reviews / 22/01/2016

Review: Apple TV

When the new Apple TV4 came out, I didn’t think much of it. I knew the remote was revamped, and it had a better interface. I was happy to carry on using my Apple TV3. It was old, bought second-hand without a remote (it took some working around to pairing it to my iPhone) but did its job.

Then I got to try out the ATV4 over the December holidays thanks to iStore. I use the Apple TV primarily for video-on-demand content, such as Netflix. From my personal experience, it just handles buffering better (versus an Xbox). I haven’t tried on the PS4 and I don’t intend to; I can’t be bothered to go through another hoop to get Netflix US working on it with my South African login etc.

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The new interface, tvOS, is my favourite part of the new Apple TV. The very thing I didn’t think much of when it launched, has made me eventually get one. Because it is everything; it changes your experience completely, and it’s fast. tvOS also supports universal apps across tablet, smartphone and the TV. The main settings menu now has a white background, vs. the old black; it’s much cleaner and easy on the eye. It has a full on App Store including games (Crossy Road ftw), and the interface supports voice search with Siri (works only with a US iTunes acc). The live wallpapers from different cities are a nice touch.

The difference on the Netflix app on the ATV3 vs ATV4 was big enough to make me not want to go back to the old one. It feels so dated and ancient; going back to it felt like a huge downgrade.  The new one works well with the new remote too, because you’re now scrolling with the touchpad. I also ended up playing Crossy Road a lot, and so did my nieces and nephew over the holidays. It’s amazing how intuitive kids are and took to the new remote immediately, without me having to explain how it works. This has a lot to do with them thinking everything is a touch screen 😉

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The remote has a glass touch interface and the top half of it is where you’d scroll and press for different functions. There are only 5 buttons: volume up/down; Siri; pause/play; menu and AirPlay. It’s intuitive and once you start using it, you get used to it very quickly. It’s just very sensitive. When my TV is off and I touch it by accident, the TV switches on to the Apple TV. Even if you are using another output (DStv) and touch it, it switches to that. It’s only as bothersome as the amount of times you accidentally touch it and switch across. Haha! The iOS Remote app has been updated to support the new Apple TV if you want to use your phone as the remote.

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Back to the interface. The older Apple TV was littered with apps on the homepage based on which country store you were logged in. The new one? Clean and minimal. You download the apps you want, which appear on your landing page. The first time I tried Siri, I was impressed. It narrows down by what you want, example actor name, and then you can also pull up all movies with “2 actor names”. Siri searches iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc. While it is impressive and works really well, it’s not a feature I use often.

If you purchase a lot of content from iTunes or store game data, it is worth buying the 64GB variation; otherwise stick to the 32GB one, these are the only 2 options. You can also access stuff across your devices if you have Home Sharing turned on, so everything on your Macbook/iMac becomes available on the TV.

The Apple TV unit itself is thicker than the old one, and has the following ports: power; HDMI; Ethernet; and USB-C.

Overall, the Apple TV interface is the best one I’ve used (I’ve tried xbmc when it was called that and some others) but this one, along with the hardware is fuss-free and works with my existing devices. It’s the one I ended up going back to and using the most. I also bought a new Apple TV after my review unit went back!

The new Apple TV is available at the iStore and other distributors for R2499 (32GB) and R3499 (64GB).

When the new Apple TV4 came out, I didn't think much of it. I knew the remote was revamped, and it had a better interface. I was happy to carry on using my Apple TV3. It was old, bought second-hand without a remote (it took some working around to pairing…

APPLE TV 2015

DESIGN
INTERFACE
APPS
PERFORMANCE

If you have a Netflix account, buying one is a no-brainer. If you're already tied to iOS/OS X, it just makes sense to stick to one ecosystem. It's not cheap and the 32GB variant is sufficient for VOD services.

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Nafisa Akabor
Always online... except when I'm offline.




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