1-underscored apple tv 4k 2021 review

The Roku Ultra is our top pick for a streaming device, and rightfully so with a clear and crisp 4K picture, integration with several smart home platforms and a handy lost remote feature. On the other hand, the Apple TV 4K is a strong competitor that offers tight integration with other Apple products and services, and it, too, is capable of a 4K streaming from a long list of services. It’s our upgrade pick for a streaming box.

There are many differences between the two platforms, one of which is the cost: $99 vs $179. But it’s not as simple as picking the cheaper model. There are some valid reasons to save yourself some cash with a Roku Ultra, or to spend a little extra and get the Apple TV 4K.

More alike than different

Both the Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K each offer their own streaming lineup with a wide range of streaming services such as HBO Max, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu (just to name a few, but all the big hitters are on both).

Additionally, each is capable of streaming in 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support. That means the streaming experience should more or less be identical and they offer future proofing since they support the latest standards.

Get an Apple TV if…

Apple TV 4K

You subscribe to Apple One

Apple TV+, Apple Fitness+, iCloud Photos, Apple Music and Apple Arcade are just a few of the services that are included in Apple’s monthly subscription service, Apple One. And you guessed it, you can take full advantage of them all on the Apple TV. You can connect a PS5 or Xbox controller to your Apple TV to play Apple Arcade games, stream your favorite playlists from Apple Music or use your TV as a workout instructor with Apple Fitness. Even if you don’t subscribe to Apple One, and you only pay for and use one of the services listed above, the Apple TV gives you access to all of Apple’s services without any fuss.

You have a lot of HomeKit smart home products

One of the lesser advertised aspects of having an Apple TV in your home is that it doubles as a HomeKit router. That means that if you have a HomeKit enabled lock, thermostat or camera, you’ll be able to access and control the devices while away from home. Even if you only have a couple of HomeKit devices in your home right now, an Apple TV makes sense as the next piece of the puzzle that will result in a completely connected and accessible smart home.

You’re heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem

The Apple TV closely integrates with all of your other Apple products. You can AirPlay your Mac’s screen or a video on your iPhone to the TV. Or put your AirPods in and watch a new movie without waking anyone else at home. Another feature is if you have an Apple Watch and want to do an Apple Fitness+ workout, your watch will connect to the Apple TV and show your workout metrics on the screen with very little effort on your part.

Get a Roku Ultra if…

Roku Ultra

You want to save money

The Roku Ultra is normally $99, but if you’re patient you can find it on sale for as low as $69. Even if you don’t find it on sale somewhere, you get a full-fledged 4K streaming box for under $100 while the Apple TV 4K starts at $179.

Your smart home setup isn’t platform-specific

Unlike the Apple TV 4K which only works with Apple’s HomeKit platform, the Roku Ultra is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s AirPlay 2/HomeKit smart home platforms. That means regardless of which smart home ecosystem you’re currently invested in, you’re covered.

You can use Alexa to do things like turn the Ultra on or off or tell Alexa what you want to watch. The same can be said for Google Assistant, while AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support means you can use Siri to control what’s on your TV.

You’re constantly losing your TV remote

The Roku Ultra has a built-in remote finder and it’s pretty awesome. There’s a button on the side of the Ultra that you can press when your remote has gone missing and it will start playing a sound, helping you locate it. As we can all attest to, streaming box remotes are some of the smallest and easiest gadgets to lose on a daily (hourly?) basis. The Siri Remote for Apple TV lacks a similar feature.

Bottom line

You shouldn’t base your decision between the Apple TV 4K and Roku Ultra on streaming quality or services, as the two are pretty comparable in that department. Instead, you should choose based on the types of compatible products already in your home, how much you want to spend and whether or not a tool like a lost remote finder is valuable to you.

Software

tvOS

Roku OS

Processor

A12 Bionic

Quad-core processor

Ports

HDMI, ethernet and power

HDMI, USB-A, ethernet and power

Visual standards

HDR and Dolby Vision

HDR and Dolby Vision

Audio standards

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos and DTS Digital Surround

Remote

All-new Siri Remote included

Voice Remote

Size and weight

1.4 x 3.9 x 3.9 -inches; 0.93 pounds

1.0 x 4.9 x 5 -inches; 0.36 pounds

Price Starting at $179.99 $99.99