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Roku vs. Fire TV vs. Android TV vs. Apple TV – Strengths and Weaknesses!


hey everybody it’s lon seiben and i thought today would be fun to do a comparison of all of the major streaming tv devices that includes the roku the android tv the fire tv and the apple tv and i’ve got examples of all four operating systems running right now on screen here and we’re going to look at the strengths and weaknesses of each and hopefully this video will help you decide what will work best for your particular situation now these operating systems are available on smart televisions as a built-in thing so this video will be helpful i think for that but we’re also going to be looking at this in the context of adding a device to your existing television and the reason why you might need one of these add-ons is because smart tvs get dumber over time so i have an older lg oled television upstairs and then i’ve got a samsung tv in the bedroom neither one of those tvs is getting a lot of the newer apps as they come out so for example on my lg oled i can’t get hbo max so i need a different device to access that service and then some apps just get slower because these older tvs have slower processors and the app makers are putting more and more advanced features into their apps and that’s when getting one of these add-on devices is something that you need to do to continue watching the media that you’re paying for now before we jump into the comparison here i do want to let you know in the interest of full disclosure that i paid for most of these devices with my

own funds the exception is the roku device that came in free of charge from roku this is their streaming stick 4k plus that we’ll be looking at today all of the opinions you’re about to hear are my own no one is paying for this review nor is anyone reviewed or approved what you’re about to see before it was uploaded so let’s get into it now and see how these different devices work now for the most part at least at the time i’m recording this video all of the major streaming providers are available across all of these different devices in almost all cases if you’re running netflix on a roku netflix is going to feel the same as it does on an apple tv or a fire tv so the interfaces of the apps individually tend to be pretty universal so you don’t have to relearn netflix every time you buy a new box for example one thing that happens though from time to time is that the manufacturer of your streaming box gets into a fight with one of the streaming providers so most recently roku and youtube had a pretty big spat and they came within a day of youtube getting kicked off of roku completely and i think this sort of thing is a thing we’re going to be seeing as the next couple of years progress here so it’s possible that one of your favorite apps could be on your device today and then get kicked off tomorrow and that’s when you might have to get another box the good news is these boxes are pretty cheap and the reason why they’re so cheap is that you get bombarded with advertising

everywhere you go roku is a little less in your face about it they tend to put the ads off to the side here but you can see it changing every time i move the screen around here and switching over to the fire tv interface you’ll see a lot of ads on the amazon platform here so we’ve got some stuff for content but also things like the grand wagoneer from jeep and i think i’ll see an app pop up here next being advertised to me as well so there it is so you’ve got a lot of ads you have to kind of navigate around including banners that get inserted in line with the interface and then i’ve got a whole section here of sponsored apps and games that are above some of their curated stuff so definitely the busiest interface insofar as ads are concerned of all the different devices we’ll look at here and you’ll also see though you can easily get to your favorite apps here on this shelf and in my review of the fire tv devices you can see how to configure all of that now android tv devices like the google chromecast we’re running here do have ads built in as well as you can see and this is kind of a newer thing on android in fact many devices that didn’t have ads before recently got them and so users have not been too crazy about the fact that that is a new feature if you will that was added to the android tv operating system and you will of course see ads as you’re scrolling through the interface here but it’s not quite as busy as what you might see on the fire tv side now the apple tv will have advertising on it you can see one of these ads running right now for some apple content but you can get rid of this stuff for the most part so right now i’ve got the apple tv app here on the far left hand side of this app shelf and this is the default placement for this app but if i grab it and just move it down here what you’ll see now is the new default is the apple photos app and this is pulling in pictures from my icloud library so when this apple tv

