Here's the truth: if you want to make the most of your 4K HDR TV with a set-top box, it's almost impossible. The decoder market for anyone with a 4K HDR TV is full of commitments at all times. Do you want Dolby Vision? Get an Apple TV 4K. Do you want Dolby Atmos? Apple still does not support it, so opt for a Roku Ultra, but keep in mind that it is not compatible with Dolby Vision. If you plan to watch YouTube in 4K, do not get that Apple TV, it is not compatible either. Do you want something that supports Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and YouTube in 4K? Get a Chromecast Ultra, but you will not get a real remote control with it.
You see, this is the land of commitment, where you can not have everything, unless you buy everything. There is not a box that can give you everything you want from your television. And with the HDR formats still developed, it is likely that this is not the last decoder you will buy in the next five years, if you want to keep up with the content. Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) will probably end up as the format for the 4K HDR transmission, and no decoder supports it at this time, so do not get too attached to any of these options.
But if you are looking for a decoder to complement the smart TV options that came with your new high-end television, there are a number of good options to choose from. The first thing you have to decide is if you care about Dolby Vision (and if your TV supports it) and Dolby Atmos, the current format of video and audio kings, respectively. Some may be interested in one more than the other, but if you must have both, your options will be limited.
While you may not get everything you want in one box, you'll get something great that matches the options built into your 4K HDR TV.
Despite its price of $ 180, the Apple TV 4K is the best choice if you want the full experience of your 4K HDR TV. The decoder supports almost all the major formats you need to get everything from your TV, with HDR10, Dolby Vision support already available, and Dolby Atmos support on the road, although Apple has not given a timeline.
The biggest flaw of Apple TV 4K (besides not being compatible with Atmos) is the lack of support for 4K HDR videos on YouTube. Apple does not support YouTube's VP9 video format, which means that you can not stream 4K content from YouTube, even though the video service leaves the "4K" badge on your app's videos. This is definitely annoying and something that Apple needs to fix sooner rather than later. Apple TV is also not compatible with Vudu in 4K, which may not be a big loss given the large amount of content in the iTunes library.
Where the Apple TV 4K excels is the user interface. If you have ever used an iPhone, the interface will be familiar to you and, surprisingly, unlike the iPhone, Siri is exceptional on the Apple TV 4K. You can ask him to play the last episode of your favorite program, and if you have logged in to the appropriate application, it will start playing automatically. You can also show movies from specific time periods, open apps and games, and find movies in which your favorite actor stars in a matter of seconds. Siri can also control your smart home if you have HomeKit-enabled devices.
The TV application, which allows you to follow your favorite programs and sports teams and receive alerts when there is a new episode or game, is also a differentiator for Apple. It's the easiest way to find out if there's something you really want to see, or if it's time to do some browsing on the digital channel.
Combined with iTunes, which allows you to buy 4K HDR movies at the same price as HD movies, 4K content from applications such as Netflix and Amazon, and a fairly robust selection of games that you can play with the remote, Apple has created the best experience that can get from a decoder, if you do not mind spending almost $ 200.
In the world of decoders, Roku is the Android of Apple's TVOS. His flagship streamer, the Roku Ultra, is a serious player if you're not hanging on Dolby Vision. While it is not compatible with the best HDR format, it is compatible with HDR10, Dolby Atmos, and has an expansive App Store that even embarrasses Apple.
Like the Apple TV, Roku's user interface is also easy to use and should be easy for anyone to use. Remote control is an improvement over Apple, with dedicated buttons for important services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu, voice controls (but not exactly what Siri offers on Apple TV) and a headphone jack to listen quietly at night. Although Roku has no games, it is a bit more flexible thanks to the USB port on the back, from where you can stream downloaded content.
The price is also an important factor, with the Roku Ultra reaching $ 99, $ 80 cheaper than the Apple TV 4K. With features such as a microSD slot, a lost remote finder and a nightly listening mode that will balance the sound so that the content does not get too loud or too quiet when it's late, the Roku Ultra checks almost all the boxes.
If Apple TV or Roku Ultra are not your speed, there are some other options that can meet your needs. They are not the best, but everyone can do something excellent and they can be more suitable for their situation.
Easy to use
Supports all the major formats you need at this time
Without remote control
Without real user interface
Smart house controls
Compatible with an antenna
The YouTube experience is not great
Without Dolby Vision support
No content for Dolby Atmos
Ideal for players
Pro version with 500GB hard drive
Without Dolby Vision
Android TV is not the first (or the second) to receive updates
Cheap and portable
It comes with a remote control
Less capable than the Roku Ultra
Without Dolby Vision
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