Roku vs. Apple TV: Which is best for your needs?

Comparison of Roku and Apple TV: Channels\Apps | Features | Costs | User interface | Ease of Installation | and more…
roku vs. apple tv
Published: 31st Jul 2020
Author Image

By Rohan Tandon

Rohan is a passionate tech journalist with a degree in English literature. He's worked as a commissi Read More..

1. Quick Roku vs. Apple TV Comparison

2. Overview of Roku Devices

3. Overview of Apple TV Devices

4. Comparison of Roku & Apple TV Devices

5. Verdict: Roku or Apple TV?

6. FAQs

Quick Roku vs. Apple TV Comparison

Roku

Apple TV

Installation

HDMI Port + Power Outlet

HDMI Port + Power Outlet

Ultra HD

HDR

HDR10

Dolby Vision

Dolby Atmos Audio

Search

Manual + Voice

Manual + Voice

Custom Menu & Feed

Guest Mode

x

Multiple Accounts

x

Screen Mirroring

Through App

Only for iPhone

Single Sign-On

x

Remote Microphone

Remote Shortcuts

X

Remote Finder

X

Voice Control

Remote + Smartphone App + Amazon Alexa + Google Home

Remote + iPhone Siri + HomePod

Private Listening

Free Headphones

x

Smartphone App for Android

x

Smartphone App for iOS

Cost

£29.99/ £39.99/ £49.99/ £79.99

$149/ $179/ $199

Apple TV and Roku are two of the most popular names in the streaming device industry. While Roku prides itself on being an approachable and budget-friendly streaming device, Apple TV prides itself on exclusivity.

In most cases, when I review or compare streaming devices, I never have to factor the cost since most streaming devices are similarly priced. However, that’s far from the case here! Like most Apple devices, Apple TV costs twice as much as any other streaming device on the market.

Apple TV may be one of the best and most powerful streaming devices available. But is it worth paying twice as much as you would for Roku? In this article, we compare Roku and Apple TV devices to determine which one you should purchase.


What is Roku? Overview of Roku Devices

When it comes to streaming devices, Roku represents choice, affordability, and accessibility. Roku offers a wide range of options that are affordable to most people. In fact, Roku Ultra and Streaming Stick+ are the most affordable means of accessing 4K-compatible streaming devices. Thanks to this flexibility, Roku has almost 40 million users in the United States, as of early 2020.

Roku can achieve such wide appeal because of its simplicity of design and abundance of access. Roku doesn’t have a paid subscription-based streaming service, which makes it unbiased. It doesn’t exclude any popular streaming platform as a competitor or try to push its own content to the user. Furthermore, Roku also has a free app called The Roku Channel for those who want to access ad-driven content without paying.

Since its inception, there have been over eight generations of Roku devices, but there are currently four active Roku devices — Roku Express, Roku Premiere, Roku Streaming Stick+, and Roku Ultra.

Roku Express

roku express

Roku Express is the entry-level streaming device without 4K HDR content or advanced voice control and smart features on the remote control. You get a maximum of 1080p playback on this device.

Roku Premiere

roku premiere

Roku Premiere is the same as Express in all respects except one — the video quality. Roku Premiere provides 4K Ultra HD content and HDR support, making it one of the sharpest and clearest video streaming devices.

Roku Streaming Stick+

roku streaming stick+

Roku Streaming Stick+ has Ultra HD and HDR support, but it also comes with an advanced remote equipped with voice control and TV controls.

Roku Ultra

roku ultra

Roku Ultra is the latest and most advanced Roku device. In addition to 4K HDR support, it has an even more advanced remote, complete with customizable shortcut buttons, built-in remote finder, and complementary JBL headphones for private listening.

Pros & Cons of Roku Devices

Pros

  • Extremely affordable.
  • Easy installation.
  • Equally compatible with iOS and Android devices.
  • The smartphone app works as a second remote control.
  • The remote control doubles as a TV remote.
  • Brilliant content library.
  • The Roku Channel offers free content.
  • Compatible with Alexa and Google Home.

Cons

  • Looks unattractive.
  • The Roku OS has advertisements.
  • Not compatible with Siri or HomePod.
  • The most advanced Roku devices have a maximum of HDR10 support.
  • Can’t create multiple accounts.
  • Screen mirroring may be cumbersome.
  • No accessibility features.

 

What is Apple TV? Overview of Apple TV Devices

Apple TV is currently the most elite, premium, and minimalist streaming device on the market. Basically, Apple TV has all the same markers as most other Apple products — its exclusivity, quality, minimalist aesthetic, and integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem.

If you have several other Apple devices, you’ll surely find great utility for Apple TV. In addition to being sleek and attractive, Apple TV also has an incredibly beautiful yet functional remote control. Apple TV also pairs beautifully with an iPhone or MacBook, allowing you to connect your iCloud, Apple Music, and iCloud photos, access AirDrop, and more.

Apple TV currently has three devices on the market, though there’s little to set them apart. The three Apple TV devices are Apple TV HD, Apple TV 4K 32GB, and Apple TV 4K 64GB.

