At first glance the Roku 3 and Apple TV have a lot of similarities. They are both devices that you can hook up to your HDTV with an HDMI cable, connect to your wireless network, and start streaming video. They are both approximately the same price, and they are both excellent devices. But as we discussed in our comparison of the Roku 3 and Apple TV, there are some key areas where they differ.
Depending upon the devices that you use for media consumption in your home, there may be a clear choice between these two options. But if you have cut your cable cord and have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and other video streaming services, in addition to owning Apple devices and iTunes content, then the decision is a little more difficult. But there is definitely room to own both an Apple TV and a Roku 3, especially if the Apple TV already gets a lot of use in your home.
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You Have Multiple Streaming Subscriptions, as Well as iTunes Content
Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime are some of the best entertainment values for the money. You get access to huge catalogs of movies and TV shows, and you can watch content on your phone, tablet, computer and other compatible devices. But iTunes has been around for a long time and, if you purchase a lot of digital content, then you may have a lot of movies and TV shows in your iTunes library. This was probably a deciding factor in purchasing your Apple TV in the first place.
Unfortunately, however, the Apple TV doesn’t offer the huge selection of channels that the Roku 3 does, and you may find that the content available on your Apple TV just isn’t diverse enough. By purchasing the Roku 3 you will be able to use your Amazon Prime subscription to stream additional content, and you will also be able to install and experience the numerous free channels available on the Roku platform. And while you can certainly connect the Roku 3 and the Apple TV to the same television, using them on separate TVs will provide great content in both locations.
You Have a Large Collection of Movies that You Can’t Watch Through Home Sharing
One of the biggest areas where the Roku 3 outshines the Apple TV is with the Plex Media Server and the integrated USB port. After you purchase your Roku 3, you can read this article about how to watch content on USB devices such as an external hard drive or flash drive. By taking advantage of the USB port and Plex, you can either stream content from your computer to the Roku 3, or you can watch video directly from a connected USB device. This is particularly useful when you have videos that iTunes is unable to play. You can learn more about the Plex media server here.
Amazon Prime Compatibility
We have touched on this previously, but the Apple TV is glaringly missing an Amazon Prime app. If you aren’t familiar with Amazon Prime, it is a subscription with Amazon that gives you free two-day shipping on purchases from Amazon, as well as a Netflix-like catalog of TV shows and movies. You can learn more about Prime here. Amazon Prime also costs less than Netflix as well, and can even serve as a suitable replacement for Netflix in some cases. You will also gain the ability to watch any Amazon Instant videos that you either own or have rented, which is great when Amazon is selling a digital video for less than you can get it for on iTunes.
You Don’t Have a Lot of Other Apple Devices in Your Home
The Apple TV has a feature called AirPlay that allows you to stream to the Apple TV from compatible Apple devices. It is an amazing feature, but it is sadly restricted only to Apple products. This is one of the biggest reasons that I use my Apple TV, and I find that the Apple TV would get a lot less use if I couldn’t stream from my MacBook to my TV, or send a video from my iPhone to the Apple TV. But if you have Android devices and Windows computers, then you aren’t able to take advantage of arguably the best thing about the Apple TV. Without AirPlay, and with a limited iTunes library, the Apple TV is lacking when compared directly to the Roku 3.
Most people that own an Apple TV are going to be very happy with it. But if you’ve cut the cable cord and are looking for more video content, or if you need something for a bedroom or basement TV, then the diversity that you get from owning a Roku 3 and an Apple TV is terrific. Both devices can stream content seamlessly over your home’s Wi-Fi network, and both are very simple to use. They are also very easy to move and disconnect, so if you have them connected to separate TVs, it only takes a minute to switch one device to the other TV if there is something that you want to watch in a different room that you can only access from the other device.
If you have run out of HDMI ports on one of your TVs and don’t know how you will be able to connect both devices to one TV, check out this HDMI switch on Amazon. It connects to an HDMI port on your TV and turns it into three additional HDMI ports. In most cases the switch can detect which device is active, meaning that you won’t need to manually change the HDMI input on the switch when you want to watch content from a different device.
Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech tutorials since 2008. His writing has appeared on dozens of different websites and been read over 50 million times.
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science he spent several years working in IT management for small businesses. However, he now works full time writing content online and creating websites.
His main writing topics include iPhones, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Android, and Photoshop, but he has also written about many other tech topics as well.