Six months on with the Apple TV

I wanted an Apple TV for a long time. I held off buying the 3rd gen model in anticipation of the App Store coming to the platform. So when the App Store was announced, I didn’t hesitate in getting the new Apple TV 4. Six months on, here are my thoughts on Apple’s latest media player.atv4

What I love

  • Easy setup thanks to a feature that retrieves most of the required settings from your iPhone/iPad
  • The tvOS App Store bringing the quality, entertainment and diversity of iOS apps to the lounge room
  • Some of the apps being universal across iOS and tvOS (e.g. Infuse Pro), so you can buy once and use the app across all devices
  • My favourite apps for TV/Movie streaming (Netflix, Stan, Redbull TV), catch-up TV (ABC iView, SBS on Demand), gaming (Asphalt) and even for keeping fit (Zova)
  • PVR functionality i.e. recording and time-shifting free-to-air TV using the MrMC app
  • A big library of fun games, with quality graphics and gameplay – ideal for the casual gamer
  • Regular software updates from Apple which have improved the functionality (e.g. Bluetooth keyboard support, voice search) and usability (e.g interface enhancements)
  • HD video screensavers featuring flyover footage of natural landscapes and famous cities
  • The compact form factor making it easy to mount on the back of a television – Note the Siri Remote still works despite not being in the line of sight
  • Being able to replace a number of my existing devices: Media Centre PC, Xbox, and Airport Express (for music streaming) Update: see 2nd dot point under What I’m not liking

Things I’m ok with

  • The touch pad on the Siri Remote brings smartphone-style, swipe-navigation to the Apple TV, but can be touchy and frustrating to use. Also the near symmetrical design of the remote often causes me to point it the wrong way!
  • No 4K video support, however 1080P video plays smoothly and is all that’s needed until 4K content, 4K TVs and the NBN are more commonly available
  • No gigabit ethernet, though the 10/100 ethernet is quick enough for streaming HD content (tested on my home LAN with a 1080P movie).

What I’m not liking

  • Random audio dropouts (of approximately 1-3 seconds) are an issue with most video and audio apps I’ve used and are most annoying when you miss crucial dialogue during a TV show
  • Unlike the 3rd gen Apple TV, this iteration lacks a seperate audio output meaning a HDMI splitter is required to route audio to a hifi system Update: I’ve since purchased and tried a HDMI splitter which will route the audio to a hifi but still won’t let me use the Apple TV 4 for audio-only airplay streaming. The television still needs to be on for the Apple TV 4 to work, which is a big letdown as I sold my Airport Express in anticipation of the Apple TV 4 offering ‘audio-on, tv-off’ functionality.
  • Gaming quirks i.e. the long load times (up to several minutes) on some games and the Siri Remote being less than ideal as a gaming controller – serious gamers should consider a dedicated bluetooth game controller
  • Starting at $269 the price is on the higher side. Cheaper media players are available, but this is arguably the best option for users of Apple devices.