Good / The Apple TV is a premium device that serves as one of the most competent media streaming boxes there is. It’s powerful, polished, and well suited for those within the Apple Ecosystem. Powered by IR blaster technology, a great processor, and a polished interface–it might just be the best streaming box out there.
Bad / The app store on the Apple TV has remained stagnant and hasn’t grown to encompass the hype that Apple created for the Apple TV’s gaming potential. Want an Amazon Video app? Look elsewhere since Apple still doesn’t want it on the app store. In addition, the remote, while useful and premium feeling, isn’t a game changer like Apple has marketed it to be for most purposes.
Verdict / If you’re on a budget, or just want a box for streaming media, I would recommend checking out the Amazon Fire TV since it cost less, has the same media experiences, and has better game controller support/integration (you can plug in a Xbox dongle whereas the Apple TV only has one supported controller) as well as more customizable software for emulation. That said, the Apple TV is an amazing device for Apple fans.
Apple TV Review
The new Apple TV came out last fall, and during its release announcement and launch people were incredibly hyped. The new TV sported a fancy touch controller with gyroscopic capabilities, and the TV would feature an advanced application ecosystem with Siri integration.
Compared to the last Apple TV that just had a standard remote and mostly applications, this new Apple TV could become a new generation gaming and multimedia powerhouse.
Now in the middle of 2016, roughly 6 or so months after the launch of the Apple TV, things seem to have flattened. But is that because the hype is gone–or is it because the device hasn’t lived up to the hype?
In this in-depth Apple TV review, we take a look at the technical prowess of the TV, and it’s software capabilities so you can decide if the Apple TV is worth a purchase. Compared to some other competitors, is it worth the more hefty price tag?
If you own the original Apple TV, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a difference between the two devices. This new Apple TV looks virtually the same, with a black exterior and glossy edges. It’s a hefty little box, but still light enough to carry around for travel. Included with the Apple TV hardware box is the controller. In many ways, the controller steals the show from the streaming box.
One of my favorite features about the Apple TV is that it can turn your TV on through IR blaster technology. In addition, you can also control the volume of your TV. So you don’t have to use two controllers to get the show going. This doesn’t seem like a huge thing–but after extended use–and using other streaming devices without this technology–it really starts to feel amazing and SUPER convinient after awhile.
How’s the controller?
The controller can hear your voice through its microphone, and its top portion serves as a sort of touchpad that lets you control navigation on the Apple TV. It can also be used for games.
It’s interesting to use the touch portion of the controller since the software integrates it in funny ways. For example, you can hold press a side portion of the area to skip an ad–and sometimes, it’s even utilized in some games as another way to control the game.
While the top portion of the remote works well–whether for sliding through apps quickly or just navigating, the design of the device itself can be quite confusing. You might find that you pick up the device and are trying to swipe on the lower portion instead of the touch-sensitive upper part.
The bottom portion of the remote is textured to be more glossy, but the mistake does happen. That said, the design of the remote itself is quite good. Imagine if you had an iPhone that was a remote and you have the Apple TV remote.
One other thing to note about this Apple TV Remote (and the other one before it) is that it feels like Apple was more concerned with making the remote feel and look nice, than to be actually practical in use. It’s a bit too small, easy to lose, and the shape of the device doesn’t feel comfortable.
If you would like to take your gaming up to the next level, I would definitely recommend checking out the only controller that is built for the Apple TV.
Is the Apple TV remote good for gaming?
Speaking of gaming, the new Apple Remote does things the old one could never do–don’t get me mistaken. With the new gyroscopic capabilities, Car games can actually be played quite well. Other games like Crossy Road also work well since it only requires clicking.
You can even manage other games like Dungeon Hunter 5 by utilizing all of the various buttons the controller has to offer–whether that means using both sides of the touch portion, the play button, and the gyroscopic controls. In some games that require all these controls, it can be a bit difficult to play.
In Dungeon Defender, playing the game became an exercise in frustration as some misused control inputs would automatically open the cash shop when opened. I almost purchased a few hundred dollars worth of cash shop goods throughout my 2-hour test of the game and controls.
The Apple TV performs quickly, and the new interface and OS works well. You can open apps, and close them down like you would in an iPhone.
The only bad thing is that it saves all of your apps open permanently, so after, a week or two, you’ll find that some apps have been technically open (or multitasked on the side depending on how you look at it) for awhile which requires you to restart them. For instance, sometimes Netflix gets bugged out, or the YouTube app has trouble loading new content which requires you to refresh the apps manually.
Speaking of apps, the Apple TV has it’s own app store separate from iPhone and the iPad–which, unfortunately, makes sense since the resolution, scale, and other aspects have to be configured individually for the TV.
However, since the inception of the device, we’ve seen very little growth in the availability of useful apps. There are a few full-featured games on the store like Oceanhorn, Transistor, and Guitar hero–but half of these aren’t even Apple TV exclusive.
My favorite game so far has probably been Alto’s Adventure–since it controls wonderfully with a simple control scheme that doesn’t feel too complicated on the remote.
Looking at the top apps in the app store right now looks virtually identical to how it did in December of 2016 with the same apps dominating the front page. You also can’t navigate the app store that well and searching for new apps is a hit or miss.
Sadly, you’ll find junk without any reviews as much as semi-decent apps that actually might be worth a try. It’s unfortunate since the apps I have used on the TV work great and are super useful. If you are a fan of Yoga, I recommend trying out some of the paid Yoga apps that teach you Yoga routines.
Is Siri useful?
One other thing that’s unique about the Apple TV is the Siri integration. Just by tapping on a button on your controller, you can control Siri with your voice. Recently, the OS integrated the ability to use Siri to replace the need for typing in search bars. So if you’re on Netflix, you can use Siri to search for a show.
Unfortunately, Siri is mainly integrated into the device for Apple’s software. This means if you’re searching for “best Sylvester Stallone movies” you’ll only see movies in iTunes–not Netflix. However, you can search for Sylvester Stallone movies on Netflix as get results. I found it quite funny to learn that the only Sylvester Stallone movie on Netflix is “Antz” (he voiceacted a part).
Is the Apple TV worth $149?
The 2015 Apple TV has two pricing schemes–$149 for the 32GB model, and $199 for the 64GB model. Compared to some other competitors, this is a hefty price. But the question is, is the price worth it for what you get?
For $149 you get one of the best remotes made for streaming devices and a great streaming box that can do most everything you need. In addition, you are also paying for access to the Apple app store. Besides, that, nothing about the device is especially proprietary or must have–unless you want to take advantage of integration that Apple products always have (you can stream your photos / videos, or connect your Mac to stream to the TV–streaming videos is much better than the former Apple TV with no buffering required at all).
If you want to play games on your streaming box–don’t consider the remote as a possibility, it’s probably just better to get a Bluetooth/USB controller. You can use these types of controllers with most streaming boxes.
Unlike the games on the regular App Store, the games on the Apple TV aren’t as readily available. Even half a year later, there’s barely any games or new apps. However, keep in mind, that games on all streaming boxes aren’t quite there yet (more and more games are being developed more mobile or tablet use instead)–but here, there isn’t any room for emulation.