Apple TV (4th generation) review: A slick media player
Apple’s update to its Apple TV set-top box is a lot of fun if you like apps.
The "new" Apple TV, or fourth generation of the Apple TV, promises an exciting world of voice-activated searching, content discovery and apps covering everything from travel to games. It’s a bold gambit from Apple that brings the Apple TV experience much closer to that of the rest of Apple’s iOS devices, as well as giving it a potential foothold in the lucrative console market.
But should you buy one? Here’s the basic specifications for the fourth generation model.
|Apple TV (4th generation)||Details|
|Processor||64-bit Apple A8 processor|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11ac with MIMO*|
|Video output||HDMI support|
|Receiver||Integrated circuit (IC)|
|Wired connection||10/100 ethernet|
|Remote||Glass touch controls, gyroscope and accelerometer|
|Remote connection||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Remote charging||Lightning cable (iPhone 5 and up)|
|Remote battery life||3 hours with full charge|
|Software||iOS 9 rebranded as tvOS: App store access and Siri support|
|Australian Price 32GB||$239.00|
|Australian Price 64GB||$299.00|
|Release date||Available now|
Upsides: Why you’d want the Apple TV
- Siri Remote: You might feel a little socially awkward talking to your iPhone 6s in public, but in the confines of your own living room, being able to query Siri to find something to watch makes a surprising amount of sense. In Australia, Siri’s searches will encompass locally available iTunes and Netflix Australia content, with quick and easy launching of titles once they’re found.
- Cleaner interface: It has been a number of years since Apple updated the Apple TV experience, while it has changed the way iOS looks numerous times. The new Apple TV’s interface is bigger, bolder and generally easier to navigate for video content.
- Simple games: So far, the vast majority of available Apple TV games are ports of existing iOS titles, with only a few more in-depth titles. That will change over time, but for now if you want a quick games fix using either the supplied Siri Remote or an optional MFi game controller, it’s easy to do so. As an added bonus, developers can offer games titles on iOS that are fully universal, so buying them for your phone also means you get the Apple TV version as well.
- HDMI-CEC support: Most recent TVs and home theatre setups should support HDMI-CEC, and the new Apple TV does too. What this means is that the volume controls on the Siri Remote should seamlessly control your home audio, cutting down on remote clutter considerably. In our tests this worked flawlessly.
- App expansion: Previous model Apple TVs got new channels when Apple approved their release, which often meant you got channels you didn’t care about, or were left wanting if there was an outlet Apple wouldn’t create a channel tile for. Everything on the new Apple TV is an app, which means you can install what you want and nothing you don’t. Notably, popular media streaming app Plex is finally officially supported on the new Apple TV.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Apple TV
- You’ve already got an Apple TV, and you only want to watch TV with it: The new interface is an improvement, and voice search is neat, but the new model doesn’t change anything in terms of available content on the Apple TV. If you’re happy with the older model you’ve already got and can live without apps, there’s no great rush to upgrade, as we discuss here.
- It’s really early days for apps: At launch, the app store on Apple TV is really messy, which is uncharacteristic for Apple. Search is limited to text entry only with no Siri support, and once there’s a more solid number of apps, if there isn’t a significant cleanup it’s going to be very tough to navigate.
- No optical audio out: If your sound setup uses optical audio, you’re better off with the older third generation Apple TV, as Apple’s omitted it from the fourth generation model.
- No 4K video support: The hardware inside the Apple TV should be powerful enough for 4K video rendering, and the HDMI 1.4 port on the back definitely supports it, but the new Apple TV is a Full HD only product. That’s not vital right now, because there’s really not much 4K content to be had, but it’s a poor future-proofing decision on Apple’s part that it will hopefully reverse via a software patch.
- Siri doesn’t know everything: Contextual search is great, but it’s limited right now in Australia to your iTunes account and Netflix Australia. If you want to search Stan, ABC iview or any other local video content source, Siri isn’t going to help you out at all.
- Games play better with a proper controller: Apple’s edict for tvOS apps is that while they can support MFi controllers, they must also support the Siri remote for gameplay. This is a plus in that it means every games app will work out of the box, but the issue is that some games just don’t play that well without a proper controller. If that aspect of the new Apple TV seriously appeals to you, you’re going to have to budget extra for an MFi controller to make the most of your games experience.
Who is it best suited to? What are my other options?
The fourth generation Apple TV is a solid choice for those who want a simplified smart TV interface with the flexibility of future app expansion, especially if you’ve got a current TV with HDMI-CEC and poor (or no) smart TV features.
If you’re heavily invested in iTunes content, Apple’s still selling the third generation Apple TV model at its original $109 price point, which could be a budget alternative.
If you want direct access to the local big three streaming content providers, Presto, Stan and Netflix, and you’re a Telstra customer of some type, you could also consider the Telstra TV set-top box.
At a very budget level, if you’re happy to stream video from your smartphone or laptop, Google’s Chromecast offers simple streaming at a budget price point.
Where can I get it?
Apple sells the fourth generation Apple TV in its stores and via its Apple TV app, as well as via its online shop. It’s also widely available from electronics retailers.
The new Apple TV (2016) from Apple
It might not look much different on the outside, but 2016's Apple TV is packed with awesome new features, like voice control, a touch-sensitive remote and gaming.View details