In a nutshell: the new Apple TV is arguably a revolutionary product designed to change the way you watch TV forever. It’s an outstanding product, but it is note devoid of flaws.
In the world of TV streaming, there are various hardware options to choose from, ranging from the low-cost Roku, to Google’s Chromecast, and Amazon’s Fire TV, which is aiming to monopolize the whole industry. Throw Apple TV into the mix and you have a party. All of them are capable of using streaming services like Netflix and accessing videos from YouTube. Some are even capable of running apps, particularly games.
We had our hands on test with Apple TV. Here’s what we think of it:
Unboxing and setting it up
After opening the package, you will be met with a sleek and glossy black box and the beautiful, well-designed Siri Remote.
Apparently, setting up the hardware is relatively easy: plug it into your TV with an HDMI cord and power it up using the power cord. The box itself is relatively larger compared to its predecessors, which is uncharacteristic of Apple, considering that most of its other products are getting smaller with each release. Regardless, it isn’t bulky: it’s almost the same size as other TV streaming boxes.
Setting up the WiFi is pretty quick too: you can use another Apple device, like the iPhone and iPad, or do so within the TV itself using the Siri Remote. Doing so is easy and intuitive: enter your details, follow the instructions and voila, you’re done!
However, one of the major downsides of the device is its lack of tutorials. After setting up the device and WiFi, you will be on your own. For example, you’ll be left figuring out how to use the Siri Remote including its shortcuts and other functions. Fortunately, Apple provided users a helpful guide in its website – check it out if you’re having trouble using your device.
The tvOS App Store and the apps
Though each Apple device has its own operating system, the design team at Cupertino integrates all of them seamlessly, giving users a semblance of familiarity. That being said, tvOS has its own App Store which is host to numerous apps, both provided by Apple and 3rd-party developers. Among the Apple-made apps on the tvOS include iTunes, Apple Music, iCloud, and your iCloud Photos Library.
What makes Apple TV appeal to me is its plethora of applications present in the App Store, making it a league above other devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Though currently, the number of apps isn’t staggering, we can safely say Apple is drawing developers into creating apps for the device. After all, Apple is big on the masses – what Apple makes, people buy.
The most notable applications in hardware include YouTube (for those who have dreamed of watching YouTube videos on their TV, this app is for you) and of course, the popular video-streaming service, Netflix, wherein you can watch TV shows on-demand. Also available are Hulu, HBO, and Showtime. QVC, Houzz, and Airbnb are also available for download. The glaring absentee is Amazon Video, which is no surprise, considering both companies are going head to head.
Exploring the App Store was a great experience: and definitely textbook Apple: it felt like perusing through an iPad or an iPhone. Using the Siri Remote’s touch pad wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. With that said, the apps you purchased on other devices are also available for download on the Apple TV, as long as they are compatible.
Currently, the catalog is growing and it is showing no signs of stopping. The app population is minuscule compared to the inventory of the iPhone and iPad, but rest assured, we’ll see it number by the thousands soon.
Issues in the navigation and search
Sure, the App Store is great and all, and navigating is easy with the Siri Remote, but there’s a major downside: you still can’t use Siri’s voice commands feature to search for apps (but you can do so to look for TV shows and movies), and it takes time to get used to the on-screen keyboard. Take note that you’re still not able to connect a Bluetooth keyboard as well, making typing in search queries and your personal details like your password cumbersome at best.
Regardless, the new Apple TV is still a fledgling device – with the updates looming, we’re sure to see improvements in the long run!
The Siri Remote
Let me say this: the Siri Remote makes other controllers appear like 80s video game consoles in 2015.
Its main feature is its large touch pad at the top, which acts like a trackpad you would typically pair with a Mac computer. The remote also has a menu button, volume controls, a pause/play button, along with the home and Siri ones. The remote connects via Bluetooth and can be charged using a Lightning cable, although the whole package doesn’t come with one. An issue I have with it is that it does not have any charging indicators.
The remote fits snugly on your hand and though it only consists of a few buttons and a touch pad, there is a learning curve – you will need to practice and get used to the remote. Fortunately though, it’s not that hard – you will be swiping around like a pro after a few hours of use.
As early as today, let me say this: the Apple TV can give a good CASUAL gaming experience, but it’s far from being a Playstation 4 or an Xbox One.
Anyway, the Apple TV is as powerful as Apple’s recent mobile devices, meaning, it’s not for hardcore gamers. The graphical quality should not be underestimated: in Apple’s words, it’s “console quality”. However, given that it’s not a console, it can’t run heavy-duty games, so you shouldn’t expect download and play titles like Fallout 4, Call of Duty, Skyrim, or The Witcher.
Though you can use the Siri Remote as a makeshift video game controller, there are 3rd-party video game controllers you can use, although some features may not be available given that they are not fully optimized. Also note that some games may not support them, so be sure to check with the game developer before buying a controller! However, one upside is that you can use the iPhone and iPad as controllers in some games.
Using the remote is perfect for motion-control and sensing games. If you’ve owned a Nintendo Wii before, you will feel right at home. It also allows you to play games with only one thumb – this does not sound appealing to most, but it’s a mouthwatering prospect for casual gamers.
The games you should play on Apple TV
Sure, there’s a lack of AAA titles and big name games, but the App Store catalog is full of decent and must-play games. Among these include (along with my personal recommendations) the following:
- Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising – it’s surprising that this game does not have 3rd party controller support, given the depth of the gameplay and the player piloting a spaceship. Arguably, it’s the best game on the Apple TV right now, and one that hardcore gamers would love to play.
- Rayman Adventures – it’s basically a 2D game, so it feels right at home with the Siri Remote and the Apple TV.
- Xenowerk – want to shoot up aliens and abhorrent creatures from space? Then this game is a must-download.
Despite the good catalog, impressive graphics, and the overachieving control schemes using the Siri Remote, if you’re buying Apple TV to buy games, you might want to reconsider. You would actually be better off buying a Playstation TV if you want hardware with TV streaming and the ability to play games – it’s $20 on Black Friday on Best Buy.
Other details and observations
- It’s too pricey compared to other hardware. The Apple TV is available in two versions, the 32 GB $149 one and the 64 GB $199 version. Sure, you’ll get your money’s worth, but there are definitely cheaper options available. Roku 4 clocks in at $130, Chromecast at $30, and Amazon Fire TV $99.
- The screensavers are an awesome sight to behold – you can check out breathtaking views of famous landmarks around the world, from city skylines and natural landscapes.
- You would want to use a hand strap when using the remote, particularly in motion-sensor games wherein you may accidentally throw away the Siri Remote.
- You won’t be able to view videos in 4k, but this isn’t much of a problem, unless if you’re a perfectionist and are raring to view videos in ultra high quality.
- You can connect a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones.
Overall, we can safely say that the Apple TV is the premiere TV streaming device available in the market. However, its lack of Amazon TV and insanely high price tag might put off some buyers. But hey, since when did people not buy a $700 dollar iPhone? It’s a must have device for Apple junkies and people how are in the market for a TV companion.