Tivo vs Roku vs Apple TV: Best TV Streaming and Recording Services Compared

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
TiVO works well for DVR enthusiasts who want a lot of memory for storing shows. Those who want 4K capability for a streaming device will want Roku over Apple TV generally, since Apple TV often doesn't have that capability. Apple TV will work for those tha

TV services now make it so that you can watch television on your schedule instead of having to watch for exactly when a show is on. Whether this means that you


TiVo is the gold standard for DVR recording. If you want to watch just about any TV program that comes in your standard set, Tivo is going to be one of your best bets. TiVo has actually recently gone through a series of changes to keep the weight and size down. After all, there’s


  • Over-the-Air DVR-You can record DVR without worrying about a lot of wires with the free over-the-air TV option.
  • Built-in WiFi-The WiFi for the DVR is built right into the machine so you don’t have to worry about figuring out how else to hook it up to the Web through some other means like a computer.
  • 500 GB Hard Drive-You also get a 500 GB hard drive for storing all of your shows as well. This way, you won’t be likely to constantly run out of space if you need to record a lot at once.
  • Many multiple Channels-You can access channels such as Hulu, Amazon Video, VUDU, Netflix and more, all through the machine.
  • Skip Mode-Skip Mode lets you automatically skip over commercials as they come up. You can just switch to this mode and run with it, instead of having to hit buttons constantly on your remote to make it happen.


Roku has many simple devices for getting streaming on just about any television that you want. It makes it nice and easy so it’s ideal for beginners especially.


  • Analog Audio/Video Output-The Roku Express+ has the ability to connect to older TVs that have the yellow and red jacks on the back of your television. Many modern devices can’t connect to these old-style televisions so this is a plus.
  • Strong Ecosystem-Cnet gives the Roku Express+ the highest rating they give for ecosystem, meaning that it’s easy to get accessories or to resell the device. It’s a vibrant market.
  • Bonus Free Channels-Roku offers 2 months of 3 different channels for free when you buy certain Roku devices. This includes CBS, Hulu, and Showtime. This trial does come and go, so you’ll need to check each time. It’s also important you cancel before the end of the trial if you want to avoid continuing charges.
  • Variety of Devices-There are no shortage of devices you can buy that are named Roku. They range from simple sticks you put into your HDMI port on your television, to full boxes with more ranging storage and capabilities.

Apple TV

Apple TV has the high aesthetic many people have come to expect from Apple. It has a host of options for enjoying your television with all of the modern conveniences of the digital world including gaming, streaming and more. Generally, those that like Apple will like the Apple TV, and those that tend to have major problems with Apple products, such as their exclusivity and tendency to not play as well with other devices will likely still have this problem with Apple TV as well. There is plenty to like about the streaming gadget no matter what, however.


  • Host of Accessories-You can get a lot of accessories from the Apple TV, including a variety of different game controllers, remotes, and many others. If you want to make your TV the center of your entertainment life, Apple TV is often an effective choice.
  • Aesthetic Design-Apple TV has a compact, aesthetic design in their black box.  This is especially the case compared to Roku, which definitely has a design that can be considered a bit garish by plenty of reviewers.
  • Extra Delivery Options-You can get items delivered in two days. It’s important to do this by no later than 5 PM EST if you truly want it in two days, however.
  • Pick It Up-You can also buy whatever Apple TV devices or accessories you want on the site and then immediately go to an Apple Store to pick it up. This takes only an hour to be fully prepared.

Head to Head


There are many different TiVo machines you can purchase, but an example is the Roamio OTA 500 GB that includes the All-In Service Plan. This goes for $200, and you can even try out a 30-day trial. You can also buy TiVo minutes for other rooms, which don’t add to the overall price per month that you pay. This costs $149 and it’s recommended to use these devices on smaller TVs away from the main family TV. All the devices can hook into your main account over the air. The cost per month for this is usually around $15 per month for a one-year contract.

Roku devices vary in price, with many of them being quite inexpensive, and others going sometimes for a balance of price and quality, such as the Roku Express+ which goes for $40. The famous Roku streaming stick goes for $35. This means that overall, Roku is far cheaper than many other options like from TiVo. It does require that you have access to modern streaming channels, though, and you can’t record from local television channels as easily.

Apple TV, the 2012 version, goes for between $70 and $80 depending on where you buy it. If you want something more modern, you can go with the 2015 version which starts at a little over $112 and goes all the way up to $150 depending on where you buy it. This definitely means that Apple TV is one of the more expensive options that are available for TV streaming and recording.