Apple TV HD

apple tv hd

Apple TV HD is the entry-level Apple TV streaming device, even though it costs more than most high-end streaming devices. Apple TV HD is only capable of 1080p Full HD videos.

Apple TV 4K 32GB

Apple TV 4K 32GB

Apple TV 4K 32GB is the high-end Apple TV streaming device, even though it only differs from Apple TV HD in one crucial regard — the video quality. Apple TV 4K has Ultra HD 4K and HDR Dolby Vision support. It has an internal storage of 32GB.

Apple TV 4K 64GB

Apple TV 4K 64GB

Apple TV 4K 64GB is the same as the aforementioned Apple TV 4K 32GB — it supports Ultra HD 4K and HDR Dolby Vision. However, this Apple TV device has an internal storage of 64GB rather than 32GB.

Pros & Cons of Apple TV Devices

Pros

  • The most attractive streaming devices available.
  • Easy installation.
  • Supports HDR Dolby Vision.
  • Incredible interactivity with other iOS devices.
  • Brilliant user interface.
  • Can create multiple accounts.
  • Effortless mirroring with iPhones.
  • Accessibility features for those with visual, physical, literary, or hearing impairments.
  • iPhone works as a second remote without apps.
  • Compatible with Siri and HomePod.
  • Ideal for Apple users.

Cons

  • Twice or three times as expensive as most streaming devices.
  • Not compatible with Alexa or Google Home.
  • Terrible interactivity with Android phones.
  • No smartphone app for Android devices.
  • Doesn’t promote free channels.
  • The Apple TV, Apple TV+, and Apple TV app ecosystem is a bit confusing.
  • The Siri remote control could be more functional.

Comparison of Roku and Apple TV Devices

Now, let’s compare Roku streaming devices against Apple TV streaming devices to see how they stack up. In this section, I’ll compare them across several verticals, including their general design, performance, installation, content quality, interface, smart features, and more.

Roku vs. Apple TV Design

Roku

  • Roku Device: Most Roku streaming devices are a small black box that sits on your TV stand. Roku Streaming Stick+, however, is a USB-shaped streaming device that connects directly to the HDMI port, staying out of sight.
  • Roku Remote Control: The Roku remote controls look pretty dated and old-fashioned, resembling the clunky remotes we had for TVs over a decade ago. The buttons are large and stand out in different colors. The remote is also quite thick and large.
  • Roku OS: The Roku OS bears a similar aesthetic sensibility as the remote control and Roku devices — functionality over aesthetics. The interface is simple, with light-weight menus and some advertisements. The creators have clearly not put much thought into the design.

Apple TV

  • Apple TV Device: Apple TV is a small black box that sits next to your TV. It has a glossy plastic finish around the sides and a matte black finish on top. The Apple TV logo is inscribed on top, with the glossy black letters standing out against the matte black body. Like all Apple TV devices, it’s extremely sleek and minimalist.
  • Apple TV Remote Control: The Apple TV remote control is just as sleek and minimalist as the Apple TV box. It’s a small and incredibly sleek remote control with just a few essential buttons. The bottom half is glossy black, while the upper half is a matte black trackpad.
  • Apple TV OS: Apple TV’s operating system, tvOS, is just as sleek and attractive as the rest of the Apple ecosystem. It’s a sleek, minimalist, and incredibly stylish user interface that also manages to be highly functional. Furthermore, there are no pesky ads.

Winner (Design): Apple TV

When it comes to aesthetics and visual effects, nothing can beat Apple.

Apple TV is one of the most attractive and visually stunning streaming devices available. Even the Apple TV remote control is a thing of beauty. While most people try to hide their streaming devices, the Apple TV device deserves to stand in plain sight.

Apple TV’s operating system is also far more attractive than the Roku operating system. In some cases, however, Roku’s inferior design may also lead to functional benefits — like the shortcut keys on the remote control.

However, we’ll address functionality when comparing other aspects of the Roku and Apple TV devices specifically.

Roku vs. Apple TV Installation

Roku

Roku has an incredibly easy and straightforward installation and setup process.

You have to connect the Roku device to your TV’s HDMI port and a power outlet. If your TV’s USB port has at least five volts of power, you can connect the Roku device to your TV’s USB port.

If not, you’ll have to use the included wall adapter and USB extension cable to connect it to a wall outlet. Connecting the Roku device to an external outlet will result in a smoother interface.

The Roku device also includes an ethernet port for those who want to connect directly to a router. Roku Ultra also includes a microSD slot, through which you can access content from microSD cards.

After connecting Roku to your TV, you must connect your TV to the internet and start the installation process. Setting up your Roku account is simple. You have to follow the on-screen prompts, create your Roku account, and select the necessary applications.

Apple TV

Apple TV also has a straightforward installation process.

The Apple device needs to be connected to your TV’s HDMI port and a separate power outlet. The Apple TV device also includes an ethernet port if you want to boost your internet speed by connecting directly to a router.

