Is a Nvidia SHIELD or Apple TV Better Than Roku?

Is a Nvidia SHIELD or Apple TV Better Than Roku?

All are fantastic media players, but some will work better than others depending on what you need to do with it

This is a question that comes up a lot. And while better is a rather subjective term, we'll do our best to help you decide which media player may be the best for your use.

Roku Number One In Active Users, and Most Hours Streamed

Roku has a commanding lead currently in the streaming TV market. Although, last quarter has not been as great for Roku as years prior.

What makes Roku so appealing is its friendly, and easy-to-use interface, a long list of Roku channels. And its budget friendly price of admission.

The price is where neither an Apple TV nor Nvidia SHIELD can touch Roku. You can buy a Roku Express 4K on sale for under $30. And sometimes, you may get lucky and find an Apple TV 4K or Nvidia SHIELD as low as $120 for their lowest cost models. 
They typically cost is between $150 to $200 for their top models, which feature more memory. 
If you want the best Roku model, you'll need to get a Roku Ultra. It has the most features, and it also comes with Roku's best remote. And for private late night listening, the Ultra comes with some nice JBL earbuds as well. 
Here is a list of popular channels for Roku that are all FREE!

Apple TV Simple User Interface and Outstanding Hardware Rocks

While an Apple TV and Nvidia SHIELD cost more, they also offer better quality hardware. The Apple TV 4K interface is super clean, without all the advertisements and clutter. Which can be quite annoying sometimes on a Roku and now also on the SHIELD. And if you know how to use an iPhone or iPad, you'll feel right at home operating an Apple TV. Because the Apple TV OS looks very similar to iOS found on thier iPhones.

The better hardware found on an Apple TV and also Nvidia SHIELD will provide a more fluid, and snappy user experience, with 4K videos streamed in full 60FPS they look very clear, and the sound is also more crisp as well.

If you already own an iPhone, or iPad, the Apple TV 4K is a great choice. AirPlay 2 works extremely well to mirror content from your Apple mobile devices and watch movies from a website right on your big screen TV.

The Nvidia SHIELD is More Like an Android Computer

The SHIELD is the best Android TV box you can currently buy. Since they built it with gaming in mind, it can easily handle streaming TV duties. And with Android TV, you have access to a huge list of all kinds of apps. These include games, productivity apps, TV streaming apps, and more.

Since they can do a lot more, there is also a slightly longer learning curve involved in learning the Android TV operating system. Once you get it all setup, and add a Bluetooth, keyboard/track pad. A SHIELD Pro could even take the place of an inexpensive home computer.

Scoring Table

ModelPrice  Interface UnrestrictedRemoteApp StoreTechTotal
Apple TV 4K$1505345522
Nvidia SHIELD Pro$1992554521
Roku Ultra$995234418

About These Scores

From the table, as you can see, all three media streamers scored fairly close in points. With a slight nod given to the Apple TV 4K and Nvidia SHIELD Pro.

Here is a little more information on each category.

Models and Price - Since Roku does not make a higher end model to compete in price with both Apple TV and the Nvidia SHIELD Pro, we used their best tabletop model, the Roku Ultra. We can often find it far less than full retail when they are running a promotion on Best Buy or Amazon.

The Apple TV is their lower cost 4K model, the next model up is another $50 more and would probably be a better comparison to a Nvidia SHIELD, which is also $200. Nvidia also makes a tube model for $150, but it's weak in memory and we highly recommend spending the extra $50 for the SHIELD Pro.

Ease of Use - This is where both Roku and Apple TV shine. Nvidia comes in a distant 3rd only because the Android OS will require a longer learning curve.

Unrestricted Apps - Is how locked down the box is. Roku used to be a pretty open platform, but they worked hard to make sure customers could not use their box with 3rd party apps outside of their app store. They are closing down the private channels and after doing so they are the most restricted media streamer of all.

Apple used to have these honors, but they have been quite liberal in allowing IPTV apps in their channel store, but since you can't side-load apps on an Apple TV, they are only slightly ahead of Roku in this category.

Since there are no restrictions on using apps outside of Google Play, the SHIELD is the least restricted media streamer of the three.

