Android TV vs. Apple TV: Which is Better for Gaming?

If you're shopping for a new TV box, you might have your eye on the 4th generation Apple TV, particularly now that it supports an App Store with games. But hold your horses – Android powers TV boxes like the Amazon Fire TV, Nexus Player, and Nvidia Shield TV. And when it comes to games, Android micro-consoles are way ahead of Apple TV. Here are five reasons to buy an Android TV instead of an Apple TV.

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Greater Supply of Games

An Android game screenshot
Rocketcat Games

Android games have supported controllers for several years now, so there are many games that already support controllers. The iOS game controller protocol has only been around since 2013. Conversely, even if a game on iOS supports game controllers, if the developer doesn't release it for Apple TV, you can't play it on there. Thanks to Android's more open nature, you can obtain Android games not specifically optimized for your Android TV device through sideloading games. You'll have to obtain the APK file, but this can be done. And if you root, you can even force games to use controllers, so theoretically pretty much any game can be played on an Android-powered TV device if you are inventive enough.​

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Cheaper and Better Controllers

A SteelSeries controller


Because the Android controller protocol is a standard Human Interface Device protocol, anyone can make a controller that works with Android. You can pick up cheap controllers, either discontinued models or something from budget controller manufacturer iPega, for example. Even official controllers from Amazon and Google are cheaper or as expensive as the cheapest iOS controller options. And Android does support 4 controllers connected at once, unlike early versions of the Apple TV. Even the Fire TV devices support whatever compatible controllers you can scrounge up, not just Amazon's own controllers. You have options galore.

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Wider Variety of Hardware

Nvidia Shield TV with controller and remote


 Right now, the 4th generation Apple TV costs $149 to $199 depending on the model you want to get. Meanwhile, if you want to get into playing Android games on TV, you have several cheaper and higher-quality options.  The Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition is $139 and comes with free games. The Nexus Player can be found on sale for as low as $40 to $50, which doesn't come with a controller, but third-party options are plentiful. Even the Fire TV Stick can play some games. While the Nvidia Shield is more expensive than the base Apple TV model, you're getting extreme performance and access to Nvidia's game streaming options.

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Play Actual Console Games!

Doom 3: BFG Edition screenshot


Many mobile games adapt well to the big screen, but there are sometimes when you want to play a game meant for the big screen on the big screen. Thankfully, there are ways to do just that. Not only are there many ways to stream games from your PC, Nvidia's Shield devices offer access to GRID their way to stream games to your Shield TV. And if you want to use Nvidia's game streaming, the only official way to do so is through a Shield device. No need to plug your computer into the TV or buy something like the Steam Link to play games on your TV. As well, thanks to the ability to require a controller, games like The Talos Principle, Hotline Miami, and Doom 3: BFG Edition was released exclusively for controller devices, and you can play these on your Android-powered TV devices with ease.

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Android Can Do What iOS Can't

OnLive Menu


Because Apple is so restrictive with its App Store policies, there will be some things you just won't be able to get with an Apple TV. Emulators – even legal ones if you supply your own games – won't show up on Apple TV. And yes, some retro PC games and DOSBox are available on Android. Want to use a keyboard and mouse to play your games? That can be arranged. Third-party implementations of Nvidia's streaming protocol and Remote Play can be had, too. If a game streaming service like OnLive, which is now defunct, ever comes out, it will likely only support Android, as Apple showed no inclination to ever approve an OnLive app. And developers don't have to go through official channels, thanks to sideloading. An Android micro-console will always be more versatile and useful.