boots up next the default is going to be cute pictures of my kids and not some advertisement intruding into my entertainment here so that was a nice thing that you could do here on apple tv apple tv of course is the most expensive device of this mix that we’re looking at today but you will see advertising popping up when you go over other applications so for example they want me to subscribe to their fitness plan again i can move this app off and get rid of that you’ll also see ads when you go into their app store as well so you’re not going to be completely escaping advertising but you can clear it out of your interface for the most part here and that’s because you’re paying a lot more for an apple tv box versus a fire tv stick and these advertising relationships tend to bias the search results you’re going to get when you’re hunting around for content so for example on the roku here i did a search for star trek the next generation and these results are probably the best of all four of the streaming boxes we’re comparing today so i can find it on netflix on prime video i can see which ones sell it by the episode and which ones have it as part of the subscription if i do that same search on the fire tv the results first will direct me into amazon prime video before i am offered other alternatives so if i don’t have a prime video account i’ve got to go here to more ways to watch and then it will only give me netflix as an option even though we know it’s on more than that if i go over to the google device here the android tv box you can see that it’s telling me that it’s on netflix and then there are seven other ways to watch so the first option here is a paid button and the rest are the more organic results here so this one’s a little bit close to roku perhaps but you can see how the

advertising is biasing the result and then on the apple tv using its built-in search we get brought to this very nice landing page but look what happens when i go to play back star trek it’s asking me to install hulu so the first click is for something that’s not even installed on my apple tv nor am i a subscriber i’ve got to scroll down here to see where else i can find it and missing from the list for some reason is netflix where that show is located where i have a subscription and an app installed but unfortunately because apple and netflix are having some disagreements netflix is not showing up in the search results so you can see just how the business of the streaming world can often impact the quality of the search results that we get but if you are looking for a way of finding all of your favorite shows i have found the real good search engine to be pretty useful it’s free you can personalize it you can have it track your favorite shows so you know when a new episode is uploaded and i found it to be a good alternative to using some of the universal searches that quite frankly are broken across most of these devices all right so now that we know what these things have in common let’s see how they differ and what each platform’s strengths are and we’ll begin with the roku device and look at a few of the things that set it apart for me what i like about roku is that it’s the simplest of all of these players the interface is not that cluttered the only apps that you can download really are media streaming apps so these things are designed to play back media and nothing else and i think that does have some strengths

especially if you’re just looking for something to play back netflix and other streaming providers on another neat thing about the roku is that it actually plays the best with apple devices and so most of the current roku’s support airplay too and what i can do here for example is take out my iphone tap on my screen mirroring icon and with the tap here it will automatically allow me to project my iphone or ipad or mac onto a television screen with pretty minimal latency here this of course you can do with the apple tv but if the apple tv is too expensive for you these very inexpensive roku’s will do this too the fire tv will do this on some of their television based devices but not their inexpensive sticks and i thought that was a nice feature on the roku that is really differing from some of their competitors now roku also supports mirror casting which is a similar technology that’s compatible with windows and android devices a couple other neat little features of the roku is that some of their devices come with a remote that has a headphone jack built in you can also buy the remote separately with this feature and when you plug headphones into the headphone jack it disables audio going to the television and you can watch on your big tv but listen through headphones so you don’t disturb your partner at night so i like to watch a lot of sci-fi shows that my wife is not too big of a fan of and i can watch those shows without disturbing her on the television and what’s really cool though if i get my app open here is that they have an app that runs on ios and android that will also do that private listening thing so when i click on the headphone icon here what this will do is channel the audio from the roku through my phone and if i have headphones connected to my phone i get the same functionality as i do with the remote with the headphone jack and this feature through the app works on even the lowest of the low end roku devices so if you are someone who is up late watching tv the private listening either through the remote or the app is a really neat feature of roku and even though you can find free content on all of the devices we’re talking about today i think roku does a very nice job of curating the free stuff so if you’re just looking to get something that cut the cord and watch

