Steve Jobs, right before his death famously said he had cracked the TV industry! It’s been close to 5 years now and Apple TV 4 is the first big upgrade to the streaming box released in 2007. The TV industry is probably the next big thing and it is no longer a hobby product for Apple now. It is some serious business. There is a lot of money to be made from content and apps. Most importantly, the ecosystem.
Starting with the hardware of the box, it has the same footprint, but twice as thick as the earlier generations. It is a boring piece of hardware which is meant to be tucked away. The remote is where big changes come in. It comes with a big trackpad and an aluminium casing. The biggest flaw of the new remote is that the bottom half is covered with glass. Remotes are not the same as phones, people drop remotes all the time and one drop would completely shatter the new Apple TV remote. The remote has an internal rechargeable battery which lasts one month and is charged using the 8-pin lightning cable used for charging iOS devices. The cable is included in the box. There is no battery indicator on the remote, but it is no biggie since it has a long life as noticed from my usage.
The new Siri Remote is the primary mode of interacting with the Apple TV and it has a large clickable trackpad which is used for navigation. There are 6 buttons under the trackpad: Menu, Exit, Siri, Play/Pause and Volume. The remote also packs in 3-axis gyroscope to play games! No direct line of sight is required for the remote to operate as everything is transmitted via Bluetooth. But, it also some with an IR Transmitter which works somewhat like a universal remote. The remote can be programmed to control TV volume and nothing else. Apple TV also supports HDMI-CE. Meaning, if you have a HDMI-CEC compatible TV, turning on the Apple TV would also turn the TV ON.
Apple TV, for the first time runs a complete version of iOS with it’s own App Store and support for third-party apps. This is not the first time a company has brought in support for third-party apps or and App Store to TV. But with Apple releasing a new product, it is almost always guaranteed to bring in a good number of third-party apps making it mainstream. It also packs in some serious hardware. No matter what I did, it did not stutter once and with 2GB of RAM, multitasking was flawless. In the last couple of months, I had a good amount of time to play around with apps. Some of the fun games to play on the big screen were Crossy Road and Jetpack Joyride. Asphalt 8 showcases the amazing gyroscope on the remote.
Apple TV also supports some third-party game controllers, but I never got to try them out. I also use other apps like Netflix and Hulu which work better than their apps on previous generations of Apple TV. The biggest reason for this being, developers for the first time got to develop apps without many restrictions or guidelines to stick to. Siri is not available in many countries, including India. Siri is meant to be one of the most important ways to interact with the interface and I got it working with some workarounds. I got it to search content across multiple streaming services and also suggest content.
Typing on the trackpad is a huge pain and impractical at times. Thankfully, Apple brought in support for iOS Remote App with a recent OS update. Although I do not use it much, getting to control my TV from the remote app on my Apple Watch is pretty cool and useful.
It’s all about the ecosystem!
Airplay works like a charm just the way it did with previous generations. But I never really used it because there’s always an app to get your content now. Infuse, the only media player I use on all my iOS devices recently updated their app to work on Apple TV. It is the first app on my Apple TV and I use it all the time! It streams content from my NAS flawlessly with an awesome interface. Also, since Apple TV runs iOS 9, apps can be side-loaded using Xcode. There are a good number of simulators already on Github. You’l have to connect Apple TV to your Mac and load the app just the way you would on other devices. For connecting it to Mac, it has an USB-C port making it the first iOS device to support it.
It is clear that apps are the future of television. Although Apple has opened up, it is still very restrictive. App size can be a maximum of 200MB and they have a limited cache size. Due to this, big apps like Asphalt takes time to load each game as it is always downloading and deleting resources.
Apple TV comes in two different versions: 32GB which costs Rs.13,500 and 64GB which costs Rs.17,900. I’ve been using the 32GB version and I do not know why anyone would need the 64GB one. At this price point it packs in some serious hardware and high value for money. If you do not have any other Apple Products and you want the best streaming box which does everything, Apple TV is the best. If you’re like me, in the Apple Ecosystem, Apple TV is a must have!
- Amazing app support
- Trackpad on the remote
- Internal hardware is powerful
- Glass on the remote which shatters
- Price is a bit steep compared to other streaming devices