I spent a week each with the disappointing Amazon FireTV2 and the very nice Roku-4, and bought the new AppleTV. The AppleTV doesn’t do 4K, which isn’t an issue for me as my 1080p TV is less than a year old, and will be my only TV for at least another few years.
When I first plugged the HDMI cable in and turned on the AppleTV, the screen invited me to step closer and hold my iPhone near the box to bypass WiFi and Apple services setup… goosebumps… I witnessed both sorcery and witchcraft as the box connected to my network without my help.
The process of getting from box to Home Screen was much faster with the AppleTV than it was with either the FireTV2 or Roku-4. Even though the other 2 are also freshly launched products, they instantly began to seem outdated.
The Home Screen itself is stunning. The remote that navigates through the screens is like a magic wand once you begin using the touchpad, integrating into the viewing experience like no other, and, it’s rechargeable. While it’s amazingly thin, I wish it were at least twice as thick. After about an hour of use, my wrist started to cramp up and I had to switch to the other hand — and after another hour, that one was sore as well. In real use, I won’t be using it nearly as much, but if Candy Crush appears in the AppStore, my wrists are in trouble. The granular and intuitive media control provided by the remote’s touchpad is amazing. Lasting a month or longer on a charge is a nice perk.
Siri’s voice control enhances the viewing experience many times over. Being able to say things like ’skip ahead 12 minutes’ or ‘what did she just say’ have set the bar for a streaming media box. I look forward to a future update when I’ll be able to add things to my iOS Reminders lists and reference stuff from my Calendar and Contacts.
I’ve been using Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and YouTube. All have that same gorgeous user interface, and they all work flawlessly. Press the touchpad on any of them and they launch instantly, select something to watch and it seems to begin instantaneously — I’ve yet to perceive a buffering wait-time. I use Plex extensively, and while the Plex media player app was absent from the AppStore on launch day — it has been submitted and is pending approval. If, like me, you just can’t wait — there is a very nice 3rd party Plex player available, called SimpleX, for $2.99 in the AppStore. If you have an iPhone or other iOS device, the Plex app has native AirPlay support and is another option that I tried — it works well and it’s free.
Numerous tech reviewers have given considerable attention to Amazon Instant Video not being available for the new AppleTV. I subscribe to Amazon Prime and very occasionally watch something from the Prime Video library. While an ATV app would be great, the Amazon Instant Video app on my iPhone supports AirPlay and does a mind-meld with the AppleTV. I was even able to use the ‘what did she just say’ voice command and watch as the video rewound 15 seconds and temporarily turned on subtitles.
From the UI to the touchpad remote control, the AppleTV makes the FireTV2 and the Roku-4 seem like abacuses in comparison. If 4K viewing were a consideration, I’d go with a Roku-4 for 4K media and use the AppleTV for everything else.