Chromecast Ultra vs. Apple TV 4K vs. Roku Ultra vs. Amazon Fire 4K: Which Is Best?
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The streaming device market is more competitive than ever. Today, there are a plethora of devices to choose from across a number of price points.

If you want the best of the best, however, you’ll probably want to invest in a device that supports 4K video. Many of the most popular streaming services Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? It has been years since we've compared heavy-hitting streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And with changes in pricing, content, quality, and interface, we thought it was time to revisit the topic. Read More are increasingly moving towards the format.

Realistically, you have four 4K devices to choose from: the Chromecast Ultra, the Apple TV 4K, the Roku Ultra, and the Amazon Fire TV 4K.

But how do they stack up against each other? Which has the best technical specs? Which has the broadest selection of content? And is it possible to name a clear winner? Let’s take a closer look.

Chromecast Ultra

streaming devices compared - chromecast ultra

The Chromecast Ultra costs twice the amount of a regular Chromecast, but it offers the best value-for-money for those who want a 4K-compatible device.

Technical Specs

The Chromecast Ultra is Google’s entry into the 2160p video sector.

It can play 4K content from any device that’s connected to your wireless network and is also compatible with high dynamic range (HDR) content. For those who don’t know, HDR lets videos have a more vivid contrast, a broader color palette, and higher brightness levels.

There is one other significant difference between the Chromecast Ultra and the regular Chromecast: the presence of an Ethernet port. It means you can plug it into a wired network and (theoretically) enjoy a faster and more stable connection.

Under the bonnet, you will find a Marvell Armada 1500 Mini Plus 88DE3009 chip, 256MB of RAM, support for 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks, and both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The Chromecast Ultra weighs 1.66 ounces.

From a technical standpoint, the two most prominent drawbacks are the lack of a remote control and the lack of a user interface.

Content

The Chromecast acts as a bridge between your mobile or laptop and the TV. As such, most mainstream apps on both Android and iOS are Chromecast-compatible. Plenty of niche, less well-known streaming apps have also included the functionality.

To give you an example, CBS, Google Play, WatchESPN, YouTube, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music, HBO NOW, Hulu, MLB.tv, Netflix, Pandora, Showtime Anytime, and Spotify all support the technology.

The glaring omission from the list is Amazon Video. Amazon and Google have been at loggerheads for months, and the absence of Amazon Video support shows that consumers are now starting to feel the effects.

Apple TV 4K

streaming devices compared - apple tv 4k

The Apple TV 4K is the fifth generation of Apple TV products. Apple announced the device in September 2017, with the first units arriving in customers’ hands a couple of months later.

Technical Specs

Boasting a hexa-core Apple A10X Fusion processor, the Apple TV 4K offers the most powerful processor seen in the product line so far.

Users can also look forward to 7.1 channel surround sound, support for 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks, and Bluetooth 5.0, HDMI 2.0, and infrared receiver connectivity. You can choose between a 32GB and a 64GB model.

It’s also worth giving a nod to the Apple TV 4K’s form factor. As is always the case with Apple products, the device and its remote look and feel premium. In comparison, the Roku and Amazon Fire devices feel rather cheap and plasticky.

Perhaps disappointingly, the Apple TV 4K only offers 3GB of DRAM memory. It’s significantly less than other devices on this list. Given the device’s premium price tag, users should expect more.

Content

Until the end of 2017, Apple TVs suffered from the same issue as Chromecasts: a lack of support for Amazon Video.

However, the app has since gone live in more than 100 countries, meaning Apple TV now offers apps from all the leading streaming services. Find more in our guide to streaming Amazon Video on the Apple TV How to Watch Amazon Prime Video on Your Apple TV How to Watch Amazon Prime Video on Your Apple TV Amazon Prime Video might just be better than Netflix. In this article, we explain how to watch Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV. Read More . We’ve looked at everything you need to enjoy Netflix on your Apple TV Apple TV and Netflix Guide: Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting Advice Apple TV and Netflix Guide: Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting Advice In this article, we help you set up Netflix on your Apple TV and offer some tips, tricks, and troubleshooting advice to get you started. Read More , too.

On the downside, the rigid App Store means the availability of “off-piste” streaming apps is diminished. You can’t even download and sideload installation files easily like you can on Android devices.

It is also worth noting that Siri integration is nowhere near universal among third-party apps, making it an impractical way to search for content.

Roku Ultra

streaming devices compared - roku ultra

Roku Ultra | 4K/HDR/HD Streaming Player with Enhanced Remote (Voice, Remote Finder, Headphone Jack, TV Power and Volume), Ethernet, Microsd and USB Roku Ultra | 4K/HDR/HD Streaming Player with Enhanced Remote (Voice, Remote Finder, Headphone Jack, TV Power and Volume), Ethernet, Microsd and USB Buy Now At Amazon $79.99

In mid-2017, Roku simplified its product line A Brief Guide to the New Roku Hardware for 2017 A Brief Guide to the New Roku Hardware for 2017 Roku has refreshed its entire lineup for 2017. The problem is it's difficult to keep track of so many different devices. Let us help you with this brief guide to Roku's new hardware. Read More into five standalone devices. The Roku Ultra is the top-of-the-range premium model. Along with the Roku Streaming Stick+, it is only of two devices in the company’s product range which offers 4K resolution.

