Roku Express 4K+ Provides an Affordable Alternative to the Apple TV

Originally published at: Roku Express 4K+ Provides an Affordable Alternative to the Apple TV - TidBITS

The compact, inexpensive Roku Express 4K+ could give you everything you want from a streaming media player for your TV, including AirPlay 2 support. It’s a fraction the cost of an Apple TV 4K and nearly as well designed.

A big reason why Roku is much more affordable to consumers is that they are in the data tracking and ad sales business. Roku hardware is a means to an end for a company in the gobbling up, and selling, data business:

You can manage data Roku data collection, but IIRC, you can’t shut it off entirely.


Yes, I read all that, and note I did not recommend the television set models, which leave them more beholden to the TV set makers, and included a link to Roku’s privacy controls.

It’s reductionist to label Roku the way you do, although I won’t try to change your mind. Their “free” content comes with a catch!

But the general lack of privacy is absolutely an issue and I hate that we don’t have more protection against this in the U.S. Should be effectively banned. But also most TV sets are sold at cost or a loss (a few exceptions, like Samsung, who make the displays for their own sets) because of the race to the bottom. So the set makers only make money if they sell us as a product. Terrible situation.

I’d prefer no ad personalization; the industry hates the idea. Maybe we’ll win one day?

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I have many streaming devices but like the roku environment the best. Very simple and consistent operation. I do have the roku express 4k and unfortunately I have perpetual overheating issues if watching a movie or long show.

For tracking I use NextDNS. Used a Raspberry Pi with pi-hole prior to that. Rokus are notorious trackers of your activity. They are always the top blocked websites on my network.

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It is so rare these days to find a device that exceeds expectations. Like the review says, simple setup, familiar intuitive interface, and zippy performance - the 4k+ practically turned our old rec room 1080p into a new tv. After 1,500 hours on without a hiccup, it’s a winner. Though you definitely need to put it somewhere that dissipates heat. The unit is very compact, so get rather warm.

Compared to the Apple TV 4K 2021 review, this review doesn’t mention if the Roku remote includes the ability to track it, or even a dedicated slot to attach a Tile/AirTag/Chipolo. Maybe Roku is greedy and wants us to buy another Roku Express every time the remote gets lost in our couch cushions.

I would agree with you up until about 10 months ago. I used to love my Roku stick. Now I’d advise anyone not to touch them, you see they bricked my stick and seem totally unwilling to even discuss the issue or offer any solutions. AND it’s NOT just me, there is one 8 page long thread on their forums with a lot of folks, all with varying kinds of equipment… some of whom can get temporary function ability by performing voodoo rituals (unplug, rub on your shirt, re-plug). Thread was actually started by a roku forum admin because they had been getting lots of complaints… started 6/2021. I fall into the totally bricked group. Just go look up HDCP failures.

Look, I understand OS issues, but almost a year later and not even any sort of official acknowledgement from them or that they even have ANY plan to fix it.


The Ultra models apparently offers remote finding; the Express models don’t. Don’t hate me, but I’ve never lost a remote control—maybe for a minute here or there.

That is an interesting design issue. I attached ours to the top of the TV figuring it might shed heat more readily.

I like two features of the Roku Streaming Stick+:

  1. It supports Miracast (Windows version of Airplay 2) which is helpful when we want to show a Windows screen on our TV.

  2. The Roku iOS app allows multiple people to listen to a streaming channel through our AirPods. On my Apple TV, I can only get one set of AirPods to connect.

I’m aware of Roku’s data collection. Except for Apple TV+, the other streaming services appear to collect data anyway. If the Apple TV had the extra features of the Roku Streaming Stick+, I’d be happy to pay the extra cost. However, paying more money to get fewer features doesn’t make sense.

Yet another device that doesn’t ship internationally. I wonder when will US manufacturers figure out there’s a world beyond the US of A…

A kind cursory review, that did not touch on the things the Roku does not do. Now it you simply want a streaming device, why not a smart TV and bypass the Roku altogether? I do get that if all you want are the basic features, then the Roku seems like a decent choice, but the two are not equivalent except for the price period.

For example, audio out from the Apple TV includes Bluetooth including spatial Audio to one or two(?) compatible headphones, the Roku needs to use an app on a phone. Airplay out, AppleTV has it - Roku does not. Thread support for control of home devices - same. The AppleTV supports a wide array of video and audio formats - not mentioned in ROKU specs, good for playing from your own library via Apple. Plex and others.

I am not dissing the uses of Roku, it was just made to sound like they are equivalent devices with price being the only differentiator - THEY ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO EQUIVALENT! Do you need any of the extra features? That is up to you

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They do sell in several countries. Not a hundred, but certainly beyond the US. They have a small Latin American presence and a small European footprint.

re: the stick version

Beyond dislike of cables, I keep an Amazon Fire TV Stick (along with a 25’ usb cable) in my backpack with my MacBook, so it’s always ready for hotel use. I went with Amazon in the beginning because they were the first ones to deal with hotel logins 2015 Tidbits article, but I’d imagine everybody’s able to do that now. Catching a sale that’s less than a couple hotel movies brings everything I normally watch along with me without encumbering the laptop. (But, yeah, depending on the hotel to have a convenient outlet quickly taught me not to dislike that long power cable!)

Smart TVs generally have terrible interfaces and worse privacy intrusions. As noted elsewhere, Roku isn’t pure of heart about data collection, but they feel more transparent and less icky, particularly on their own devices.

Right, the review is about a device that offers a specific subset of Apple TV features for a fraction of the price: playing streaming video from apps and using AirPlay 2. If you don’t need those features—and I would argue most people don’t need them—then it’s a great alternative that’s easy to use.

If by “presence” you mean the ability to buy and ship to then nope…

Their website shop doesn’t even have a choice of a country. One can only choose a state.

If you go to, it will auto detect your country. But you can scroll to the very bottom of the page and you’ll see “United States (change)”. From there you can pick an alternate country’s site and order to your heart’s content (in the appropriate currency no less). There are currently 18 countries listed.

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I actually went back to my AppleTV4K since the Roku Ultra I use is always on, was locking up watching Youtube, Tubi, or other apps. The remote makes it too easy to change the volume/mute while holding it. Also the remote seems to go through AA batteries every two-three months (I don’t use the remote for audio even thought it has earphone jack). But the biggest issue is not able to customize network settings (Manually input DNS servers, etc) since I have a PiHole. Did I mention the ads on the Roku apps can number dozens over the course of a “free” movie? I mean, 6 breaks with 4-8 ads each!
Again the only issue I am having now with the AppleTV4K is its remote. But I can use my iphone so its not the end. Wish the Roku remote was a B/T device, and could pair it to the AppleTV…
Ofcourse, with the ATV4K, I found I can charge it from my PS4 USB port… which a dumb feature of Apple was not having USB charging off the ATV! And Apple, why not make the AppleTV remote (latest) have wireless charging? Apple is just not innovative… (as I get popcorn butter on the remote…)

While you can order in your local currency, I noticed that rather than localizing the menu graphic for “Special Offers,” the site always show a dollar sign in a circle.

One big plus for me with AppleTV 4K is the ability to stream videos and music, etc. from my computer. I am talking about actual videos and music files that I own. My old Roku does have a way you can play some files by plugging a thumb drive into a USB port, but my AppleTV can find a vast amount of material on my external hard drives attached to my Mac.