Last week I mounted a TV in the Tiny Office, connecting it to the new edition of the Apple TV. The previous edition of the Apple TV has been the backbone of our cord cutting efforts and while I did also purchase a Smart TV with Roku built-in for the house, my exclusive Mac usage in the office meant that Apple TV makes the most sense.
What is Apple TV?
Here’s Apple’s official description:
TV is a major part of our lives. We gather together around our big screens to watch big shows and big events. Yet somehow, the overall experience of TV has continued to stagnate. Until now. It all starts by recognizing that apps are the future of television. HBO NOW, WatchESPN, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes — apps are quickly becoming how we watch today. So we built a new foundation around this vision — with a new operating system called tvOS, innovative ways to connect with
your screen, and a smart use of Siri to search for something to watch. This is the new Apple TV. This is where television is headed.
It’s is a small, internet connected media streaming device. It connects your TV to the internet and your home network essentially turning your TV into a giant computer monitor.
I was slow to get on board with Apple TV. I actually had one for about 2 years as part of my travel kit when I speak before we started using it at home. But once we got rid of cable TV the Apple TV has become more and more important to us.
I really like the new edition. I think it’s well worth the $149 upgrade. The addition of apps and tvOS is huge, already leading to the release of 500 apps. I also really like the new remote… it’s really the star of the show. But the star of the show, feature-wise, is the edition of Bluetooth! No more pointing the remote at the TV. And you can sync Apple TV to other Bluetooth devices! In my case I connected my wireless headphones and instantly replaced my need for a nice sound system in the office.
Installation takes less than 5 minutes. Take it out of the package, plug it into the wall, plug the HDMI into the device and the back of your TV, then turn it on.
If you have another iOS device connected to your home network just turn on Bluetooth and select the Apple TV, your iPhone or iPad will actually set-up the Apple TV for you. (This didn’t work for me) Going through the manual setup process took a total of 2-3 minutes, add your iTunes login credentials and wifi password and you’re done.
You can buy mounts. But since this device is basically invisible after installation, I just zip tied it to my TV mount and called it good.
Features I Like
I already mentioned the two new features I like most, the new remote and the the addition of Bluetooth. Beyond that I like that the new edition has 32 GB of storage for movies, music, and games. And I really like that tvOS has opened up Apple TV to act a lot like Apple’s line of phones and tablets. Instead of waiting for Apple to add things, like in previous editions, you can go to the app store and add whatever you want. Plus, if you’ve already purchased the iOS version of a game you can add the tvOS version of the game for free. (Sssshhh… we haven’t told Jackson that the office TV has games!)
As of right now, my most used apps are the CBS All-Access app, WatchESPN, and Netflix. But I really like some of the other apps.
Another little thing that I actually enjoy is the new moving screensavers. That might sound silly but they are STUNNING. For real, you can watch them all here.
Things I Don’t Like
If you aren’t already invested in Apple stuff, particularly if you’ve not purchased movies and music through iTunes, I would recommend Roku instead of Apple TV.
- The ongoing battle with Amazon means important apps are missing. As of right now there are a few major things missing that make Roku better. Namely, Roku has Amazon Video [for Amazon Prime members, huge!] and Apple TV doesn’t. (Amazon doesn’t even sell the Apple TV….) But Apple TV is also missing the Sling app. You can still use Sling on your Apple TV, just through AirPlay, which somewhat degrades the experience, especially in contrast to the Roku which has Sling natively and broadcasts it in full HD. But it’s also missing the ability to play Amazon Music, which is what I use instead of the overpriced, overhyped Apple Music.
- The remote degrades Bluetooth headphone playback quality. I’m not an expert, but I think the Bluetooth frequency is relatively limited in what it can handle. So if I’m streaming a podcast from Apple TV to my headphones, if I do anything with the remote, which also uses Bluetooth, the sound quality will degrade and stutter until the remote goes to sleep. I think that might be a bug, but it’s an annoying one until Apple addresses it.
The Money Line
If you’ve got an older edition of Apple TV, it’s time for an upgrade. If you’re thinking about dropping cable… you probably want to go ahead and invest. It’s a beautiful interface and Apple has already shown that they are going to continue to invest in tvOS. (Here’s a list of new features in yesterday’s update)
The addition of the app store, Siri, games, media storage… really, Apple TV is another step towards giving you the media you want when you want it.