Apple TV 4K vs. Roku Ultra 2020: Which should you buy?

Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K (Image credit: iMore)

The streaming boxes are now on equal footing on the biggest points (4K, Dolby Atmos, and Dolby Vision compatibility). However, the Apple TV 4K offers other features that Roku lacks because it's not an Apple product. Those points alone (and other factors) allow the older (and well-reviewed) Apple TV 4K to best Roku's best streamer to date.

Apple TV 4K vs. Roku Ultra 2020: The breakdown

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV (Image credit: iMore)

The first time we published this article, most of the important points in the comparison were hardware-based. That's largely no longer the case since the Roku Ultra 2020 arrived, although the poorly designed Apple Siri Remote must be addressed. Now, the biggest differences come down to software and which features are included. Specifically, while Roku now supports the Apple TV app (and Apple TV+), it doesn't include Apple Fitness or Apple Arcade. Beyond this, the top-level streaming options are about the same.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Apple TV 4KRoku Ultra 2020
Resolution2160p (4K)2160p (4K)
Operating systemtvOS 12Roku OS
ProcessorApple A10X FusionARM Cortex A55
Dolby AtmosYesYes
Dolby VisionYesYes
Voice remoteYesYes
Apple TV+YesYes
Apple ArcadeYesNo
Apple FitnessYesNo

From its more intuitive interface to its easier setup, the Apple TV 4K bests Roku Ultra 2020 in nearly every category. It's faster, more complete, and the one that provides a better overall experience. By contrast, the Roku Ultra 2020 leads on two points: it has a better remote and a much lower price. Also worth considering: the Roku Ultra 2020 doesn't offer onboard content storage like the Apple TV 4K, which does allow you to store tvOS and downloaded apps and games (but not movies and TV shows, unfortunately).

Meanwhile, speed is determined by RAM and processor. On these two points, the Apple TV 4K reigns — although its lead isn't a big as it was previously. Today's Roku Ultra includes 2GB versus 1GB on older models.

Also, there's something to note about those remote controls. The vastly superior Roku controller is easier to hold and offers some pretty amazing features, including voice capabilities and preselected buttons for Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, and Disney+. The controller also has a built-in 3.5mm headphone jack, and for that, Roku ships premium JBL headphones — although any wired headphone will do. The Siri remote, by contrast, is difficult to use because of its flat, small design that includes a touch surface. And while the Roku remote has built-in finding capabilities, the Siri Remote does not.

One area on the remotes where Apple is better: the voice command. Apple Siri offers a much more robust and smoother experience compared to Roku's lackluster voice commands.

Apple TV Siri Remote

Apple TV Siri Remote (Image credit: iMore)

Both products offer Dolby Atmos, which provides immersive three-dimensional audio — assuming you have a sound system that supports the protocol. And naturally, you need a 4K television to watch content in 4K from your Apple TV 4K or Roku Ultra. There's also Dolby Vision support on both streamers.

If you're seeking the hottest mainstream content on the planet, both streamers have you covered. For example, you'll find services like Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Showtime, and Hulu available on both boxes. If you're looking for off-the-path content, however, Roku remains ahead of Apple's box. It boasts hundreds of channels and apps that are missing on Apple TV. On the flip side, Roku lacks Apple iTunes content, and also Apple Arcade and Apple Fitness. Both boxes also support the Apple TV app and Apple TV+. Note that the Roku Ultra supports Apple's AirPlay 2, which means you can stream content from your mobile devices to your television.

Apple TV 4K vs. Roku Ultra 2020: Final Note

These are both solid streaming devices, but which one you choose depends on how much money you want to spend, if you're an Apple loyalist, and if third-party content is important. The Apple TV 4K is the all-around better box with slightly faster speeds, Apple Arcade and Apple Fitness, and more.

Looking for more? There's a great selection of Apple TV accessories available.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.