Android TV and Roku are both set out to do the same general thing; they are both devices that offer access to streaming media content from various online services.
Content on Roku devices is identified using the term “channel”, and it is provided by Roku partners while content on Android TV is provided by Android TV Operator Tier.
Android TV serves as a replacement for Google TV.
What is Android TV
The platform was first publicized in June 2014, with its Nexus Player launch device unveiled in October 2014. The platform has also been adapted as smart TV middleware by companies such as Sharp and Sony, while Android TV products have also been adopted as set-top boxes by a number of IPTV television providers.
It has been relatively well-received by both manufacturers and developers alike. Android TV is easy to operate, can be controlled via voice using the Google Assistant, and has some decent apps. It is serving as a replacement for Google TV.
Also, Android TV has access to the Play Store, unlike Google TV that lacked access to applications, so developers with a mobile app can easily apply some modifications to make an Android TV app. In addition, Android TV has Chromecast support; it is essentially Android optimized for the big screen.
Android TV attributes a user interface designed around voice search and content discovery, surfacing content aggregated from various media services and apps, and integration with other recent Google technologies such as Cast, Knowledge Graph, and Assistant.
What is Roku
Roku is a line of digital media players manufactured by American company Roku, Inc. Roku was introduced in May 2008 with its first model, developed in collaboration with Netflix.
The Roku series has been considered influential on the overall market for digital media players. It helps to popularize the concept of low-cost, small form factor set-top boxes designed for over-the-top media consumption.
In early 2014, Roku announced its first branded Smart TV, which was later released in late 2014. These TVs are manufactured by companies like Hisense and TCL. It also uses the Roku user interface as the “brain” of the TV. By this time, Roku TVs are updated just like the streaming devices.
More recent models also integrate a set of features for use with over-the-air TV signals, including a program guide that provides information for movies and shows available on local antenna broadcast TV.
Also, It provides information on content that is available to be streamed, and the ability to pause live TV. For viewers to pause live TV, he or she must have a USB hard drive with at least 16GB storage.
The small form factor set-up boxes designed by Roku are a cost-effective and more convenient way to watch TV. To enjoy the Roku services, what you need to do is plug it into your TV, connect to the internet, set up a Roku account, and then start streaming your favourites.
Android TV vs Roku
From the information on Android TV and Roku, we can see that they are both devices that offer streaming services. They both extend enough to the point where each platform tends to do a better job at serving certain groups of people than the other.
Android TV will be a better choice for tinkerers and power-users, whereas Roku is more accessible and simpler to use for less techie individuals.
Let,s take a closer look at various aspects of each system to see where each one comes out on top.
1. User interface
Android TV and Roku both take different approaches when it comes to their respective user interfaces. Considering the fact that this is something you’ll interact with every single time you use your TV, it’s important you use one that works best for you.
In Roku, the big focus is on simplicity. The main home screen shows a list of all the channels or apps installed by the user, and users’ can navigate through other pages with the menu on the left.
- Featured Free: These are the featured content that you can watch on Roku for free.
- My Feed: This is where updates on any TV shows or movies that the user is interested in are shown, such as when they go on sale or when they will be available for purchase.
- Search: Universal search to find a certain title across all of Roku’s popular apps.
- Movie/TV Store: This is a quick access for renting or buying movies and TV shows.
- Streaming Channels: Library of free and paid applications you can download to your Roku.
- Settings: Users can adjust the time, change your Roku’s theme, control accessibility options, etc from the settings.
Roku’s interface is extremely simple to understand and navigate, but it’s looking a bit out of style these days. On the other side, Android TV benefits from a more stylish interface that’s still easy to navigate while offering a more visually-interesting experience.
In Android TV, The top of the users’ home screen showcases your most-used applications, with a button next to it for looking at everything installed on your TV/box.
Below that, there is a row of your favourite applications, with little feeds attached to each one. For example, the Netflix app highlights a row of recommended shows it thinks the user might be interested in.
It is up for the user to decide the interface he or she likes the most. It all comes down to personal preference, but in my view, I think Android TV seems to be the most pleasing to look at.
The developers really did a lot of work to make the home screen come to life with different content, rather than it being a static row of applications the way it is on Roku.
2. Voice control
The voice controls feature was added to Roku in 2015, although not every TV/box comes with a remote that supports this out of the box.
Most premium options on Roku supports the voice control feature. Also, Roku also sells its Enhanced Remote that supports voice search so that it can upgrade your current system after the fact.
The voice control feature that was added to Roku works just fine. It enables the user to use his or her to go through different broadcast channels, change inputs, and launch Roku’s Smart Guide.