After connecting the Apple TV device, you can set it up using the remote control. Connect your TV to the WiFi and follow the on-screen prompts to configure your Apple TV. You’ll have to either create a new account or sign in to your existing Apple account.

Setting up the Apple TV is easiest for iPhone users. If you have an iPhone, you can simply place your phone next to Apple TV. It will automatically collect your iPhone’s Apple ID and WiFi information. As such, you won’t have to manually configure the Apple TV. Just tap your iPhone, that’s all.

Finally, you can download the apps you want and start watching.

Winner (Installation): Apple TV

Both Roku and Apple TV have the same installation process, and both of them are incredibly easy.

Roku maybe a little more convenient while trying to establish a connection because it can connect to your TV’s USB port while Apple TV needs an external power supply.

However, that minor convenience is trumped over by Apple’s insane interactivity with other Apple devices. If you’re an iPhone user, you simply have to tap the Apple TV to transfer all your account and WiFi details, making the installation process so much easier.

As such, the installation and setup process for Apple TV is a lot simpler for iPhone users. For everyone else, both devices are equally convenient and easy.

Roku vs. Apple TV Content Quality

Roku

  • HD: Roku Express supports HD content up to 1080p. Roku Premiere, Streaming Stick+, and Ultra support Ultra HD 4K content. However, you’ll need a 4K-compatible TV to access 4K resolution.
  • HDR: Roku Premiere, Streaming Stick+, and Ultra also include HDR support. However, the Roku devices only go as far as HDR10 support. You will need HDR-compatible TV to access HDR content.
  • Audio: Roku includes Dolby Atmos audio support, though playback will depend on the use of Dolby Atmos-compatible speakers.

Apple TV

  • HD: Apple TV HD supports HD content up to 1080p. Apple TV 4K supports Ultra HD 4K content. However, you’ll need a 4K-compatible TV to access 4K resolution.
  • HDR: Apple TV 4K includes HDR support, including HEVC Dolby Vision and HDR10. However, you’ll need a Dolby Vision-compatible TV to access, such as advanced visual output. Your TV will also need an HDCP port for 4K content.
  • Audio: All Apple TV devices include Dolby Atmos audio support, though playback will depend on the use of Dolby Atmos-compatible speakers.

apple tv content quality 4k hdr dolby vision

Winner (Content Quality): Apple TV

When it comes to audio output, all Roku and Apple TV devices are equally impressive. All of them support Dolby Atmos, which is the gold standard in audio output, providing 360-degree audio that scans around the room for a truly immersive experience.

However, Apple TV comes ahead of Roku when it comes to HDR playback.

The advanced Roku devices max out at Ultra HD 4K playback with HDR10 support. However, Apple TV 4K goes as far as Ultra HD 4K playback with Dolby Vision support.

HDR10 supports 4,000 nits peak brightness, with a target of 1,000 nits, and 10-bit color depth. Dolby Vision, in comparison, supports 10,000 nits peak brightness, with a target of 4,000 nits, and 12-bit color depth.

As such, Dolby Vision is far superior to HDR10. The content produced by Dolby Vision is more realistic, has greater contrasts, and generally looks more stunning. The presence of Dolby Vision support effectively future-proofs Apple TV.

It is worth noting that you’ll be hard-pressed to find Dolby Vision content right now. In order to access Dolby Vision content, you need Apple TV 4K, a Dolby Vision-compatible TV, Dolby Vision-compatible streaming platform, and 4K HDR Dolby Vision content.

As of now, you won’t find a lot of content capable of such visuals. However, once Dolby Vision becomes the norm — which will happen eventually — you won’t have to upgrade your Apple TV 4K.

Roku vs. Apple TV Interface (Ease of Use)

Roku

OS Interface

Roku has a clean and minimalistic interface, but it’s not very attractive. You can modify the theme of the interface, but all of the available themes look similarly dated like the interface belongs to a previous decade.

The menus are light-weight, however, which results in a fairly smooth user experience. Since Roku doesn’t have a subscription-based streaming platform, it doesn’t push any specific platform at you. As such, you can optimize and customize the menu icons based on what you want.

The biggest issue with the Roku interface is the presence of an advertisement in the right corner of the screen. Roku reportedly makes more money from advertisements than from device sales, so it makes sense why they’d have the advertisement. But there’s no way to disable the advertisement, and it can get a little distracting.

Automatic Login

Roku doesn’t have an automatic account login feature built into its interface. As such, it relies on individual streaming platforms to keep you logged in. Platforms like Hulu, Sling, Netflix, and many others have their own automatic account link features, which automatically log you into all the apps. However, that’s only applicable for some apps.

Roku Feed

The Roku Feed is fairly customizable, according to your needs. The Roku Feed also allows you to follow the content you want — though unfollowing the content may be a pain. After you follow a content, actor, director, or show, you get updates whenever a new entry is made within that category. However, the Roku Feed doesn’t allow you to see other episodes from that show in the primary feed, nor does it allow you to mark episodes as played.

