku Ultra is compatible with HD TVs, 4K TVs, and 4K HDR TVs.
But keep in mind that you’ll need a TV that supports HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) to stream protected content. This mainly applies to the content on online streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services.
Apple TV vs. Roku remote
The Apple TV 4K comes with a Siri remote so you can seamlessly use voice commands to perform certain tasks or conduct a search on your Apple TV. However, it’s not compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant, and neither is the Apple TV HD model.
The Roku Ultra remote, on the other hand, works with both Alexa and Google Assistant. But it isn’t compatible with Siri, which might be something worth considering for avid Apple users. The same is true for most of the other Roku models.
The final cut
Based on what you can see, Apple TV and Roku are more or less comparable in almost every aspect. The high-end models offer the same streaming quality and wireless performance, and there isn’t much difference in the simplicity of the layout. The biggest difference is in pricing, with the Apple TV option costing almost twice as much as the Roku.
So overall, the Roku Ultra is the best option if you want a high-end streaming device without spending too much. The Apple TV 4K might still make sense if you’re a diehard Apple fan and want to enjoy the tvOS experience.