whatever’s free on the internet roku is a great place to start and then as you’re browsing through this section you’ll see the free content coming from different apps you can get those apps installed and then jump to them directly but this is a good starting point for finding some of the best free content out there that you can watch on your television but the weakness of roku is that it’s not a very powerful platform so you’re going to find more robust apps on some of the other platforms that we’re looking at here there’s really no games to speak of you can’t really control your smart home with a roku but it does again do a very good job playing back media let’s move over now though to the fire tv and there’s a lot of similarities to roku in that you will find a bunch of free stuff if you uh dive into it i got to get the right remote control here so if i go over to find here for example we can jump over into their free section where they offer a very similar selection of apps and content that you can find for free on your fire device and of course amazon has their own free streaming platform called imdb.tv i do think it’s easier to find free stuff on the roku it’s not kind of buried in the interface here now of course one of the strengths of the amazon fire tv devices is that they’re integrated with the amazon a word ecosystem i don’t want to set off your echo devices and what you can do is control all of your smart home stuff the same way you would through one of their smart speakers and you can do more because you have a screen so for example right now i’m monitoring my front doorbell camera which is working just fine here i can also do some really cool stuff and one of the key features of the fire tv platform is its device control so if we go over here to the settings gear icon i can build out a universal remote system that i can activate with my voice and if i go here to manage equipment you can see all the different things that we can add into its configuration so for example i could ask the fire tv to turn on the xbox and what it does is it will switch the tv to the right input if i have a stereo home theater receiver it will get that configured

properly to tune to the xbox and after you spent some time getting everything set up you don’t have to have a bunch of remotes out your kids can walk up to the tv push the button ask for the xbox and everything is just going to get configured automatically for them so if you have people that get overwhelmed with remotes and having to get the right input set this can be a real solution that’s actually easier to use than a universal remote control now if you have a home theater audio receiver most of the fire tv sticks support dolby atmos and on the roku side you have to go up to their more expensive ultra player to get that surround sound feature we’re going to look at the specifics of each platform’s devices in a few minutes but that’s definitely one strength here of the fire tv is that you get atmos on a much less expensive device and there’s also the ability to play games on the fire tv with a game controller because the fire tv is running with amazon’s version of android which allows for much more interactive experiences within games like this or also within just regular streaming apps so you’ll see a little bit more robustness here in the experience when you’re browsing around various applications that you can download the game library on this is not deep but there are some games and beyond that you can also stream games to it from amazon’s luna service as well as a few other ones out there and there’s also things like rainway here that allow you to stream games from your home gaming pc to your tv through the fire stick so let’s move over to android tv now and one of the advantages you have

with android tv is that there’s a lot of devices to choose from i’ll give you some recommendations in a few minutes and one of the other strengths here is that this is tied into the google assistant infrastructure so you’ve got everything that a google assistant can do built into your television now so for example i could say show me the garage camera and just like i could do on any other google device i can pull up things like my garage camera here and display on my television so if you are more invested in google stuff versus amazon’s this would be probably the way to go now there are some similarities between the fire tv and the android tv platform because they are both running android under the hood but i have found the app library to be a little deeper on the android tv side especially when it comes to games i found there are some higher quality games on android tv and there’s more of them so that’s a big differentiator there you’ll also find that if you have purchased apps on your android phone a lot of those apps might actually be installable on your television because the developers can port it over fairly easily it’s all working through google play whereas amazon has its own app store separate from google play now another feature of android tv is that all android tv devices will double as chromecast devices and what chromecast lets you do is take things that you’re watching on your phone and with a button push just pass them over to your television if you’re on the same network so for example i could be watching amazon prime video on my phone during my commute and then when i get home i can just hit my tv and pick up right where i left off just by casting it from the phone to the television now you can do this with roku but not every mobile app

supports that casting feature and chromecasting is a much wider supported standards so if you are using a chromecast now you can get an android tv and still do the chromecasting while also getting the ability to control things from the tv directly and for the more technically inclined i think the openness of the android tv platform gives you the most flexibility beyond the much deeper app library on android tv you also have the ability to sideload other things on even things that are not designed for televisions phone apps actually run pretty nicely on the television minus the touch screen so there’s a lot you can do here and what’s really nice is that you have a wide choice of hardware so you can get something super powerful like the nvidia shield tv pro have it do all your normal tv watching stuff and then turn it into a pretty cool emulation game console too and that’s something that you’re not going to find on any of the other platforms we’re looking at today all right next up is the apple tv and clearly the strength here is its connection with other apple devices so if you are an apple household with a mac an iphone and an ipad this is going to slide in quite nicely into that mix you’re paying a lot of money for everything but it’s going to work really well together my favorite feature i think is the photo integration this is not done as well on any of the other platforms but here once you boot it up all of your pictures in your icloud library and all the videos are here you can just get at them right away they’ve got these really cool curated memories here that you’ll often find on your phone you can pull them up here it’ll play a little song with some photos and videos mixed together from various trips that you’ve taken these change all the time so it’s kind of a fun way to just get a little uh happy memory going if you want a little pick me up during the day but additionally it’s a very powerful platform because this is running with the same operating system and chips

