Streaming Media Face-Off: Apple TV vs. Roku 4 vs. Amazon Fire TV
Are you fed up seeing the same old shows with your expensive cable subscription? Do you want more variety and not have to pay an arm and a leg? Streaming media players may be just what you’re looking for. When you’re ready to make the switch, it’s important to think about which streaming media would give the most bang for your buck. To help with your choice, we’ve reviewed three of the top competitors in the streaming media market: Apple TV, Roku 4, and Amazon Fire.
If you’re reading this article on an iPhone, iPad, or a MacBook, you might be intrigued at the thought of getting your streaming player from a familiar brand. Unquestionably an improvement over its predecessors, the latest Apple TV now comes with Siri voice search, a customizable interface, Apple Music and gaming capabilities, as well as a better remote control. Plus, it’s simple to use, and a great introduction for someone who hasn’t tried streaming players before.
Excellent universal search
To an extent, Apple TV’s excellent search function makes your smart TV feel like a life-sized iPad/iPhone (minus the keyboard).
Amazing voice recognition technology
Thanks to the integration of Siri, using an Apple TV is quite a breeze. You could tell Siri to find the fourth episode of your favorite show and it’ll immediately search options on Netflix, Hulu, ABC/Disney, HBO, and iTunes stores to find what you’re looking for.
Great for gaming
It turns out that Apple TV puts a lot of emphasis on its gaming capability, which turned out quite nicely. Not only will you find a great assortment of games on the newly integrated App Store, but you can also connect third-party controllers to the device with ease.
A bit pricey
Despite a similarity in features and offers, Apple TV costs more than its closest competitors. While most Apple loyalists wouldn’t mind the price difference at all, the fact is that you can get better features and movie/channel options for a lesser price tag with other devices.
Limited movie-streaming options
What Apple TV offers through iTunes and its own store is by no means a meager number. However, its catalog still can’t compete with the massive entertainment libraries of Roku or Amazon.
Doesn’t support 4K video playback
If you’re looking for the best streaming player to pair with your new 4K TV, forget about Apple TV. Surely you’ll find better options that have better overall AV support.
The fourth-generation Apple TV may lag behind Amazon Fire TV and Roku 4 from a technological standpoint, but it’s ideally suited for anyone who has fully embraced Apple and all its offerings. So if you can’t live without iTunes or you’re a regular subscriber to Apple Music or play audio through Apple AirPlay speakers, Apple TV is right for you.
Adding new convenient features, more functionality, and better system compatibility, Roku 4 delivers everything that people have grown to love about the platform, and then some.
While it may be the brand’s most powerful media streamer to date, it definitely costs more than what most have come to expect from Roku.
In terms of performance, Roku 4 scores consistently high marks in the reliability and speed departments. Although the video quality for streaming media boxes is largely dependent on the broadband speed it’s connected to, the device rarely comes across processing problems like audio stuttering and video buffering.
Built with a new quad-core processor to handle 4K 60fps video streaming, Roku 4 puts a special spotlight on all the 4K-friendly movies and TV shows you can watch on demand.
Nifty additional features
You can plug in headphones on Roku 4’s remote control to listen to your favorite movies/shows without disturbing anybody else. It also comes with a remote finder button (on the streamer box), which makes the remote beep loudly in case it falls between the couch cushions.
Unrefined voice search function
Sure, the Roku 4 has voice search capabilities. The problem is that it’s limited to keyword search and isn’t as natural as that of Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
Less robust gaming features
If you’re a gamer, Roku 4 may not be the best option for you. While it still offers games, it definitely puts less emphasis on this feature.
A common gripe among those who’ve used Roku 4 is how the processor kicks up a bit noise after hours of use along with the obvious heating of the device.
Despite a downgrade in its gaming capability, Roku 4 has retained all the features that made the platform a best-selling streaming media player. It’s a fast, simple, and stable user interface with a comprehensive list of channels to choose from.
While not as simple to use as Apple TV or as comprehensive in its content selection as Roku, Amazon Fire TV still holds its own against the competition. Significant improvements in the areas of virtual assistance, processing power, and video resolution make this a solid choice.
Best suited for those of us who have subscribed to Amazon Prime Video, the second-generation Amazon Fire TV is still a good investment for anyone looking for an excellent streaming media that supports 4K videos as well as games.
4K, Ultra HD-capable
Not much has changed between the first Fire TV and the latest release except this: 4K video support. So, if you own a 4K TV and you’re subscribed to Prime, the newest Amazon Fire TV may be a welcome upgrade.
Wide content selection
In terms of content, the Amazon Fire TV gives you access to a fairly decent amount of films, TV shows, and games. The only criticism is that the search feature gives priority to Amazon-produced content.
Improved voice interaction
With content being a little too cluttered on Amazon Fire TV, having a voice search is very convenient. It may not be as sophisticated and versatile as Apple’s Siri but Alexa gets the job done.
Limited universal search
Although the Amazon Fire TV’s universal search function has expanded to over 75 apps and channels, it fares poorly compared to other streaming media players. Tell Alexa to look for any titles while you’re in the Netflix app and she’ll show you matches on Amazon’s library. Frustrating, to say the least.
Not compatible with all 4K TVs
If your 4K TV doesn’t have an HDMI port that supports HDCP 2.2, 4K videos won’t play on the Fire TV.
When looking for the next show to watch on Amazon Fire TV, you’ll have to deal with an extensive list of menu options that run down the left side of the home screen. This list may be too long and cluttered to zero-in on one title without the help of Alexa
In terms of power and design, the Amazon Fire TV still stands as one of the best video streamers to date. However, it makes the most sense for users who have already subscribed to Amazon’s offers and services. If you already bought the first Amazon Fire TV last year, we don’t see any reason for you to upgrade.
When you’ve been thinking long and hard about cutting the cord, it’s natural to look for the best streaming media players available in today’s market. If you ask us, Apple TV, Roku 4, and Amazon Fire TV should be on top of that list.