With the voice control feature, users can find specific titles that they are looking for. It can also be used to launch apps, browse content from a certain actor or director, and search genres within them, and so much more.
Also, Alexa and Google Assistant integration for Roku is very similar, If you have Google Assistant or an Alexa speaker in your home, you can use that to control Roku.
They both allow you to use your voice for pausing or resuming what you’re currently watching. Users’ can also use it to launch applications and search for specific genres that are available across all of your channels or apps.
The functionality is pretty much similar to what you can do with the Roku voice remote, but it has the advantage of you not needing any special Roku hardware. Also, you can pretty much perform the instructions entirely hands-free.
In Android TV, the out-of-the-box voice control feature is leaps and bounds better than what Roku offers. All Android TV box/television comes with a voice remote that allows its users’ to talk to the Google Assistant. The user can ask the Assistant to open Netflix, pause your show, and other media-specific things, but unlike Roku, it goes far beyond that.
The Google Assistant that the users get on Android TV is the full-fledged Google Assistant experience. This means that they can use it to look at any upcoming calendar appointments, find out about the weather, control smart home devices, etc. All these functions make it ahead of Roku’s built-in voice controls. For some people, this will make a big difference in their buying decision.
Google Assistant and Alexa support has helped Android TV and Roku’s voice control options, but Android TV still offers more functionality. In addition, it’s worth pointing out that some Android TV devices also offer Alexa integration – the Sony televisions and NVIDIA Shield being prime examples.
There used to be a big content discrepancy between Android TV and Roku, but in recent years, that gap has narrowed considerably to put the two platforms on a relatively even playing field.
Whether you use Android TV or Roku, the user will be able to download all of the popular streaming applications like:
- YouTube TV,
- HBO NOW,
- Movies Anywhere, etc.
Although it is possible for users to download all these apps on Android TV, but Android TV still suffers from some odd quirks.
For example, Xfinity customers can’t use their credentials to log into the HBO GO app on Android TV as a result of Comcast not wanting to support Android TV for whatever reason. TV Everywhere apps, such as HGTV, Travel Channel, and Food Network, also suffer from a similar issue.
In addition, the Roku channel store comes with a bunch of smaller channels that you will likely never see on Android TV. However, not all of these channels are good (some of them are quite bad, actually), but if you want access to the most content possible, Roku is the way to go.
4. Hardware availability
This is the area where Roku pulls an easy win. Currently, Roku offers a variety of streaming sticks and boxes that range in price from just $29 up to $99, each with its own set of features and limitations.
Streaming boxes are the best way to get access to everything Roku and Android TV have to offer without spending hundreds of dollars on a new television set of dollars.
As for Android TV, the users’ only real option is the NVIDIA Shield TV. The Shield TV is a remarkable streaming box with support for a large collection of games and 4K HDR content.
However, the higher retail price of $199 (or $179 without the game controller) can be hard to swallow. The price often varies, allowing you to snag a Shield TV for less. This is an area to consider when choosing among the two platforms. Roku consistently has the upper-hand in this case.
When it comes to televisions, the story is mostly the same. There is a decent selection of Sony options that features Android TV built-in, but they all err on the expensive side.
As a result of these, other affordable models are being brought to the market for the users to buy. For example, Skyworth has been entering the market with more affordable options. However, the overall selection leaves a bit to be desired.
Companies like Insignia, TCL, Sharp, HiSense, and others have adopted the Roku platform, and this has allowed for a variety of televisions with Roku for just about every buyer.
For example, you can splurge for the TCL Class 6-Series and get a QLED 65-inch 4K display with Dolby Vision, HDR, for a little under $900. Alternatively, you can go for an affordable one and pick up the TCL 32S325, which costs just $128 and comes equipped with a small 32-inch screen and a lower 720p HD resolution.
Whether it is streaming boxes or full-on televisions, Roku is the best option because it is available on a wider variety of devices. Roku is well-known and a much more popular platform in the smart TV market. Roku has the upper-hand with smart TVs and streaming boxes.
As we can see, both Android TV and Roku have their respective pros and cons. Android TV has the upper-hand when it comes to its voice control and user interface features. However, Roku is the content king and has a broader selection of hardware.
On the other hand, Android TV is also a great platform, especially when the user is very interested in Google’s services, and get a lot of value out of powerful voice control. Roku will be a great pick If a user wants to have access to as many channels/apps as possible and prefer an interface that’s simple to use.
The final decision of which platform is best comes down to your use cases and personal preferences.