Technical Specs

Like the Chromecast Ultra, the Roku Chromecast vs. Roku: Which One Is Best for You? Chromecast vs. Roku: Which One Is Best for You? There are many streaming media devices to choose between. In this article, we compare the heaviest hitters: Chromecast vs Roku. Read More Ultra offers both wired and wireless connectivity. Wireless connectivity comes in the shape of 802.11ac dual-band MIMO.

On the back of the device, you’ll also find a micro SD card slot so you can expand the Ultra’s storage and a USB port for local playback.

Other noteworthy features include HDR support, a “night listening” mode, a lost remote finder, screen mirroring via Miracast, and voice search via the accompanying remote.

Content

Roku is the most content-agnostic set-top streaming box on the market. Unlike its biggest three competitors—Apple, Google, and Amazon—Roku does not provide video or music streaming services of its own.

As a result, the company relies on ensuring as many apps as possible are available on the platform. Roku has never entered into the tit-for-tat availability wars we’ve seen with other manufacturers.

Interestingly, Roku did recently launch its own ad-supported movie channel. It’s a great way to catch up on Hollywood releases if you hate Netflix and the other big streaming services.

Roku also lets you install private channels. They provide a range of live TV and on-demand videos. We’ve listed some of the best private Roku channels 20 Private Roku Channels You Should Install Right Now 20 Private Roku Channels You Should Install Right Now Here's how to add private channels to your Roku, alongside some of the best private Roku channels you can install right now. Read More elsewhere on the site.

Amazon Fire TV 4K

streaming devices compared - amazon fire 4k

Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote (1st Gen), streaming media player Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote (1st Gen), streaming media player Buy Now At Amazon

Amazon released the all-new Amazon Fire TV 4K in late 2017, bringing support for 4K video to the product for the first time.

Technical Specs

The Amazon Fire stick can play video in 2160p (4K), 1080p, and 720p resolutions. It is powered by a Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and has a Mali-450 GPU. The previous Fire model had a Mediatek 8127D CPU, so the new release marks a significant improvement.

The device supports both wired and wireless (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; 2×2 MIMO) connectivity. Like the Chromecast Ultra, the Amazon Fire works with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands.

It also has 8GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM, works with Bluetooth 4.2 and LE, and can read H.265 (HEVC), H.264, and VP9 video codecs.

Content

The Amazon Fire runs on a heavily modified version of the Android TV operating system. Because it’s so modified, it does not support Google Play Services. Therefore, you cannot run any of Google’s suite of apps like Gmail, Keep, or Calendar.

The Amazon Appstore does, however, offer all the mainstream apps, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and Google Play Movies. You can also play some free games on your Fire TV The Best Free Amazon Fire TV Games The Best Free Amazon Fire TV Games There are a surprising number of free Amazon Fire TV games available to download. Here are the best we found. Read More .

Because it’s an Amazon product, the Fire stick is also Alexa-compatible. As such, you can use your device to control your entire smart home.

Which Device Should You Buy?

It’s not easy to determine a clear winner.

In terms of content, it’s hard to look past the Roku Ultra, especially as you can be confident the company isn’t suddenly going to block access to an app over a petty corporate dispute.

Meanwhile, the Chromecast Ultra (see our Chromecast Ultra guide How to Set Up and Use Your Chromecast Ultra How to Set Up and Use Your Chromecast Ultra Learn how to set up your Chromecast Ultra with this comprehensive guide. Read More ) wins in the flexibility stakes, though the fact it acts as a bridge between your mobile and the TV is both a blessing and a curse.

The Apple TV 4K is undeniably the best looking of the bunch, but it’s harder for tinkerers to get their hands dirty.

And while the Amazon Fire TV 4K offers the best compromise between usability and cost, its divergence from stock Android will be a turn off for some users.

All of these 4K streaming devices are solid options. It just depends what you value most and what compromises you’re willing to accept.

And if you’re not ready for 4K streaming yet, check out the best 4K monitors The Best 4K Gaming Monitors for All Budgets The Best 4K Gaming Monitors for All Budgets If you want to game in 4K, you'll need a 4K gaming monitor. Here are the best 4K gaming monitors you can buy today! Read More .

Explore more about: 4K, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, HDR, Media Streaming, Roku.

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  1. Filippo Lippi
    March 21, 2018 at 11:48 am

    You left the best one out -- NVidia Shield.

  2. Mike
    March 21, 2018 at 11:29 am

    "The Apple TV 4K is undeniably the best looking of the bunch"?
    It's a clean black box like the rest. Isn't that comment just an automatic reflex because it's Apple?
    Perhaps the remote is cleaner as it has almost no buttons but that's it.

  3. Gary S
    March 18, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    What about the Nvidia Shield? That has done 4k for years and the latest version is better than the ones featured.

  4. David S
    March 18, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    So which devices have "significantly" more memory than the 3gb of the Apple TV?

