Roku 4 vs. Fire TV vs. Apple TV: 2015 Streaming Showdown

By on October 6, 2015

roku-4-top-shot-anything

Every time one of these media boxes is announced, I’m always reminded of that little Irving Berlin ditty Anything You Can Do. First, the Apple TV was announced in early September, Apple’s first revision of the hardware in years. Everyone was excited about iOS support, Siri support. Then Amazon 1up’ed Apple with the 4K Fire TV announcement during mid-September. Everyone was excited about 4K support, faster hardware, lower price tag.

Well, Roku just announced the Roku 4. Here’s a handy spec sheet to help you decide between the three main options in set-top boxes this holiday season.

2015 Set-Top Box Comparison
Category Roku 4 2015 Fire TV 2015 Apple TV
Supported Resolution? 4K Ultra HD (up to 60 fps) 4K Ultra HD (up to 30 fps) 1080p
Supported Wi-Fi? 802.11ac MIMO 802.11ac MIMO 802.11ac MIMO
Wired Ethernet? Yes Yes Yes
Processor? Quad-core Quad-core Dual-core
RAM? 1.5GB 2GB 2GB
Optical Digital Output? Yes No (HDMI only) No (HDMI only)
HDMI Version? HDMI 2.0 HDMI 2.0 HDMI 1.4
USB port? One USB 2.0 port One USB 2.0 port No
Micro SD card slot? Yes (up to 128GB) Yes (up to 128GB) No
Voice Search? Yes Alexa Siri
Universal Search? Yes Crippled Yes (but fewer apps)
Remote Finder? Yes No No
Hotel & Dorm Connect*? Yes No No
Supports Headphones? Wired Bluetooth only Bluetooth only
Operating System? Roku OS 7 Fire OS 3.0 "Mojito" tvOS 9.0 (iOS 9)
Gaming Support? Good Better Best (Probably)
Price? $129.99 $99.99 $149 (32GB) / $199 (64GB)
*Hotel & Dorm connect. Using Roku mobile app, users enter login details to connect to Wi-Fi networks that require login through a Web browser.
Related: Check out our full Roku 4 review and our 4K Fire TV review!

The facts are clear. Amazon is aiming at the budget audience, but still offering 4K playback as well as the best specs. Of course, some of the downsides include a search engine that’s not truly universal and a general lack of 4K content at the moment. It’s also a less useful player without a Prime subscription.

Apple is content charging people significantly more than competitors while offering less powerful hardware at the same time. Of course, the integration of iOS 9 is likely going to open the floodgates to mobile gaming on the family television and Siri could be a powerful voice assistant for finding content. The remote control is also pretty slick, assuming it works as advertised.

Alternatively, Roku appears to be pricing the Roku 4 in the middle of the other two options, specifically going after the home theater crowd. It’s the only option that offers 60 fps playback in 4K as well as a physical optical output for home theater speakers. Roku’s also been doing universal search longer than anyone else (and arguably more effective at it). However, voice search may end up being spotty and it’s obvious that gaming is an afterthought compared to the other two set-top boxes.

If interested in ordering, the Amazon Fire TV is available now, Apple hasn’t opened preorders up for the new Apple TV yet, and Roku has opened up preorders for the Roku as of today: LINK

Order the $99 Fire TV –  Order the $129 Roku 4

You can check out more photos of the new Roku 4 below:

roku-4-back

roku-4-front

roku-4-with-remote

roku-4-box

About Mike Flacy

By day, I'm the Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut in addition to being the content manager for Steve's Digicams and High-Def Digest. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

4 Comments

  1. Geralyn J

    November 30, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Apple has a way to go to catch up.

  2. sholling

    October 6, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    So how do they compare with a $199 Nvidia Shield? The Shield is supposed to support Netflix in 4k and is reported to run real Kodi/XBMC and not just the (in my opinion) crippled Plex application. Neither Roku or FireTV support Kodi/XBMC as a native app.

    • brendon

      October 8, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      You can sideload Kodi on the FireTV. It is a native app. It isn’t available in the Fire appstore so it doesn’t show in the main menu.

  3. Brad Braunreuther

    October 6, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Great article and nice chart.I was shocked when I saw Apple TV did not support 4K.
    What were they thinking?
    That is just as bad as introducing a watch that needs to be charged every night.

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