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Should You Buy New Apple TV or Roku 4

Out of all the questions I’ve received over the past month, the choice between the 4th generation Apple TV and the Roku 4 is the question asked most often. With a new generation of streaming devices on the market, most of the hype has surrounded the Roku 4 and 4th Generation Apple TV. Sure, there are other fine over the top (OTT) streaming devices out there like the Amazon Fire TV, but these are the two most people are talking about.

I wanted to give you a my experience with these devices as we try to determine who wins the battle of the New Apple TV vs. The Roku 4.

Device Comparison

Roku 4 Highlights

  • Supports 4K HD video standard
  • The Roku 4 is easier to setup than any other OTT streaming device I’ve tried
  • Roku voice search is amazing
  • The Roku Remote has a headphone jack for watching TV without disturbing others.  (This was much more useful than I expected)
  • The Roku app is awesome. It allows you to type with your smart device keyboard. Therefore, your remote  isn’t required for searching and configuring apps.
  • There is a button on top of the Roku 4 for finding your lost Roku Remote. When pressed your remote begins to chime.

For more in depth information on the Roku 4, please check out my Roku 4 Review. For a basic understanding of how Roku works and what it does, check out my beginners guide to the Roku box.

4th Generation Apple TV Highlights

  • The interface is beautiful. No one beats Apple at user interface design.
  • The touch remote is fantastic for pausing, fast forwarding and rewinding
  • Does a good job at doubling as a game console, but there seems to be a lack of decent games to pay at the moment
  • Apple TV now has Siri built in for voice search
  • Apple TV finally has an app store to add  streaming apps to the device

Roku vs. Apple TV

Let me start by saying, both of these devices do their job well and you can’t go wrong purchasing either one. Both have the hardware to deliver crisp video and fantastic response times. It’s really a photo finish for both devices when it comes to the core functionality of streaming video.

For those that want a more definitive answer we need to look at the little “extras” with these devices. I’ll go into that in the moment, but let me cut the chase. Most will be happier with the Roku 4, and it’s due to the little things like the remote finder button. This little button is life changing if you have kids.

Readers of Grounded Reason know my family have been Apple TV users since we initially cut the cord. The 3rd gen Apple TV remote is so small I wrote a post specifically on what to do if you lost your Apple TV remote. Having two young children in the house makes this quite a common occurrence. That little button on top of the Roku 4 has saved us a lot of time in our day.

Another reason I recommend going with the Roku 4 over the Apple TV is 4K video support.  While this technology is still new, once 4K video is more widely available the Roku 4 will still be a capable device when others are buying the 5th generation Apple TV.

Finally one of the biggest reasons to go with the Roku 4 is app selection. While Apple TV has finally opened up it’s device up to app developers, there still seems to be a lack of channels when compared to Roku.  When you look at the 1700 plus channels on Roku, the Apple TV  selection seems paltry by comparison.

Apple TV delivers the major players like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Showtime, but it is lacking when it comes to the wide array of niche channels. Furthermore, Apple TV lacks the Amazon Prime Instant Video channels. So, if you want to watch Amazon Prime you will need to Airplay it from your iPhone or iPad.

My family have been Apple TV users since we initially cut the cord. This was mainly due to my wife and I being heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem with us both owning iPhones and having an iPad. If you are too, you may want got the Apple TV route. However, my wife and I love our Apple devices, and we are now fully committed to the Roku 4.

For more information on purchasing a Roku 4 or getting rid of cable entirely, check out my guide on how to watch TV without cable.

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Categories: Guides
Dennis Restauro :Dennis is the founder of Grounded Reason. He also hosts the Grounded Reason Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: Follow Dennis on Twitter

View Comments (11)

  • I've been reading a number of your reviews - thank you for making them easy to understand! I am not much of a TV watcher - I mostly watch local news and PBS, with the only real "cable" channel I watch being HGTV. I am also an iPhone/iPad/iTunes user. One thing I really want to be able to do is stream my iTunes library thru my home theater system (i.e. thru the TV). For this reason, I was going to go with a Mohu Leaf + Apple TV + a Tablo OTA DVR. I think (?) I can watch HGTV through the HGTV Watch app on my iOS device and stream to the TV via Airplay. So my question is: can I do the above with the Roku 4? It seems to be edging out the Apple TV in your opinion and in others', but since my primary concern is music (secondary being HGTV) and I don't have small kids, wondering if sticking with the Apple might be a little more seamless and intuitive for a first-time non-techy cable cutter. Thanks!

    • In your case I would stick with Apple. It will be more user friendly for you. The benefit of a Roku is the 1000+ niche channels. Since you're not interested in seeking those out, it looks like the Apple TV would be perfect for you.

  • My one year old MagnivoxT V with DVD player just died. I was using an old Roku and a new ungrounded exterior antenna. There were storms the day after it died. Was the ROKU or the lack of ungrounded antenna possibility for its death? Could a handy man do the grounding with a rebar rod or do I need an electrician.

    • A good handyman should have no issue doing that. However, an electrician will ensure it's done properly.

  • Hi. I have a tv in the den and one in the bedroom. Cut the cord on my Uverse, kept internet. Have apple tv in den. Nothing in bedroom. Both TVs are samsung smart. Do I need a second device to access my smart tv in the bedroom? If so, can I get a roku for the den and use my old apple tv in the bedroom? I have also ordered an HD antennae which should arrive tomorrow.

    • Yes. The streaming devices don't need to communicate with each other. They just need internet access to communicate with various streaming services.

  • Hello! Thank you for helping with this. It's crazy how difficult researching this is.
    I do not have a smart tv.
    I do have the Internet.
    I want:
    Live Streaming access to: ABC, ESPN, the Big10 Network, and Fox
    Delayed or Live Stream access to: AMC, History, Nick Jr., Disney Jr., and Amazon Prime video (already subscribed).
    I would also like to be able to use the device to wirelessly transmit to Bluetooth speakers, although that's not a necessity.
    Questions: what streaming device, and corresponding apps/subscriptions should I get? And what speed internet for the prior answer?
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Lauren, It looks like Playstation Vue will cover what you are looking for. For live ABC and Fox I'd grab a TV Antenna if you are outside one of the markets Vue streams live. As for which device to purchase for Vue; If you don't have a PlayStation then I'd go with either Roku or Amazon Fire TV. It's a bit of a coin flip as to which is better Roku has better playback performance but Fire TV has better browsing and guide. Base speed I'd get is 10Mbps, but 25Mbps is optimal.