Overall, You’ll have a tough time finding streaming devices too much cheaper than the Roku stick or with more capabilities for the price than Roku Express Plus, although other options like Chromecast may compare. Apple TV and TiVo are fairly comparable when it comes to price, with the Roamio OTA with the all-in option being among the most expensive of the lot. It’s important to note that the Roamio tends to have more impressive options for recording, however, since it’s a DVR machine, making it substantially different from an option such as the Apple TV which is more specifically a streaming device.


Tivo has an easy interface for getting around on the site if you’re a rank beginner. It will pick up on your location to give you specific recommendations, for example. The Roamio has a radio frequency or RF approach, rather than an Infrared one. This is important because of the fact that it means you don’t have to worry about direct line of sight nearly as much. In other words, you can put the device behind a cabinet or behind your TV, and the remote will still work just fine.

The Roku Express Plus has the old hookups for TVs using the audio and video jacks as separate entities, so this is a plus. People do say that the device is a bit slow for some streaming services, especially when compared to other modern hardware out there. There’s also the advantage that the Express Plus has 4K capability, which not all television service devices have this ability. Another important feature to pay attention to is the fact that Roku is known for having a highly active ecosystem that helps to drive prices down for devices that still have unique features and options.

Apple TV has AirPlay which makes it easier to play your programs regardless of the setup of the Apple TV device. It also has the advantage of the TVOS which many critics regard as superior to what devices of its kind had before. Another aspect of Apple TV that’s a bit of a unique feature is the fact that it allows third party apps, which is a bit unusual for Apple. Criticisms of the features include that Siri is a little difficult to use on the device and that the Bluetooth remote can have some issues.

Overall, you’ll want Roku for 4k since Apple TV can’t handle it. You’ll also want to stick with the 2015 version of Apple TV if you like Siri since it was improved a bit. The search function for Siri works much better for television and movies then it does for other things. Logging on with Apple TV occurs for each app individually, which means that this feature can be a bit frustrating to people, though Apple fans will likely be used to it.


Cnet declares the TiVo Roamio the best DVR for over-the-air if you don’t mind a higher price point. It gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars, or 8.6 out of 10, on their site, and there are 5-star user reviews on the site as well. Reviews say that expense is a major down side since the machine itself is expensive, and all of the subscriptions really add up as well. This is especially since there aren’t nearly as many channels as you would think, given the price. Other reviews include a 4 out of 5 review from Engadget, a 4 out of 5 review from PcMag, and other fairly positive reviews. There are some complaints from Consumer Affairs, and these mostly relate to customer service issues. Sometimes the reviews are about the lack of proper warranty or warranty issues, other times it’s because the service was hard to set up. This definitely seems like a “your mileage will vary” type thing, however.

Roku has the Roku Express Plus which gets a 4 out of 5 stars on Cnet, though there aren’t a lot of user reviews there. It especially gets a good review in the “ecosystem” category. PCMag also gives Roku high reviews, scoring 4 out of 5 for the Ultra and 4.5 out of 5 for the Premiere Plus. Engadget also gives a significantly high rating to the Roku 3 with 89 out of 100. It’s reviewed as having a strong CPU and an easy user interface, especially compared to its cost of under $100. The complaints about the Roku 3 are that it doesn’t have the AV output like later versions of Roku like the Express Plus. It’s also a bit awkward to watch YouTube channels on it since there’s no standard support, even though watching the videos is possible.

Apple TV is one of the best-reviewed options in this genre. It has 4 stars from Cnet, and nearly 5 from Engadget. They give it an 89 percent rating, to be specific. Trusted Reviews gives it a 4 out of 5 stars. Reviews indicate that the interface is very user friendly, which is of course a hallmark of Apple products. When the product updated for 2015, reviewers also noted that the Siri remote works much better than it did before. So, this should be a big deal for those who really want voice options. The downside is that Apple TV in 2015 doesn’t have any support for 4k. There are also complaints among reviewers for Apple TV about parental controls. Apparently, it can be easy to get around them for children. So, you might want to keep this in mind if you’re planning on relying on them for your own children. The Verge also gives Apple TV a high score with a 9 out of 10 including 9s in all major categories like design, software, how well it performs, what kind of content it has, and its accessories such as the remote.

Overall, Roku has strong options for connecting to old televisions, although you’re going to have to make sure you get the right kind, such as the Express Plus, since the Roku 3 often doesn’t have that capability. Additionally, Roku has 4k capability with the express, but Apple TFV 2015 doesn’t have this at all. So, if you want to work with 4K, you definitely have to go with Roku. over Apple according to the reviews. The reviews also indicate that Apple TV is one of the easiest to pick up for beginners.