Up Next

Roku also has an Up Next list. Unlike the Roku Feed, you don’t have to manually add content for the Up Next section. Instead, new content automatically gets updated based on your current viewing pattern, i.e., new episodes of ongoing shows automatically come up in this list. However, the Up Next list isn’t very consistent in its results.

Guest Mode

Roku doesn’t allow you to create multiple accounts on the same device. As such, if you’re in a large household, the other members of your home may mess up your Up Next list.

You can, however, use the Guest Mode to give specific individuals access to the Roku for a specific period. Any guests access a new Roku window that they can customize without affecting your existing interface or Roku Feed.

Guest Mode is ideal for those who run Airbnb’s, hotels, hostels, and those who host guests frequently.

roku interface

Apple TV

OS Interface

Apple TV has the fastest and most powerful interface among all the streaming devices because it uses a 64-bit A10X Fusion Chip, i.e., the same chip Apple uses for the iPad Pro. As such, the interface is incredibly fast and smooth, much more so than all other devices.

As mentioned earlier, Apple TV’s OS is also incredibly sleek and attractive, with no advertisements. The buttons are attractive, and every part of the interface works with every other part. Apple TV also has brilliant screensavers made of four-minute drone shots of cities and regions from across the globe. These shots are so stunning that users often spend several minutes just watching the screensaver.

The top of the menu features large banners with Apple TV+ content, followed by menu items for your installed apps and content from other platforms. In the tvOS 13 update, Apple sought inspiration from Netflix’s auto-play menus to introduce the auto-play feature in its banners. As such, when you hover over the banner menu items, the trailer starts playing automatically. However, users weren’t happy with that feature, and there were several complaints. In response, Apple released the tvOS 13.3 update, introducing an option to disable the auto-play feature.

Up Next

Apple TV also includes an Up Next feature that includes a queue of the next episodes from all the shows you’re currently watching across all streaming platforms. As such, when new episodes come out, they are automatically added to your Up Next list. When you select an episode from the queue, the episode’s host streaming platform opens up, allowing you to view the content. This allows you to keep tabs on all your followed content across all streaming platforms.

Single Sign-On

Entering emails and passwords repeatedly can be frustrating. However, Apple TV has a “Single Sign-On” feature that saves all your account credentials, allowing you to remain signed into all your channels and apps. This means that you never have to log into a streaming device or platform again.

Multiple Accounts

Apple TV also understands that there may be several people in a household following the same shows at different stages. The presence of multiple users threatens to ruin the Up Next list. However, Apple TV allows you to create multiple accounts for different members of your household, ensuring that your recommendations and Up Next list aren’t disturbed.

Ecosystem Interactivity

Where Apple TV truly shines, though, is in its interactivity with the rest of the Apple ecosystem. If you know anything about Apple, you’ll know how well their devices interact with each other. Apple TV takes that ecosystem integration to a whole new level here.

We previously discussed how this comes into play during the setup itself. After connecting the Apple TV, you have to simply tap your iPhone to the Apple TV to transfer all your account and WiFi credentials, setting up the device without any effort. Apple TV can also pull passwords from all your iOS and Apple devices if they’re saved in the iCloud Keychain.

apple tv user interface tvOS

Winner (Interface): Apple TV

Apple TV clearly has a superior interface, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.

Aesthetically speaking, Apple TV’s interface looks modern, sleek, and attractive, while Roku’s interface looks dated. Apple TV’s menu doesn’t include any advertisements, but Roku’s interface always includes an ad, personalized according to your data.

In terms of performance, Apple TV’s OS is far more powerful than Roku’s OS because Apple TV has a more powerful processor. As such, you can navigate between your content and features on Apple TV a lot smoother than on Roku. Having said that, most people don’t even realize Roku isn’t completely smooth until they use Apple TV.

In terms of functionality, Apple TV has more and better features than Roku. Both Apple TV and Roku have features for Up Next. However, Apple TV’s Up Next section is easier to manage and more consistent. Apple TV also has a single sign-in feature, while Roku doesn’t have any such feature.

Apple TV allows you to create multiple accounts for different members, while Roku doesn’t allow the creation of multiple accounts (though you can create a temporary guest account).

Furthermore, if you’re an Apple user in general, you also benefit from Apple TV’s awesome interactivity with all your other devices. All things considered, Apple TV is superior in every aspect of its interface.

Roku vs. Apple TV Remote Control

Roku

Roku provides a fairly old-fashioned remote control with clunky and large buttons. The remote controls are functional, but large and ugly.

Initially, the Roku remotes only had basic buttons like volume, next, play/pause, on/off, etc. However, all current Roku remote controls also pair with your TV, serving as a TV remote control. While you can’t access all of your TV’s complex functions, you can do simple things like change volume or turn the TV on/off. As such, you don’t need to work with two separate remote controls.

The Roku remote control also features a microphone button. When you tap and hold the microphone button, you can use voice commands to navigate around Roku’s interface.

Roku remote controls also feature some shortcut buttons. These shortcut buttons allow you to execute a complex string of functions with a single button. By default, the Roku remote controls come with four shortcut buttons for Netflix, Hulu, ESPN+, and Sling. However, Roku Ultra also includes two customizable shortcut buttons that you can program to do whatever you want. As such, the shortcut buttons allow you to accomplish your common goals quickly.

