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Best 4K streamer: Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4

After Amazon took the jam out of Apple’s 4K-less doughnut with the new Fire TV box, Roku turned up at the beach and kicked some high frame rate sand in everyone’s faces. 

The new all-singing Roku 4 boasts 4K Ultra HD streaming, the same as the new Fire TV box, but it also supports frame rates of up to 60 frames per second (fps), double what Amazon’s new streaming box can muster. 

Right now, there’s not a lot of 4K content available at such a high frame rate, but for punters who want a future-proofed box and deep-pocketed prosumers who can shell out for Red Weapon Dragons, the Roku 4’s trump card might be a key selling point. 

Ahead of full reviews of all these products, here’s how they stack up against the Nvidia Shield (our review of which you can read here) specs-wise. Note that all specifications, prices and release dates are correct at the time of writing. 

Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4 – What can I watch in 4K Ultra HD or Full HD?

As we said in our preamble, the Roku 4’s trump card is its capability to handle 4K Ultra HD video at rates of up to 60fps. 

While that’s impressive, it’s something of a moot point right now. While most 4K TV sets these days come with an HDMI 2.0 port (which supports 4K up to 60fps) there aren’t any providers besides YouTube out there that are currently offering 4K content at such a high frame rate. 

Netflix and Amazon’s own 4K content is currently delivered at 24fps, so there’s not a massive advantage to plumping for the Roku 4, at least not from day one. That said, Netflix has made it clear that it plans to crank up frame rates to 60fps and beyond. 

Until the new specs for future variants of HDMI are released, 60fps is as good as 4K is going to get on any mini streamer and any TV.

Best 4K streamer: Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4

Related: HDMI 2.0 for 4K Ultra HD TV arrives late and out-of-date and Does the 4K Ultra HD badge mean my TV is future proof?While we’re on the subject of HDMI 2.0 ports, we should point out that unless your TV has one, it’s not going to work with any of these new devices. Furthermore, your TV set will also need to be compatible with HDCP 2.2 – a copy protection system if you want to get a Fire TV box. Older 4K TVs with the HDMI 1.4 ports and no HDCP 2.2 won’t have any luck here. 

Emerging standards are the bane of early adopters and are the main reason why you should hold off splurging on a new system or platform, lest it not work with other devices you want to buy. 

Moving on from frame rates and compatibility, what services are actually available on each device? 

Roku’s channel store has hundreds of on-demand services, not all of them available in the UK, mind, but as you’d expect it has BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player and Demand 5 (all the PSB catch-up services basically) plus Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV, Sky Store as well as more niche services like Crunchyroll (anime) TED TV, Revision 3 (science and technology news) and BBC Sport (um, sport). There’s also apps for Dropbox and Plex, which let you access and stream files stored in the cloud and network drives on your TV. 

Nvidia’s Shield boasts BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix and Google Play Movies and TV. As it’s an Android TV-based device, it’s also compatible with Google Cast, meaning all of these great apps that work with Chromecast will also work on the Shield. 

Amazon’s Fire TV ecosystem might be based on Android, but that doesn’t automatically mean every app out there on Google Play will play nicely. That said, you do get BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, STV Player and Demand 5 – no Channel 4 catch-up for now but that could very well change in the near future. 

In the meantime, there’s TVPlayer, which lets you stream live Channel 4 content online anyway, alongside other popular channels including Dave, Really and Yesterday. TVPlayer Plus is another Fire TV-friendly service that gives you extra channels like Cartoon Network and Discovery for a monthly fee. 
Aside from the ubiquitous Netflix, there’s arthouse on-demand service Curzon Home Cinema, BBC Sport, BoxNation, Spotify and (naturally) Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video services. It’s also one of the first smart TV platforms in the UK that will get an upgrade to ITV Hub, the forthcoming on-demand service from ITVBest 4K streamer: Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4

Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4 – Specifications

While some of these specs are TBC at the moment, we will endeavour to update this once we have more information. 

4K Amazon Fire TV specifications

  • Dimensions: 115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm
  • Weight: 270 grams
  • Storage: 8GB
  • Processor: MediaTek Quad-Core up to 2 GHz, Dual-Core 2.0 GHz, Dual-Core 1.6 GHz.
  • Memory: 2 GB
  • OS: Fire TV OS
  • Inputs: HDMI (dongle), USB
  • Max output resolution: 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps
  • Connectivity: WiFi ac, dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi (MIMO)

Nvidia Shield specifications

  • Dimensions: 130 mm x 215 mm x 25 mm
  • Weight: 654 grams
  • Storage: 16GB/500GB (up to 128GB via microSD)
  • Processor: Nvidia Tegra X1 processor w/256-core Maxwell GPU
  • Memory: 3GB
  • OS: Android TV
  • Inputs: HDMI (2.0 x1) USB (Type A, 3.0 x2), micro USB (2.0 x1)
  • Max output resolution: 2160p up to 60fps; 1080p up to 60fps
  • Connectivity: WiFi ac, dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi (MIMO)

Roku 4

  • Dimensions: TBC
  • Weight: TBC
  • Storage: TBC
  • Processor: Quad-Core processor (speed and make TBC)
  • Memory: TBC
  • OS: Roku
  • Inputs: HDMI, Ethernet, USB, Optical Audio Out
  • Max output resolution: 2160p up to 60fps, 1080p Full HD (frame rate TBC)
  • Connectivity: WiFi ac, dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi (MIMO)

Best 4K streamer: Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4

Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4  – Prices and release dates

Amazon’s 4K Fire TV Box is available to order now for £80 and goes on general sale on October 22. 
You can pick up the standard 16GB version of the Nvidia Shield now for £150 or the bigger Nvidia Shield Pro, which comes with a 500GB drive, for £220. 

Roku hasn’t announced a UK price or launch date for the Roku 4 just yet, but we know it’s going to cost $130, which currently converts to £85 and it’ll be going on sale in the States in ‘late October’.

Amazon 4K Fire TV Box vs Nvidia Shield vs Roku 4 – Verdict

It seems like true 4K petrolheads will want to reach for either the Roku 4 or the Nvidia Shield, purely because of that 60fps support. 

That said, because the jury’s still out on when Netflix et al are going to get their backsides in gear re: getting that eye-popping 60fps content to their customers, it’s actually a little harder to call right now. 
If you’re not so fussed about specs and you’re more about services that you can get right now, then the 4K Amazon Fire TV box might be more suited.

As well as being one of the first platforms confirmed for the new ITV Hub, there’s generally a greater range of UK-specific services available for Amazon’s platform like TVPlayer – although there’s a notable exception to this rule in the form of 4oD/All 4, which is currently unavailable on Fire TV. 

We’ll be able to give a definitive verdict once we’ve had hands-on time and fully reviewed all devices.