Apple TV 4K vs. Roku Ultra: Which top streaming device is best?

Scanning the shelves of your local brick-and-mortar outlet, you’ll see everything from Google devices to Amazon-powered peripherals that you can connect to the internet, plug into your TV, and use to access thousands of movies and TV shows from apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more, with a slew of additional device features available to use, too.

And in the continuing war of streaming, two brands receive boatloads of attention, and for plenty of good reasons: Apple and Roku.

Right now, the third-generation Apple TV 4K (2022) and Roku Ultra (2022) are two of the best streaming devices you can buy. But which is better, you may be asking? That’s a fair question, and as fans of both names, we compared the products side by side to see which streamer came out on top. Read on to see which one we liked the most.

Check out our full review of the Apple TV 4K (2022). And if you want to compare Apple to Apple, check out our comparison of the Apple TV 4K (2022) and Apple TV 4K (2021).

Design and remote control The Apple TV 4K (2022) and Siri remote on a table.Caleb Denison / Digital Trends

Before we go any further, from here on, we’ll be referring to the latest 2022 versions of these devices unless we specify an older generation. Now then … Both the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Ultra are sleek and stylish streaming devices that are compact and look good on most media cabinets, but let’s take a look at each streamer with a closer lens.

The Apple TV 4K is 3.7 inches wide, 3.7 inches deep, and 1.2 inches from top to bottom. Apple has been using the same glossy-chrome outer shell for many years now, and the latest Apple TV 4K looks just as good as its predecessors. This time around, the included Siri remote is equipped with a USB-C charging port, too, allowing for much faster charge times when compared to the previous Lightning-only iteration of the Siri remote that came with older versions.

Roku Ultra 2019.

Over in Roku territory, the all-new Ultra measures 4.9 inches wide, 5 inches from front to back, and is only 1 inch tall. In terms of the outer shell, we’re working with a matte-style casing that lets the device look stylish without having to worry about fingerprinting it up. And where older Roku devices only come with traditional Roku remotes, the latest Ultra comes packaged with the incredible Voice Remote Pro (which can also be purchased for other Roku hardware).

The flagship Roku remote also includes a 3.5mm input for connecting a pair of wired headphones, a USB-C port for charging, two programmable user shortcuts, and a handy Find My Remote feature in the event that you lose the small accessory.

Apple and Roku are both top-notch when it comes to design and remotes, but with its slightly smaller chassis for the most space-starved entertainment centers, we’re going to give a point to Apple for this category.

Winner: Apple TV 4K

Connections and performance The rear view of an Apple TV 4K showing gigabit ethernet port, HDMI port, and power port, with the Siri remote alongside in the background.Zeke Jones/Digital Trends

The new-and-improved Apple TV 4K is equipped with Apple’s all-new A15 Bionic chip, which the company claims will deliver nearly double the CPU performance of the previous Apple TV 4K, as well as up to 30% better performance when it comes to the GPU. In layman’s terms, this is going to mean faster load times for apps, streamlined voice navigation, and a more responsive user interface.

In terms of actual ports, the Apple TV 4K is equipped with an HDMI 2.1 connection (just as the 2021 Apple TV 4K before it) that also supports eARC for wiring the streamer up to your Dolby Atmos-ready soundbar or AV system. However, if you’re looking to maximize your overall internet performance, there’s an important difference between the 64GB and 128GB Apple TV 4K models: the latter is the only version that comes with a Gigabit Ethernet port.

If you’re planning on going Wi-Fi-only, this may not be such a big deal, but the ability to connect the Apple TV 4K directly to your router helps to take the strain off your wireless network bands while providing a faster web connection for the device.

Believe it or not, newer isn’t always better, and in the case of the revamped Roku Ultra, the only thing that makes the 2022 version “new” is the inclusion of Roku’s Voice Remote Pro. Comparing the 2020 and 2022 Ultras, overall processing power and available connections remain the same, but don’t let that deter you: The Roku Ultra has always been a force to be reckoned with.

The onboard quad-core processor performs at lightning-fast speeds, opening apps and streaming 4K content in the blink of an eye, even when streaming movies and TV shows in HDR. And in terms of actual connections, the Roku Ultra includes an Ethernet port right off the bat, as well as an HDMI 2.0b port and a USB-A input for viewing photos, videos, and music files, with some supported popular formats, including MP4, MP3, MOV, and JPG.

Unlike the Apple TV 4K, though, the Roku Ultra only features 4GB of internal storage, whereas the Apple TV 4K offers 64GB and 128GB of storage, depending on the model you purchase. And unlike the former Roku Ultra (2020), the 2022 edition nixed the microSD card slot, negating any external storage capabilities.

At the end of the day, though, we’re going to call this category a tie. Performance-wise, Apple’s A15 Bionic chip and Roku’s quad-core processor deliver the goods. And while the Apple TV 4K’s HDMI 2.1 input beats the Ultra’s 2.0b port, the Ultra includes a USB-A input, while the Apple TV doesn’t.

Winner: Tie

User interface Apple TV control center screen.

The look and feel of a streaming device’s screens and menus are often the make-or-break factors for both first-time and recurring buyers. Fortunately, the user interface of both the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Ultra are easy to navigate, quick to customize, and iconic by design.

On the Apple side of the coin, tvOS is built for a crisp, clean, and streamlined user experience from top to bottom, with minimal advertisement intrusions. The home screen is sleek and monochrome (an Apple TV UI staple), placing all of the attention on whatever apps you have added to the launch page, with the ability to have up to 20 apps showcased at once.

Navigating with the Siri-powered remote is a breeze, too, with the voice assistant allowing you to do things like launch apps, raise and lower volume, search for movies and TV shows (by title, genre, actor, and other criteria), and more.

Roku OS 11.5 home screen.

Roku OS is just as mighty, though. Boldly purple and friendly to engage, the Ultra’s launch page includes several left-aligned search and customization options, with the right side of the screen used as real estate for your Roku app (billed as Streaming Channels), of which you’ll be able to see nine of at one time.

The included Voice Remote Pro also allows you to use Roku’s onboard voice assistant to pull up movies and TV shows, adjust the volume, and more, although the overall seamlessness of Roku’s assistant pales in comparison to the quick genius that is Siri. And even though you can control elements of the Ultra with Alexa and Google Assistant (more on that later), Siri wins all day when it comes to listening and responsiveness.

Winner: Apple TV 4K

Picture and sound quality Robert Downey Jr. In Avengers: Endgame.Marvel Studios

There’s nothing quite like watching your favorite movies and TV shows in glorious HDR and pulse-pounding surround sound, and if you’re a big-time streamer, you’ll be pleased to know that both the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Ultra can handle pretty much any HDR format you can throw at them, in addition to immersive surround formats like Dolby Atmos.

HDR, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision are supported by both 2022 devices, and Apple’s A15 chip and Roku’s quad-core processor do big work in ensuring the most grandiose movies from the likes of Disney+ and Netf

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