Roku Ultra’s remote control also features a remote finder. All of us lose our remote controls sometimes, which can often be pretty annoying. However, when you lose Roku Ultra’s remote control, you can simply press a button on the Roku device and the remote control will start beeping.

The latest Roku remote controls also include a microphone jack with which you can access private listening. You can insert headphones into the jack to listen to your TV’s content privately, so you don’t disturb others. Roku Ultra also provides complementary JBL headphones.

Apple TV

Apple TV has an incredibly sleek and minimalistic Siri remote control. Unlike most remote controls, the Apple TV remote isn’t made of plastic but rather glass and aluminum. As such, it looks and feels like a premium product.

The Apple TV remote is also extremely minimalistic, featuring only a few buttons. Instead of a directional keypad, the Siri remote control has a touchpad. As such, you can swipe your fingers around to control the interface. However, there have been complaints that the touchpad isn’t very interactive, and that it either moves too fast or not fast enough.

Even though Apple TV’s remote is incredibly sleek and stylish, that may be a drawback in a functional sense. The Siri remote is extremely small and doesn’t fill the palm of your hands, which increases the likelihood of it slipping out of your grip. Because of this, a few companies have started designing remote cases that increase the remote’s thickness.

The Siri remote is Bluetooth-based instead of the traditional IR sensors. Bluetooth remote controls can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Since it’s a Bluetooth remote, you can control your TV from another room, as long as you’re within range. However, you have to charge the remote around once a month using the included lightning cable.

The Siri remote control includes a microphone button that allows you to control Apple TV through voice commands. However, it doesn’t include any shortcut keys because aesthetics are prized over functionality in this case. Furthermore, the Siri remote control doesn’t pair with your TV, and it can’t be used to turn your TV on/off.

apple tv siri remote

Winner (Remote Control): Roku

We are familiar with Apple’s tendency to favor aesthetics and consistency over all else. That’s a great feature in most cases, and it is usually balanced with functionality. However, the Apple TV remote control is a missed shot.

Roku may have an ugly remote control, but it does everything your remote should do, and then some. It allows you to set intelligent shortcuts, access private listening, and perform all other remote control functions. It also serves as a substitute for your TV remote.

The Apple TV remote control may be incredibly sleek and attractive, but it doesn’t have great functionality. There are no shortcut keys, and the touchpad isn’t very responsive. Furthermore, you can’t control your TV with your Siri remote.

You may love that the Siri remote has Bluetooth controls rather than IR sensors. But that also means you have to regularly charge your remote control, which can be a pain.

Roku vs. Apple TV Smartphone Apps & Control

Roku

The Roku smartphone app is basically a second remote control with greater controls and functionality. The Roku app easily connects to your device, allowing you to access all the basic remote functions, such as volume, channel surfing, etc. It comes with a trackpad, allowing you to scroll through the menus.

The Roku app also has a search tool. If you don’t want to use the TV’s keypad, you can use the smartphone app to search for content using your phone’s keypad. You can also use the Roku app for private listening by connecting your headphones to your phone, either through the headphone jack or by Bluetooth.

The Roku app’s most useful feature, however, is mirroring. Roku allows you to mirror your phone’s screen to your TV, including your photo galleries, home videos, etc. However, Roku’s mirroring feature has its limitations because some streaming platforms and apps place restrictions on mirroring.

You can download the Roku app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

roku smartphone app remote control

Apple TV

The Apple TV app provides a smartphone version of the interface on your Apple TV. It provides menus of Apple TV content and allows you to subscribe to other apps and channels. You can also use the search bar to type the name of content instead of typing it on your TV screen.

However, other than that, the Apple TV app doesn’t have any special features like mirroring, keypad, etc. That’s because the Apple TV app is a library of content rather than a remote control. In fact, the Apple TV app doesn’t need to be a remote control because your iPhone already doubles as a remote control, even without an additional app.

The following is an overview of things you can do on your iPhone without an app:

  • Mirror your phone’s screen by swiping from the bottom and activating Screen Mirroring, automatically transferring your screen to your Apple TV.
  • Access private listening by tapping the Bluetooth icon and pairing your headphones.
  • Use your phone’s Siri to access voice command.
  • When you need to enter a password on Apple TV, a keypad will appear on your iPhone.
  • You can disable the remote controls touchpad and use directional buttons from your phone’s control center.
  • Use playback controls from your iPhone’s lock screen.
  • Control playback through your smartphone.

If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can transform your smartphone into a remote control. As such, the Apple TV app becomes a library of content rather than a necessary tool for control. To activate the remote control feature, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls > Apple TV Remote.

As with most things, the full range of Apple TV’s convenience and brilliance is only available to iOS users. Even the Apple TV app is available only for iOS users.

So, what do you do if you’re an Android user?

If you’re an Android user, you’ll have to download third-party apps like AllCast to accomplish specific functions like mirroring, using the phone’s keypad, etc. Basically, Android users have little to no Apple TV integration.