as your iphone or ipad might run this has got an a12 bionic processor and the ios platform has become quite a decent gaming platform so you’ll find some really great games on this in fact better games than you would find on the fire tv or on the android tv and you can pair up your xbox or playstation controllers to play those games let me boot one up here so you can get a feel for what it looks like now this game is called skate city and it’s part of the apple arcade subscription plan i’m not very good at it yet here uh so they have a subscription plan where there’s a bunch of fun little casual games that you get as part of that deal it’s kind of like game pass the games though are largely like this they’re mostly mobile ports so they’re not really all that in depth but they’re fun kind of quick pick up and play things but i think if you want a more serious gaming experience getting an xbox or a playstation is probably the better way to go now you don’t have to subscribe to this subscription plan in fact a lot of games that you might already own on your phone you might be surprised to learn are installable here and as you can see i’ve got a bunch of apps here in my library that were initially installed on my iphone and these all have tv ports available so i can easily just download them to my apple tv and some of these are free but some are paid apps like ocean horn here and i don’t have to pay for it again because it’s already in my account i can just download it here from the cloud and start playing on the apple tv with my game controller and there’s some other neat integrations here with the apple ecosystem that are more subtle but still very cool so i’m going to jump into the apple app store

here on the tv and once i move my cursor into the text field here i’m going to get a notification on my phone and i can start typing here after tapping on that notification and that’s because apple has control over all of this stuff and they’ve basically integrated the remote control into the ios operating system running on my phone which is really cool some other stuff that works really well here is apple home kit so these apple tvs can act as little home kit bases so you can communicate with your devices when you’re not at home like door locks and light bulbs and that sort of thing even the air pods connect up with this very seamlessly and some of the newer ones can support atmos audio as well so there’s a lot to like here but the price is pretty high on this versus some of the other ones but at the same time you’re not bombarded with advertising when you boot it up either so what do i recommend well roku still remains my go-to at the moment and the reason is is that it does one thing and one thing really well which is acting as a streaming media player and nothing else it doesn’t do games it doesn’t do fancy robust apps it plays media back on your television for not a lot of money and what i like about the interface is that it is simple you’re not getting bombarded with advertising everywhere you will see stuff like this on the side but nothing kind of integrated into things at the moment it’s very easy to get to the free stuff it’s just a nice simple platform for watching your television and i think for a lot of people this is enough and that’s why here in the u.s roku is the market leader now as simple as it is to operate a roku buying one can get a little more complicated because they have so many different options to choose from so let me give you my recommendations as to which roku’s i think work best in particular scenarios here so if you have a regular old 1080p television an older set the roku express is going to be just fine this is their least

expensive entry level model plug it in over hdmi connect it to your wi-fi you will be happy it’s a great device for those older 1080p televisions there’s way too many choices for 4k but i think for most people the streaming stick 4k is going to work out the best whether you have an older 4k set or a newer one this supports dolby vision it has the best wi-fi connectivity in its price range and i think this is the one that would work best for most people with a 4k television new or old just note though there is the roku express 4k which is a good device but it doesn’t support dolby vision and its wi-fi isn’t as strong and oftentimes the price difference between the express 4k and the streaming stick 4k is minimal so i think you’ll have less aggravation with the streaming stick over the express but both should work fine on a 4k television now if you have a home theater system that supports atmos audio for surround sound you’ll want to go with the roku ultra which is the only roku that supports atmos audio at the moment but the price on this is significantly higher than what you might get from amazon with a fire tv or one of the many android tv devices that are out there so if you are really into roku and you want the atmos sound the ultra is the way to go but if you just want the atmos sound and really care less about platform that’s where going to the android tv side or the fire tv side might save you some money although the ultra does have some cool features like a remote with the headphone jack on board and built in ethernet now if you’re looking for a