App Store - All three media players have a very nice app or Channel Store, for adding apps. The process for adding apps on Roku is slightly clunkier and not as straightforward as on a SHIELD or Apple TV.

Tech Hardware, Build Quality Support - This is where both the SHIELD and Apple TV 4K have a bit of an unfair advantage, but Roku makes up for it with its lower price. Both Apple TV 4K and the SHIELD Pro are neck and neck in build quality and the power of the CPU powering their media players. All three companies do an excellent job of keeping their media players supported with frequent software updates and bug fixes. The SHIELD and Apple TV support Bluetooth accessories like Game pads, or mice/keyboards. Roku does not.

In Conclusion - While all three media players work amazingly well for streaming, only the Apple TV 4K and Nvidia SHIELD would also work for light gaming. Many people will choose a SHIELD to use as an Emulator for old Atari and Nintendo games Roms. You can also install KODI and other TV apps on a SHIELD which you can't get on Roku or Apple TV.

So it really depends on where your priorities lie. As a simple media player, you can't go wrong with any of these three models. But if that's all you plan on doing, you can save some money by going with Roku. But if you have your heart set on an Android TV box, but can't afford a SHIELD, the new Google TV Chromecast with a Remote is also quite nice as well. And it can often be found for less than $30 on sale.

An Apple TV is great for those that already own iOS tablets or phones, and want to take advantage of AirPlay 2 reliability, and the familiarity with the Apple TV OS operating system.

But you really can't go wrong with any of these media players. Although, much depends on your needs. You might end up liking and using one a lot more than the others. 

Here's What Other TV Streamers Are Saying: - Reddit cord-cutters spoke up and shared their experiences with these media players:
"I have multiple Roku TVs. They are “fine”. But the interface is slower. It’s infested with ads. The remote is hard coded with buttons that go to the highest bidder. It’s not a great experience."

"I have 2 Shields and can't recommend them enough. I've had a fire stick and a Roku stick in the past and both were slow and frustrating to use (granted that both of those companies have more powerful hardware options). The Shield is great for 4K HDR content, it is amazing that the hardware is a few years old, yet gets regular updates and has no qualms about high-quality content. "

"I own a Nvidia shield and loved it up until the last few updates. Two updates ago, the UI changed and ads showed up. Incredibly annoying!!! I paid a premium for the Shield and have had it for 6 years with no ads. This last update ruined my Shield to the point I had to factory reset it and I still can’t use it to stream Disney+ w/o it dropping constantly. I’m going to wait for upcoming Apple event in the hopes they show a new Apple TV. I’m done with Nvidia."

"Same happened to me, had 2 2017 NVIDIA Shields that were replaced with 2 Apple TV 4K 2021s when the ads came into the NVIDIA Shield home page. Like the Apple TV even more than the Shields, and especially appreciate the absence of ads. The newest Apple TV is a great streaming box, fast, simple and easy-to-use interface, and the new remote control is also nice. Apple tries to make the apps consistent in terms of user interface, but some of the apps don't toe the the Paramount+ app uses its own method of turning close captioning on and off instead of doing it the Apple way. Anyway, the Shields were getting flaky, and really like the Apple TVs much more."

"I have been an Apple TV user for years, but just added a Shield to try out the AI Up scaling and it’s made a remarkable difference to the picture quality of my streaming services - YouTube TV in particular. Apple TV has a slicker interface, but once you are in an app, picture quality is what matters to me, and the Shield wins."

"Android TV is faster, more powerful, more versatile in pretty much every way than Roku. Nvidia Shield is the king of all Android TV devices. The best attribute of Roku is simplicity, a device for every price range. It's super well supported by services. You don't have to get a Shield if you want Android TV though. There are a few much lower cost options. Depends on what your needs are which route you take."

"Don’t know about the Shield, but I had Roku and then switched to ATV and there is absolutely no comparison. The ATV is far superior in every category, speed, picture and sound quality, app availability (Roku is either dropping something or threatening to) and there are no ads. Plus, if you have other Apple devices, you get the integration benefits, but that’s minor compared to the quality differences."

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