Initial reviews of the Apple TV started popping up this evening.
The new Apple TV is greatly anticipated, as it’s been three years since the last update.
Apple’s added tasty new features like Siri voice searching, an app store like the one on the iPhone, and a touch-based remote control.
So, does it live up to all the anticipation? Yes and no.
The general vibe is that it’s a great improvement over the previous generation, but there’s little to make people choose the Apple TV over other streaming devices, or even cable itself.
The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey Fowler is a fan of the remote control and the new way of controlling the Apple TV, “The Apple TV gets the Internet TV remote right by reaching for the same touch-screen feeling that makes the iPhone intuitive to a 2-year-old…Without having to look down, you feel connected to what’s happening on the big screen.”
Indeed, navigating around the last Apple TV wasn’t one of its strong points, as you had to press several buttons several times to get to what you want.
On top of the remote navigation, Walt Mossberg of Re/Code sang praises about the Siri voice control you can use to search for content. “When I said ‘Season four of The West Wing,’ it offered me the right season of the venerable TV series from both iTunes and Netflix.”
That saves you a lot of time when you compare it to typing out the name of the show you want to watch with the directional buttons on the previous Apple TV remote. Similar functionality exists elsewhere, like Amazon’s Fire TV, but it’s a first for Apple’s set-top box.
Mossberg concluded that, “While Apple TV is the last of the leading streaming boxes to have voice search (even Comcast’s X1 cable boxes have voice search), I tested it against the voice searches in the Roku 4 and the Amazon Fire TV and found it superior.”
Both Mossberg and Fowler are also appreciative of the fact that you can search for content from multiple apps outside of iTunes, like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime.
The “natural language” recognition — when you speak to it like a person instead of a cyborg — was apparently impressive. “I asked for movie mysteries, and it showed me a ton.” said Mossberg. And when he asked Siri to show “only the good ones,” the Apple TV showed the top rated movie mysteries.
David Pogue of Yahoo Tech, Mossberg, and Fowler point out the Apple TV doesn’t make the most of its new-found library of apps. “It can’t find anything on YouTube, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, and so on. It’s a missed opportunity the size of Greenland,” said Pogue. (
Greenland is approximately 836,109 sq are miles, according to Wikipedia.)
Fowler said the Apple TV’s search options “trails rivals like Roku.”
And while Pogue liked access to “all the Big Boys” (like “Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime, YouTube, etc.) he also complains that it’s not much different or more than the selection on other streaming devices
Pogue is also critical of the Apple TV’s high price tag when he compares it to other streaming devices. At $US149 for the base model, “That’s much pricier than similar devices like the Amazon’s $US100 Fire TV, the $US130 Roku, and Google’s $US35 Chromecast.”
And as all the early reviewers noticed, the Apple TV’s high price makes less sense when all the other streaming devices can stream 4K resolution content and the Apple TV doesn’t. This point is arguable because, truly, there isn’t very much 4K content available at the moment.
At the same time, is Apple going to release a new Apple TV with 4K capability? I, as well as the early reviewers, thought that this Apple TV was meant to be the “future of TV.” Apple itself said it was. It’s just a little odd when, really, there’s little doubt that higher resolution is going to play a large part in that future of television.
Plenty has happened in the three years since the last model, and while there are myriad great features, it looks like it might need to put up a better fight to stand out.
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