little bit more i think the fire tv line is very competitive to the roku and packs a lot of value into what they’re offering now at the low end of the scale is the regular fire tv stick this works with older 1080p sets now this supports most of the features that the other fire tvs support just at a lower resolution so you get all of your amazon a word commands that you can issue through the remote it also supports device control so you can use it like a universal remote control they offer a light version of this that cost slightly less that does give you the amazon a word commands but not the universal remote control functionality that the regular fire tv stick offers so i think it’s just a couple bucks more but you might get a little bit more value out of this one versus the light but if you don’t have anything else plugged into that tv go with the light that’ll be fine on a 1080p device they’re pretty much the same guts inside just a little different feature set now for the 4k folks out there i would recommend the fire tv stick 4k max and the reason why i like the max device over the regular fire tv 4k is that it has a faster processor a little more memory on board and it has wi-fi six capabilities so it does a little better with the wi-fi and i found it to be a very nice alternative to the roku ultra because it supports dolby atmos and dolby vision has a greater feature set and it is a lot less expensive now on the more expensive side of things you have the fire tv cube it’s a little faster than the 4k max stick and it doesn’t require a button push for your voice commands so this works exactly like an amazon echo device does but it can also control all the stuff within your home theater setup so it can be a fun thing to just walk in the room and issue a command to turn the xbox on for example and it will do that for you without having to touch anything now if you’re looking for something in the android ecosystem i think there are only two choices to consider if you are on a budget the chromecast with google tv is an exceptional tv player for the price point it supports 4k it supports hdr it supports dolby vision and they’ll be atmos and it’s got a really nice feature set that is updated quite regularly by google who manufactures it in fact a lot of the new android tv features get put into this device first before they roll out to other android

devices a great value and it stacks up very competitively against roku and the fire tvs now if you want the best then the nvidia shield tv pro is what you want to look at it’s priced at around the same price point as the apple tv but it gives you all of the openness of android with the performance of the apple tv which means this thing is great for home theater use but also game emulation and a whole bunch of other stuff this has been around for a very long time it hasn’t been changed that much over the years either and what’s been great about this is how great nvidia has been at supporting this so i have a player from 2015 on my bedroom tv upstairs it is still getting updates now in 2021 i think it’s probably the most updated android device ever so i’ve been very very happy with this as an enthusiast type and if you are of that mindset you get the best of everything in the nvidia shield pro and it’s definitely something i would look at if you like getting your hands dirty with techie stuff this is a really fun device to play around with and also great for entertainment now before we close out i would be remiss if i didn’t bring up the current crop of game consoles the microsoft xbox series s and x and the playstation 5.

Most of the major streaming apps are available on these game consoles and these consoles do it just as well as some of the other streaming devices we’ve been talking about here so if you already have one of these devices you may not need to go out shopping for one of these things just yet because i think you’ll likely get most of your streaming needs met by your game console and in the case of the series x or the playstation 5 you also get a pretty decent 4k blu-ray player built in too now the blu-ray players on the xbox and the playstation do not support dolby vision or hdr 10 plus at the moment but you can get basic hdr out of them and i do believe they support atmos audio so you get disk playback in addition to all the streaming stuff and that might be worth checking out if you already have one of these and if you are looking around on places where you can buy used hardware an xbox one s is also a great choice because you get that 4k blu-ray support and there’s a lot of streaming apps available on the prior generation xbox console and if you pair it up with game pass you’ve got a really good gaming and media solution there so that’s going to do it for this look at the strengths and weaknesses of the popular tv streaming platforms out there we certainly do have a lot of choices and these all offer different things depending on what your needs are so hopefully you got your questions answered in this video and if you have comments leave them down below because maybe we’ll do a follow-up video to explore other facets of this topic and that will do it for now until next time this is lon simon thanks for watching this channel is brought to you by the lawn dot tv supporters including gold level supporters hot sauce and video games brian parker chris allegretta tom albrecht thomas anfang jim tannis and handheld obsession if you want to help the channel you can by contributing as little as a dollar a month head over to lawn dot tv support to learn more and don’t forget to subscribe

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