  5. Jeff
    March 17, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Yea for anyone actually researching products shield TV is hands down one of the best devices. Not only is it Android TV based but it has built in Chromecast and Google home. The remotes have voice search. It has USB ports to add HDD or mouse/keyboards. You can Bluetooth connection headphones or plug in headphones to the remote to privately listen to your shows. For those who casually game you can play your computers games through it. You can also put Kodi on it without any hassle. Offers things like optical out audio, expandable HDD space that may be important to some people. Worth checking out.

  6. Marlon Hall
    March 17, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    Do I need any of these AND my XBOX One and PS4 consoles?

  7. Philip Merritt
    March 17, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    The answer to the question is shieldtv is inarguably is the best. How do you ask a question like this but leave of the best device?

  8. Dionne
    March 17, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    I like the Roku because it allows me to stream from my cable company without having a cable box and all the wires.

    • Shawna Chatman
      May 1, 2018 at 12:23 am

      They all let you do that. Your cable company has an app, and it works on all the devices.

  9. Joar Addam Nessosin
    March 17, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Why is the Shield Android TV never featured in articles such as these? It's hands down one of the best media boxes available. To leave it out diminishes any comparison making this article suspect.

    • Jason
      March 17, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      Agreed! How can you publish a comparison without including the Shield?

    • Nicolas Nieves
      March 18, 2018 at 5:29 am

      Maybe I'm just ignorant on the device but I thought the Shield was pitched as an Android console that can play media and not the other way around. Wasn't the marketing around a 192 core GPU and controller and how the demos rivaled PC's?

    • Shawna Chatman
      May 1, 2018 at 12:27 am

      Because Nvidia never pays writers to endorse their products. They are the best at what they do and do not need to bribe tech writers to tell the world what they already know. If Nvidia sells it, it's probably the best out there.

      Commercial endorsement has ruined articles and the internet for me. Companies have to pay writers to mention their products or they will pretend they don't exist, or pretend they have serious flaws.

  10. Matt
    March 17, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    "Amazon and Google have been at loggerheads for months," this needs to be corrected to "years". Amazon removed all Chromecasts from their store weeks before the second generation Chromecasts launched on to of blocking Google services since launch and many other things. Google retaliated for the first time in years this past fall. And the fire devices, while being Android based and thus easy to implement, have never supported casting to a Chromecast.

    All we have are a Chromecast and Chromecast ultra and we have never looked back. We have guests in our house all the time and they know how to use their phones where the other devices require learning their UI's not to mention using your streaming accounts when guests are watching. Chromecasts are the most versitile for a large household or those that host regularly with guests that have Android or Apple devices. No competition.

    I am amazed at all the fire lovers in the comments. Netflix already has my viewing data, I am not a fan of Amazon tracking everything I do and every app i open on top of that. Google for the win.

    • Kinzzz
      March 17, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      Also, Apple TV now allows Amazon Video. I don't think the writer really bothered trying these devices out, its some old article with new specs and incomplete info.

  11. Craig
    March 17, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    The Chromecast Ultra has both wired and wireless so I don't understand your writing in the Roku portion. Did you even try the devices? This just reads like a stat sheet. Where is the real comparison between them. HDR quality, stability and streaming quality?

  12. Liam
    March 17, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    I cant speak to Roku as ive never used that. But the Fire Stick is by far the best between the others. Apple being Apple is far too restrictive in what you can do. Chromcast is basically just a go-between device. The Firestick can completely replace your cable and thats just the tip of the iceberg. By allowing 3rd party apps (like android does) the options are almost endless for media content. That, coupled with the fact you can use the speech remote to control any Alexa devices makes the firestick way, way better than AppleTV or Chromecast.

  13. Adam
    March 17, 2018 at 11:55 am

    The correct answer is none of the above. Buy an Nvidia Shield. It's more expensive but it buries the others in performance and functions like a Chromecast as well

  14. Daniel
    March 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

    The dis on Apple 4K only having 3 GB of ram saying the rest have more when the Roku has 256 mb and the Amazon Fire only has 2 FB ram, Apple has MORE ram than the others for the A10 Fusion chip

  15. Ken
    March 17, 2018 at 9:22 am

    What a lame comparison. No conclusions really?
    I have 2 Chromecast and i never use them. Why because once i got my first Fire TV i could no longer understand why anyone would deal with how inconvenient a Chromecast is.

    • Liam
      March 17, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      3 chromecasts got the sack after getting the firestick. There is no comparison. The firestick is far superior.

  16. Scott
    March 17, 2018 at 3:31 am

    I have some of these. I don't have a Roku Ultra but I have a Roku 4k television, which is nice. If you are considering these, look at the Nvidia Shield and the Xiaomi Mi Box, which the author neglected to mention.

  17. The Genius
    March 17, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Wow s comparison article that reads like it was copied from the brochure and for a bonus, the article has no conclusion!

    Try harder.

    • Daniel
      March 17, 2018 at 11:37 am

      I agree!

    • Daniel
      March 17, 2018 at 11:38 am

      I agree