You can download the Apple TV app from the Apple Store.

Winner (Smartphone Control):

Apple TV (iOS Users)

Roku (Android Users)

If you’re an iOS user, you don’t need a smartphone app — your iPhone provides all the controls you need. You can use your iPhone to mirror your phone, access the keypad, control playback, use Siri, and perform various other tasks seamlessly. There’s really nothing like it.

However, that is a privilege only available to Apple users. If you’re an Android user, you have little to no interactivity with your Apple TV through your smartphone. You don’t even have access to the bare-bones content library of the Apple TV app.

As such, if you’re an Android user, the Roku smartphone app is certainly the better choice — well, the only choice. The Roku smartphone app doesn’t provide nearly the kind of interactivity and user-friendliness as the Apple smartphone ecosystem, but it’s still pretty great. You can access all the essential remote control features, voice commands, and even screen mirroring.

Roku vs. Apple TV Smart Features

Roku Voice Control

Roku allows you to use voice control through several sources — the remote control, smartphone app, or voice assistants. Furthermore, since Roku doesn’t have allegiance to a specific streaming platform, it’s compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Voice controls allow you to search for content with extreme accuracy.

If you’re using voice control through the smartphone app or remote control, you’ll need to tap the microphone button as you speak into it. However, if you have an Alexa or Google Home device, you can use voice commands hands-free. All you have to do is say “Alexa” or “Hey Google” to wake the voice assistant.

 Roku Mirroring

The Roku smartphone app can be used for mirroring. You can play any video or photos on your smartphone, and the content will be mirrored to your TV. This feature can also be used for video calling purposes.

However, it bears mentioning that you may experience delays, and the general mirroring experience isn’t completely smooth. Furthermore, several platforms and apps discourage mirroring, so you may also have limitations regarding what you can mirror.

Roku Private Listening

Roku is incredibly convenient when it comes to private listening. The advanced remote controls are equipped with a headphone jack, so you can plug your headphones into the jack to divert the audio into your headphones. You can also access private listening through your smartphone.

You can also access Bluetooth-based private listening, though that’s a little more complicated. You’ll have to go to your Roku’s settings to enable your Bluetooth headphones, diverting the audio from the soundbar to your headphones.

Roku Ultra, the latest Roku device, also comes with a pair of complementary JBL headphones for your private listening experience. However, you can also use your own headphones.

Apple TV Voice Control

Siri is roundly criticized on iPhone, which is well-deserved. However, Apple TV’s Siri voice controls are incredibly intuitive. When you tap the microphone button on the Siri remote control, you can ask Apple TV to find movies, TV shows, genres, apps, actors, and other details.

If you need to bring up anything at all, Siri can do it for you. Furthermore, Siri also displays the words you’re saying as you say them, allowing you to modify them. However, in general, Siri is pretty accurate with its results, interpreting your voice with a fair degree of accuracy.

Apple TV is naturally compatible with HomeKit, which acts as your home’s hub, allowing you to control all your smart devices. You can also access hands-free voice controls if you have a HomePod or “Hey Siri” activation on your iPhone. All you have to do is say “Hey Siri,” and provide commands like “Hey Siri, skip 20 minutes on the TV.”

Unfortunately, but expectedly, Apple TV isn’t compatible with any smart home assistant other than Siri and HomeKit.

Apple TV Mirroring

Apple TV is pretty fabulous when it comes to mirroring, thanks to AirPlay.

If you have an iOS device, you can simply swipe down on your phone and tap the AirPlay button to mirror your phone’s screen to your TV. The experience is absolutely seamless and without delays.

One issue arises when it comes to mirroring Android devices. In that case, you’ll need to download third-party tools like AllCast, which isn’t nearly as effective or responsive as AirPlay.

Apple TV Private Listening

Apple TV also enables private listening for those who want to listen to the TV through their headphones. However, Apple TV favors iPhones over all others.

If you’re an iPhone user, you can swipe down the screen, tap the Bluetooth icon, and connect your wireless headphones. You can now enjoy the content through your headphones.

However, if you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll have to pair your Bluetooth headphones through your Apple TV’s settings, which is slightly more cumbersome.

Apple TV Accessibility Features

One of Apple’s most innovative and thoughtful features is accessibility. Apple recently released a string of features aimed at people with disabilities.

These accessibility features improve the viewing experience for people with vision impairments, hearing disabilities, physical and motor skill impairments, or other issues with learning and literacy.

The following is a brief overview of Apple TV’s accessibility features:

  • VoiceOver: Aimed at the visually impaired, this is a built-in screen reader that tells you exactly what’s happening on the screen in 35 languages.
  • Zoom: This feature increases the font and icon sizes.
  • Increase Contrast: This feature better delineates the focused content and reduces transparency to help with vision.
  • Reduce Motion: This feature reduces the motion that occurs while moving between different icons and screens.
  • Closed Caption and SDH Support: Aimed at those with hearing impairments, this feature describes all the dialogues, activities, music, and other on-screen sound effects.
  • Audio Descriptions: Apple TV content comes with audio descriptions that describe all the scenes in movies, allowing you to visualize them even if you can’t see them.
  • Siri Dictation: With Siri, you can dictate the text instead of writing it.
  • Switch Control: Aimed at those with physical and motor impairments, this feature lets you navigate through menus and perform actions without a remote control.

