Both these things to watch stuff on, they cost about $100. They can show really clear pictures in 4K and have Dolby Vision, which makes the colours look great. However, one of them has more cool things that make it worth the money.
Streaming things on your TV is pretty cool. You can watch shows and movies from places like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Hulu. However, there are some special TV boxes that do even more. Two of them are the Roku Ultra and the Apple TV 4K. These boxes are super powerful and expensive, even though their prices have gone down recently.
The Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K are faster and have special ports to connect to the internet, which cheaper options like Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Roku Express 4K Plus, and Google Chromecast with Google TV do not have. Most people will be just fine with the cheaper ones, like the $40 Express 4K Plus or the $50 Chromecast. However, if you want all the fancy features, the Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K are the way to go.
In May this year, Roku made the Ultra better by giving a fancy Voice Remote Pro along with it. That is nice, but the Ultra itself is still the same as the one from 2020. So, the Ultra and the Apple TV 4K are pretty much the same, even though the Ultra is new this year.
Now, let us compare the best TV boxes from Apple and Roku in three important ways: how they look on the screen, what they can do, and the little things you use to control them.
Roku’s new Ultra in 2022 is mostly about the remote control. When you get the Ultra, it comes with the Voice Remote Pro. This special remote was sold separately for $30 last year, and it works with any Roku. It has a rechargeable battery and a microphone that works from far away, like 12 feet. This microphone is handy because you can say, “Hey Roku, where is my remote?” and the remote will make a noise so you can find it, even if it is hiding on the couch.
The Roku Ultra box is still the same as it was in 2020. The only thing they added to our wish list for 2022 is the Voice Remote Pro. However, the Ultra is still good because it has a nice screen, can work with Apple AirPlay 2, and has Dolby Vision HDR for great colours. Moreover, it still costs $100, just like before.
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K got a makeover in 2021. The way it looks and how you use it is still the same, but they made a new Siri Remote and a faster brain inside. Apple’s TV software is good, and lots of apps work with it, but it is still expensive, even though they lowered the price a bit.
Best way to use: It is a tie
Roku’s way of using it is very simple. It shows you colourful tiles for your apps in a grid, and you can put them where you want. The Ultra is super quick, taking only a few seconds to get to apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, or Sling TV. But the cheaper Express 4K Plus is just as fast.
There are no big suggestions on what to watch or pictures of shows and movies on the tiles, but there are some ads when you scroll through the grid on the right side. The app store, which you find in the section called “Streaming Channels” on the left, is just as quick and easy to use as the main menu.
The Apple TV 4K has a nice menu with colourful tiles, just like Roku. It is easier to move around because of the new Siri Remote with a special clickpad and the A12 Bionic chip inside, which makes things fast. The Apple TV suggests things to watch from different services, not just Apple’s TV Plus, but you can choose not to use it if you want.
Both menus are simple and easy to use, so it is a tie.
Best feature: Apple TV 4K
Apple has the best things, but it is not a big difference, even though it costs more.
Both boxes show the best 4K HDR videos from the right apps. They also have Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision for awesome sound. Both can use Apple’s AirPlay 2 to put stuff from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac on the TV and use Siri and Apple TV Plus.
Both have many apps, except for the argument Roku had with YouTube TV. However, the Apple TV has extra Apple things like Arcade, Apple Music, and Fitness Plus that Roku does not. Moreover, there is a cool feature to make your TV’s picture better using your iPhone.
If you love playing games, Apple TV has a cool advantage because it has the Steam Link app. This app lets you play computer games on your TV. The Apple TV also lets you connect four Bluetooth controllers at the same time for exciting couch gaming. In contrast, Roku can only do two audio connections at once.
When it comes to talking to the TV, Apple is better. Siri, the voice helper on Apple TV, is faster and smarter than the voice thing on Roku. Siri can quickly start playing movies like Avengers Endgame and even go right into Disney Plus if you have it. Unlike Roku, you can also ask Siri questions like “When is the next Yankees game?” or “What is the weather?” These things are not a big deal, but they are nice to have.
Both companies do good by keeping their devices updated with new software. For example, Roku added AirPlay to older TVs and boxes with Roku OS 10, and Apple recently gave TVOS 15. This shows they still think about their users, even if it has been a while since they bought the devices.
When it comes to this, the differences are not big. However, because of Siri and the tools for fixing the picture, Apple is better.
Best remote control: Roku Ultra
While the way you use it and the features are close, I prefer the Roku Voice Remote Pro more than Apple’s new remote.
Roku’s Voice Remote Pro is a big upgrade for Roku. It looks and feels like their other remotes, but this $30 add-on has some cool stuff inside. The best part is a microphone in the middle that lets you talk to the remote. You can say, “Hey Roku, find my remote,” and it will make a noise so you can find it, which is a big help.
Roku remotes usually use up batteries fast, but this one is rechargeable, so you do not need to keep many batteries around. There are other good things on Roku’s remote, too, like a headphone jack for private listening and buttons you can set to do what you want.
Apple did a good job with their new remote. The Siri Remote looks fancier than Roku’s, and it is simpler to use. I like that they added directional buttons to the touchpad, which means you can control things better.
Sometimes, I still ended up pressing the wrong thing when using gestures, but you can switch to regular buttons or turn off gestures if you want. It does not ruin the experience completely.
You have to use special Lightning cables to charge the remote, but it is better because they added buttons for muting, going back, and turning it on and off.
Both Roku and Apple let you control their devices with your phone, but Apple’s feature only works with Apple phones.
However, where Roku is great is in helping you find a lost remote. It has two ways to do it: you can use your voice to ask it to find the remote, or there is a special button on the side of the box that makes the remote beep so you can find it when it is hiding in the couch.
I do not know why, but Apple did not put a special chip or AirTags in their new remote. You can try to put them together, but it is like making a weird mix. Because of this missing feature, I think Roku is better in this category.
Winner: Roku Ultra
Both devices are really good and do a great job of streaming. Apple’s box is more powerful because it has a richer operating system called TVOS, and it is cool that it works with Arcade, Apple Music, and Fitness Plus. The faster processor and better remote make it even better.
However, there is a problem with the price: Roku’s newest Ultra usually costs $100, while Apple’s box starts at $179 for the 32GB version (or $199 for the 64GB model) on Apple’s site. Even though the Apple TV 4K sometimes gets discounts, it is still more expensive than the Ultra, even when it is on sale.
Even if you really like Apple’s stuff, it is hard to say it is worth paying more for an Apple TV 4K when both can play all the big streaming services you like.