7 reasons to get an Apple TV instead of a Roku

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Apple TV Better Than Roku?
Could it be? Yeah, I think so.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Comparing the Apple TV vs. Roku vs. other smart TV products, there are a lot of good reasons to stick with Apple’s offering — even though it’s more expensive.

Roku is the more popular product, selling plug-in devices for as little as $30. And if you buy a new TV today, it’s probably running Roku or Google TV software. Although the latest Apple TV 4K is a pricey $129, it offers better privacy protection, it’s easily controlled with your iPhone and Apple Watch, makes FaceTime calls, plays better games and runs faster.

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Apple TV vs. Roku

1. Apple has a better record for privacy

Plug-in devices like Roku and Amazon Fire Stick are incredibly cheap compared to the Apple TV — and any TV you buy today probably comes with their software preinstalled.

A large part of that is because most of the money is made after you set up the device when it spies on your viewing activity to sell or market to data brokers. You can try to turn all the tracking off, but it’s like trying to put out a house fire with your garden hose.

The gigabytes of data it reports on you can suck up all your internet bandwidth, which can be really harmful if you have a slow or metered rural connection. You might think you have nothing to hide, but data from a smart TV can leak your name, address, whether you have children — all kinds of personal information that can show up in a data breach and can be used by scammers.

Apple doesn’t have the same incentives to collect personal data. The company makes money when you buy the Apple TV and if you subscribe to Apple TV+. It’s a more transparent business model.

On the Apple TV, there’s a single toggle switch for maximum data privacy, just like on the iPhone. Open Settings > General > Privacy & Security > Tracking and disable Allow Apps to Ask to Track.

2. Control with your iPhone and Apple Watch

Apple TV remote on iPhone and Apple Watch
You won’t lose this remote.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

A superpower of the Apple TV is that you can use your iPhone or Apple Watch as a remote control.

If you don’t want to reach over to your coffee table to pick up your remote, you can open a virtual remote from Control Center on your iPhone. You have all the same controls and more — a multidirectional touchpad on top, play/pause, mute, back. When you’re playing a show or movie, you have one-button access to toggle subtitles on and off with ten-second skip-forward and backward buttons.

If both your remote and phone are out of arm’s reach, you can open the Remote app on your Apple Watch for quick controls.

You can even use your iPhone to find a lost remote that’s slipped into the couch cushions or been misplaced in another room.

The Roku remote app for iPhone is a clunky experience that requires you to create an account, sign in, give it all kinds of permissions — not nearly as easy as opening Control Center and hitting pause.

3. FaceTime on the big screen

With the tvOS 17 update, FaceTime comes to Apple TV 4K for the first time.
With the latest software update, FaceTime comes to Apple TV for the first time.
Photo: Apple

If you’re having a FaceTime call with the whole family, all your housemates or your D&D group, you want to make sure it’s on the biggest screen possible.

Instead of having everyone crowd around an iPad or a MacBook sitting on a table, you can use FaceTime with your Apple TV on the biggest screen in your house.

Open the FaceTime app on your Apple TV, make sure you have the right profile selected, then set your iPhone or iPad in landscape on your TV stand or coffee table.

Everyone can see the screen. And with Center Stage, the camera will automatically zoom in and out or pan around to keep everyone perfectly framed in the camera.

It should go without saying there’s no FaceTime app for Roku.

4. A trouble-free smart home hub

About 190 products are certified for the Matter standard (or soon will be after testing).
Your Apple TV will become the hub of all your smart home devices using Matter and HomeKit.
Photo: CSA

If you have smart home devices using HomeKit or the newer standard, Matter, your Apple TV will automatically set itself up as the central hub to manage it all. And the best part is, there’s basically nothing you have to do. Make sure it’s set up using the same iCloud account you have on your phone and that you’re the default user on the Apple TV.

That way, when you’re away from home and you can make sure your doors are locked, your lights are off or your thermostat isn’t blasting heat, your Apple TV is acting as the home server to manage it all.

Roku’s Smart Home system requires much more setup and even charges you a subscription fee to get all the features.

5. Play top party games and the best of Apple Arcade

Asphalt 8
You can play at least several exciting games on your Apple TV.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The Apple TV is no replacement for a real game console, but it’s more capable than you might think.

Many of the games you can play on Apple Arcade you can play on any Apple device — iPhone, iPad, Mac, Vision Pro, and yes, Apple TV. Even real racing games like my personal favorite, Asphalt 8 Airborne.

Since you can easily connect a PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch controller, gaming feels totally natural with whichever controller you’re already familiar with.

Games like SongPop Party or Jackbox Party Pack 10 are great fun to play when you have a bunch of people over.

6. Better performance

The A15 Bionic chip powers iPhone 13.
The A15 Bionic chip powers iPhone 13 — and the Apple TV 4K.
Photo: Apple

Inside the Apple TV is a much more powerful computer than is available on basically any other smart TV or Roku device. It has the same chip that goes inside the iPhone.

That means navigating around the interface, opening apps and playing videos all happens much, much faster. Every Roku device I’ve ever used just feels clunky and slow in comparison.

This also means that your Apple TV is likely going to last longer. The first new Apple TV from 2015, approaching nine years ago, can still run the latest version of tvOS.

7. Aerial screensavers

Aerial Screensaver showing some beautiful rolling fields
It’s hypnotic.
Image: Apple

For better or for worse, when you have a party going on, nothing will attract your guests to your living room like moths to a light quite like the Apple TV aerial screensaver. When you let it sit idly for a while (or if you hit the < back button on the Home Screen) your TV will play these beautiful slow videos of scenic vistas, cityscapes, deep sea creatures and scenes from all around the world.

It’s a great way to liven up a room and turn your TV into a classy piece of art. New aerial videos are automatically downloaded over time to keep it fresh.

More links

Apple TV 4K Wi‑Fi with 64GB Storage (3rd Generation)
$146.29
  • 4K Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for vivid picture quality 
  • Incredible power with the A15 Bionic chip 
  • Siri Remote brings precise control with a touch-enabled clickpad 
Buy now
04/14/2024 04:22 am GMT

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