Winner (Smart Features): Apple TV

If you’re an iPhone or iOS user, Apple TV’s smart features are far better than Roku (or any other streaming device) by a huge margin. Apple TV allows you to use your iPhone to seamlessly access private listening, voice control, and mirroring without any third-party applications.

However, the same features are a lot more on par with Roku when it comes to non-Apple users. For example, if you’re an Android user, you’ll need third-party applications to access mirroring, and you’ll need to access private listening through the Apple TV’s settings. As such, Roku and Apple TV are similar in most features for Android users.

You must also account for a massive difference in voice assistants. Apple TV works with Siri, HomeKit, HomePod, and other Apple devices. Roku, meanwhile, only works with Google Home and Amazon Alexa — not Siri or HomePod. As such, you may want to get the streaming device compatible with your existing voice assistant(s).

Besides Apple TV’s interactivity with other iOS devices, there’s one key feature in which it trumps over Roku — accessibility.

Apple TV truly sets itself apart with its accessibility features, all of them geared toward improving the user experience for those with various impairments, be they visual, hearing, motor, physical, or literary. As such, if you have any such impairment, or know someone who does, the Apple TV’s accessibility features will provide a user experience unlike any other.

Roku vs. Apple TV Apps & Channels

Roku Streaming Apps

Roku’s library of streaming apps includes all the most popular apps, such as Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Pandora, Sling TV, Google Play TV, PlayStation Vue, etc. You can manually search for apps and download them to your Roku box. Predictably, Roku doesn’t have support for iTunes or Apple Music.

Roku Cable TV Apps

Roku also allows you to subscribe to cable channels such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5, Showtime, HGTV, Comedy Central, HISTORY, DisneyNOW, Discover GO, Cartoon Network, HBO GO, ESPN, NBC, ABC, etc.

Roku 4K Content Apps

Roku has a special section for 4K content from streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, CuriosityStream, Smithsonian Earth, Vudu, Apple TV, FandangoNOW, etc.

Roku Games

Roku isn’t a very sophisticated gaming system, but it lets you play simple video games like Escape, Jeopardy, Checkers, etc.

The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel is perhaps Roku’s most impressive and unique content feature. The Roku Channel is a free ad-based streaming platform with a massive library of movies and TV shows suitable for adults and kids. You don’t have to pay for this subscription because this channel is supported by ad revenue. As such, if you don’t want to subscribe to expensive streaming platforms, this is the ideal channel for you.

roku channels and apps

Apple TV- Streaming Apps

Apple TV has a built-in app store from which you can download apps for streaming platforms like Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Disney+, Sling TV, AT&T TV, and YouTube TV.

Spotify is perhaps the biggest omission from Apple TV’s list of apps. However, you can play Spotify on your phone and conveniently AirPlay it to your TV. We assume Spotify has been neglected because Apple wants to push Apple Music, which is built into the Apple TV interface.

Apple TV - Cable TV Apps

Apple also offers a streaming library with subscriptions to several live TV channels and cable TV channels, such as Bloomberg, ABC, KORTV, Crackle, PBS, Vevo, HBO GO, etc. You can also go to the Apple TV’s “TV Provider” setting to sign up with your pay-TV or cable providers.

However, the most convenient means of accessing cable TV streaming services is through Apple TV Channels. Apple TV has released a series of cable TV channels available through Apple TV. If you subscribe to them, they’re available within your Apple TV’s primary interface, and you don’t have to go to separate apps.

The channels available through Apple TV include Acorn TV, BritBox, CBS All Access, Eros Now, HBO, PBS Living, Showtime, Starz, Sundance Now, and many more.

Apple TV - 4K Content Apps

Apple TV has a library of 4K HDR content from streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Epix, Vudu, FandangoNOW, and Apple TV+.

Apple TV - Games

Apple TV doesn’t have any gaming apps. However, thanks to AirPlay, you can play any game you want on your iPhone and cast it to your TV.

Apple TV - Free Channels

When you purchase an Apple TV device, you get a free one-year subscription to Apple TV+, Apple’s native streaming platform. However, after the first year, you have to pay to continue the subscription and the regular fee Apple TV+ is $50/year.

You also have to pay to rent or buy movies within the Apple TV ecosystem. If you want free content, you’ll have to find streaming services that provide free content and download them. However, Apple TV doesn’t have a built-in service to offer or promote free content.

apple tv channels and apps

Winner (Apps & Channels): Roku

Roku offers a better library of content for three reasons — range, accessibility, and clarity.

Roku is said to have one of the latest streaming app libraries on the market, offering over 1,700 apps and channels. Compared to that, Apple TV has a smaller and more selective library. However, both have all the popular and essential apps. Roku also has some video games, even though they’re fairly basic.

