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The 7 Reasons to Avoid an Apple TV 4K At All Costs

Are you in the market for a new streaming device? With so many options available from companies like Roku, Amazon, Google and Apple, it can be hard to know which one to choose. If you‘re considering the Apple TV 4K, you might want to think twice. While it‘s a sleek and powerful device, it also comes with some significant drawbacks that make it hard to recommend for most people. In this article, we‘ll take a deep dive into the top reasons you should avoid the Apple TV 4K and consider alternatives like Roku instead.

First, let‘s quickly review what the Apple TV 4K is and what it offers. As the name implies, it‘s a streaming box capable of 4K HDR video output. It runs on Apple‘s tvOS platform and provides access to most of the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and of course, Apple‘s own Apple TV+. You can also use it for gaming, screen mirroring from other Apple devices, and controlling smart home devices that are compatible with Apple‘s HomeKit platform. The interface is very polished and runs smoothly thanks to the speedy A15 Bionic chip.

So far so good, right? Here‘s the main problem – the Apple TV 4K is expensive. Really expensive. The latest model starts at $129 for 64GB of storage, with a 128GB model available for $149. For comparison, Roku‘s top-of-the-line streaming box, the Roku Ultra, costs just $99. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is an even better value at just $49. Google‘s Chromecast with Google TV is similarly priced at $50. You could buy two (or almost three) of either of those for the price of a single Apple TV 4K.

Now, you might be thinking – doesn‘t Apple always charge a premium for its products? And doesn‘t that premium get you better quality hardware, software, and customer support? In many cases, yes. There‘s a reason they call it the "Apple tax." But in the case of the Apple TV 4K, you‘re really not getting your money‘s worth compared to the competition.

Let‘s start with the hardware. Yes, the Apple TV 4K is well-built and has a faster processor than most streaming boxes. But is that extra horsepower really necessary? Streaming video is not a particularly demanding task, and even the cheaper Roku and Google devices are more than capable of handling 4K HDR content without any stuttering or lag. They also support all the major HDR formats, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+. The Apple TV 4K only supports Dolby Vision and HDR10.

Then there‘s the remote. Oh, the remote. Apple just can‘t seem to get this right. The latest version is an improvement over the much-maligned touchpad model, but it‘s still a frustrating experience. The symmetrical design makes it hard to orient by touch, and the touchpad is easy to accidentally swipe when picking it up. The Siri button is located right where your thumb rests, making it easy to activate the voice assistant unintentionally. Contrast this with the remote included with Roku devices. It‘s larger, has a more ergonomic design, and includes useful features like a headphone jack for private listening and dedicated buttons for services like Netflix and Hulu.

Speaking of voice assistants, Siri on the Apple TV is not nearly as capable as Alexa on a Fire TV or Google Assistant on a Chromecast. Basic functions like searching for content work well enough, but Siri stumbles with more complex queries and has a harder time understanding context and natural language compared to its rivals. And unlike Alexa and Google Assistant, Siri can‘t be used to control smart home devices or access information beyond a fairly limited set of functions.

The Apple TV 4K‘s gaming capabilities are also somewhat overhyped. Yes, it can run games, and some of them look quite impressive for a streaming box. But the selection is limited compared to what you can access on a smartphone (even an iPhone), and the simplified controller options mean that more complex games are out of the question. Maybe it‘s fine for very casual gaming, but if that‘s a priority for you, you‘d be much better off buying a dedicated console like a Nintendo Switch.

Another big issue with the Apple TV 4K is how locked-down it is to the Apple ecosystem. Many of its most convenient features, like AirPlay and screen mirroring, only work with other Apple devices. The Apple TV app, which provides a universal watchlist and makes recommendations based on your viewing habits, doesn‘t share data with third-party apps on the device. You can‘t even sideload apps that aren‘t available in the official App Store. If you‘re fully bought into Apple‘s walled garden, this may not be a problem. But for most people, it means dealing with a lot of unnecessary restrictions and lack of compatibility with non-Apple products and services.

So if the Apple TV 4K is overpriced and over-restricted, what should you buy instead? For most people, a Roku device is the best option. Roku has been in the streaming hardware business for over a decade, and it shows in the usability and flexibility of their products. The interface is dead simple and easy to navigate, with a universal search function that checks dozens of different apps to help you find what you want to watch. Roku‘s app selection is second to none, with thousands of options ranging from the biggest services to niche offerings for enthusiasts.

The remotes are a pleasure to use, as mentioned before, and Roku devices are very reliable – you won‘t have to reboot them constantly or wait through lengthy updates like you do with the Apple TV. And if you want the absolute best value, it‘s hard to beat the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. For half the price of an Apple TV 4K, you get a device that supports all the same video and audio formats, has a more intuitive interface and remote, works with a wider variety of apps and services, and even lets you control your TV‘s power and volume right from the remote.

But maybe you‘re hesitant to give up some of the Apple TV 4K‘s more unique features. In that case, an Amazon Fire TV device might be a good alternative. They‘re quite affordable, with the Fire TV Stick 4K retailing for $50. And since Amazon owns the popular Ring and Blink smart home brands, a Fire TV can act as a handy control center for your smart home devices using Alexa voice commands. It also works seamlessly with other Amazon services like Prime Video, Amazon Music, and even the Luna game streaming service.

If all you really care about is watching movies and TV in the highest possible quality, a Google Chromecast with Google TV is another solid choice. It supports 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos just like the Apple TV 4K, but costs a fraction of the price at $50. It has a clean and intuitive interface powered by the Google TV platform, which does an excellent job of aggregating content from different apps and providing intelligent recommendations. And like Roku devices, it‘s dead simple to set up and use – just plug it in, connect to WiFi, and start streaming.

When you add it all up, the Apple TV 4K is a tough sell for anyone but the most devoted Apple fans. It‘s much more expensive than its competitors without providing a meaningfully better experience. In fact, in many ways, it‘s a worse experience due to its subpar remote, frustrating interface quirks, and lack of compatibility with non-Apple devices and services.

If you want the best possible streaming experience and are willing to pay a premium for it, you‘re better off buying a high-end smart TV from a brand like LG or Samsung. You‘ll get a great 4K HDR picture, a user-friendly interface, and built-in access to all the major streaming apps without the need for a separate box.

But if you‘re looking for a reliable, flexible, and affordable streaming device to use with your existing TV, stick with a Roku, Fire TV, or Chromecast. They provide nearly all of the same functionality as the Apple TV 4K at a fraction of the cost, and in many cases, they do it better thanks to more robust app support, more convenient remotes, and less restrictive ecosystems. The Apple TV 4K may have been revolutionary when it first launched, but in 2023, it‘s just not worth the high price of admission.