The new Apple TV is finally here. While it was the first of the new devices to be announced, it is the last to actually become available. This Apple TV is generally an improvement over previous Apple TVs, yet it still feels like more could have been done to really improve the Apple TV.
The Apple TV is fast and lines up nicely with the Fire TV 2 and Roku 4 under user experience testing. Apps open at about the same speed on all three devices. You won’t notice any great speed difference between the Apple TV and the Roku or Fire TV 2 when using apps like Netflix.
Apple has ditched the traditional directional arrows on their remote in favor of a touchpad. The remote also can be used to turn on and off your TV and adjust the volume, but be careful because just bumping your remote will turn on your TV. We have also noticed that using the remote to turn off your TV does not work 100% of the time. We often find our LG TV stays on after we put the Apple TV to sleep.
The remote also collects a lot of finger prints leaving it looking dingy after just a few uses.
The new Apple TV now offers an app store. This was a badly needed improvement on the Apple TV to help it compete with the Roku and Fire TV. Currently the Apple TV lags far behind other devices in terms of selection of apps. For example, the Apple TV has 12 sports apps whereas the Roku has 166.
The real question is will Apple allow competing apps to come to the Apple TV? Competing services, like Amazon Instant, have not been allowed on the Apple TV. Whereas Apple is allowing third-party apps, there is no sign that Apple will change their mind on allowing competing apps or services, leaving the Apple TV a closed ecosystem.
The Hard Drive
You can get the Apple TV in 32GB or 64GB; however, the Apple TV does not take advantage of the hard drive other than for games. We had hoped you could download your favorite shows for offline viewing or to just save GB on your data cap if you have a show you often re-watch like your kids’ favorite shows.
Apple could release an update to allow you to take advantage of the hard drive for media. At this time no word has come from them on this. This feels like a missed opportunity for Apple to really make the Apple TV stand out for people who travel or have a data cap.
The Apple TV has possibly the most annoying keyboard of any set-top box I have tested. It is just one long row of letters forcing you to go back and forth. You cannot, for example, end on Z and press right to jump over to A. If you are on Z and want to be on A you have to go all the way back around.
The touchpad also makes this difficult because I often jumped around or overshot when I did not mean to. See the video below for an example.
The new Apple TV is a decent device but lags behind in several key areas. No 4K, few apps at launch, issues with the keyboard, etc. But if you are locked into the Apple system with a lot of iTunes content, the Apple TV is a great device for Apple users. That said, it would be a hard sell for Roku and Fire TV users, who would have to give up a lot of the apps they use every day to move over to the Apple TV.