Roku is also a lot more accessible to most people. You don’t have to subscribe to a streaming service to enjoy the content. As long as you’re willing to tolerate ads, you can access The Roku Channel for a pretty great library of free content. Apple TV has no such free content.

The Roku content ecosystem is also pretty straightforward. It doesn’t have any native streaming apps or platforms, so you can download all the streaming apps you want. You can then access content from any of those apps from the Roku device.

Apple TV, in comparison, is a lot more confusing. Apple TV is the device you attach to your TV. Within that, Apple TV+ is one of the many subscription services available, though you get it for free for a year. Apple TV also has affiliations with several cable TV channels that you can subscribe to through Apple TV However, you can also subscribe to them individually and add them to your Apple TV. It’s all a little confusing.

The only aspect in which Apple TV trumps over Roku is in its access to Apple Music — something that’s only available in Apple TV and not in Roku.

Overall, in terms of content, Roku beats Apple TV in most aspects.

Roku vs. Apple TV Support

Roku

Roku provides an impressive repository of information on how to use Roku, troubleshoot common issues, and other account-related issues.

If you can’t find the answer you need, you can easily access live chat.

Apple TV

Apple TV has a pretty clear and impressive support system.

It also has a knowledge base with detailed instructions on account-related issues, installation, troubleshooting, etc.

You can also sign up for the AppleCare Protection Plan to have access to premium Apple services whenever you need them.

You can also join the Apple Support Community to post questions and have them answered by other users.

Finally, you can also get immediate live support. You have to answer a few questions, based on which you get live support.

Winner (Support): Apple TV

Apple TV offers an incredibly comprehensive and straightforward support system. You can make appointments for live support, join a community, or go through the online knowledge base. Furthermore, there’s no parallel to the premium AppleCare Protection Plan for those willing to pay for expedited service.

Roku vs. Apple TV Cost

Roku

  • Roku Express: £29.99
  • Roku Premiere: £39.99
  • Roku Streaming Stick+: £49.99
  • Roku Ultra: £79.99

Apple TV

  • Apple TV HD: $149
  • Apple TV 4K 32GB: $179
  • Apple TV 4K 64GB: $199

Winner (Cost): Roku

If you go through the numbers listed above, you’ll see that it’s obvious. The entry-level Apple TV device is twice the cost of the most advanced Roku device, one that comes with complementary JBL headphones.

But then again, Apple is known for its premium cost. No one buys Apple products because they’re cheap. Compared to that, Roku is one of the world’s most budget-friendly streaming device.

So yeah, Roku is clearly far cheaper than Apple TV.


 

Verdict: Roku or Apple TV?

Giving a definitive verdict on Roku vs. Apple TV is next to impossible because they’re clearly catered to different individuals.

Roku is driven more toward budget-conscious users who want a smart TV without shelling out an exorbitant amount of money. Apple TV is geared more toward Apple users who prefer paying more for premium services.

On the one hand, Apple TV is far superior to Roku in most aspects, including accessibility, content quality, user interface, processor power, and so much more. But then again, the cheapest Apple TV device is twice as expensive as the most advanced Roku device — so the advanced features are a given.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to compare the two. You should buy the device that suits your needs best.

You should get a Roku device if you:

  • Need all essential smart TV features but don’t care about the additional conveniences.
  • Are on a strict budget.
  • Want Ultra HD content at a reasonable price.
  • Are an Android user.
  • Have Alexa or Google Home assistants.

You should get an Apple TV device if you:

  • Want the best user interface and features that money can buy.
  • Want a future-proofed device with Dolby Vision support.
  • Have iOS devices like a MacBook, iPhone, or iPad.
  • Have a HomePod or HomeKit device.
  • Don’t mind paying a premium amount.
  • Have visual, physical, or hearing impairments.

So, there it is! I hope this article gives you all the information you need when deciding whether to get a Roku or an Apple TV device.

 

Winner (overall): Roku

 


FAQs About Roku and Apple TV Devices

Can you have both Roku and Apple TV?

Both Roku and Apple TV are sources of content. As such, you can install both of them on your TV if you have multiple HDMI ports. However, you can only access one device at a time. You can, however, install the Apple TV app on your Roku to access Apple TV+ content.

What is the advantage of Apple TV over Roku?

The single greatest advantage of Apple TV over Roku is its brilliant interactivity with the entire Apple ecosystem. iPhone users can seamlessly activate private listening, AirPlay their phone to their TV, and access a range of other benefits.

How much is Apple TV a month?

The Apple TV device doesn’t include a subscription cost, though you may have to subscribe to streaming platforms within the device. However, the Apple TV+ subscription costs $50/year.

Is Roku faster than Apple TV?

No. Apple TV has a superior processor that ensures Apple TV is one of the fastest and most powerful streaming devices on the market. Everything about Apple TV — interface, content, interactivity — is faster than Roku.

Can Roku stream Apple TV?

Yes, Roku can stream Apple TV+. However, you’ll need the Apple TV app and the Apple TV+ subscription which costs $50/year.

Comments