5,148 of 5,449 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2012
I own both the new Apple TV (1080P/2012) model and the Roku2 XS. I found myself doing a side by side comparison of the two products and here are my findings.
Pros: Works out of the box, minimum effort to setup, really easy to use interface + wifi. Can Restream old purchased episodes. Netflix App much cleaner and more superb. Streaming and buffering causes no delays or degradation of picture. AirPlay makes up for a lot of the limited channels (with Mountain Lion the functionality goes up even more). iPad Remote easy to use
Cons: Limited Channels...needs an open API like Roku to build more channels
Pros: Many Channels available, Cheaper ($10), Free Movie Channels like Crackle, AmazonPrime availability, Vendor neutral. iPad Remote easy to use
Cons: Missing iTunes integration, Poor quality and buffering (constant downgrading the image quality on NBA League Pass and Netflix). User UI is just bland and could be cleaner. Bugs and issues. Most channels you have to pay extra for. Roku disconnects from my wifi network randomly whereas the AppleTV never does during side by side streaming. Setup takes longer and more tweaking needed by the user.
While the Roku offers you many more channels the end user experience on the AppleTV makes it much more simple to utilize. If you have some form of Apple Eco System then the AppleTV is for you. If you hate Apple then the Roku is for you. Each product has their own advantages and disadvantages. For me in the end it was about the user experience and ease of using the player and the AppleTV edged out. It's not to say I won't be using my Roku but until there are some updates to fix some of the buffers and issues the AppleTV is by far the better product.
UPDATE: Completely Dropped my Roku in favor of Apple TV now. For some of the comments below I have a 30 Mbps down, 10 Mbps Up and being a network engineer and having quite an impressive armada of enterprise switches in the house I know it's not the network but the Roku. It's either the memory or the application code that keeps causing issues itself. Also for those that claim they cannot view movies due to apple protections...download airparrot and VLC. It works perfectly.
1,878 of 2,107 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2012
This is an elegant and easy to use little box. The interface is pretty, setup is dead simple (took less than 10 minutes from start to finish), and it's fairly intuitive to use. The problem comes in that it doesn't serve a great deal of function, at least for me.
Apple TV is essentially 3 main functions in one package. iTunes front end, content/channel provider, and wireless display.
On the face of it, Apple TV is a front end for iTunes and allows you to buy or rent content and view it on the box along with previously purchased content. The usefulness of this is based on where you buy content. If it's not iTunes then you can ignore most of it. All the magic from this perspective is essentially gone for videos and even music doesn't work without iTunes Match. You can alternatively access your media from another computer currently running iTunes, but only the content in iTunes (not a huge issue) and again, only when the computer is on and running (think of it like an iTunes extender). The interface is lush and a joy to use but it's dependency on iTunes purchases or iTunes running on a computer diminishes the usefulness. It'd be nice it it could access a network attached storage or something similar.
The other content means are provided through channels/apps, like on a Roku box, but are limited to only 13. Missing are the normal heavy hitters: Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, Slacker, Spotify, etc. Only Netflix is present really, but what device doesn't have access to that? I have 3 other devices connected to my receiver that can do it already and personally prefer the PS3 Interface. The general feel of the channel/apps is also very smooth and works fast but some of them feel a bit long in the tooth, as if it could be better but in order to fit the overall design scheme it's not (again Netflix is an example).
The final feature is AirPlay. This is a feature that allows you to stream music and video from your MacOS and iOS device. There's also AirPlay mirroring which takes what you see on your device (or computer once Mountain Lion is out) and puts it on the Apple TV. It seems, based on the packaging, Apple is trying to play this up a lot and I'd agree with that goal. It's really simple and amazing to use where it works (certain applications don't support it or actively block it). If you're familiar with Intel's WiDi it's a very similar thing, especially with AirPlay mirroring. Certain things work better with Airplay though (Slingplayer and Netflix, for example, display the controls on iOS while the video is on the TV) and others not so well (Hulu, for example, doesn't support video out - only mirroring. HBOGo is blocked entirely, mirroring or video out). It works really well and is very smooth with minimal lag with audio and experiences only occasional minor choppiness with video provided you're on 802.11N or have the apple tv wired (had bad problems with quality over two G routers). The same, however, can't be said for AirPlay compatible games like Asphalt 6, which due to lag/stuttering is near unplayable (the jittering and stuttering mean you'll miss too much with fast paced games, e.g. In Asphalt you'll crash).
Your enjoyment of this device will depend directly on the amount you give yourself to Apple, more specifically iTunes. If you don't use iTunes for content purchase at least 1/3 of the functionality is right out the window. And if you own a PS3, Xbox, TiVo, Wii, Roku, Google TV, certain Blu-Ray players, or even a smart TV then there's no point to the channels/apps really. No MacOS or iOS devices and there's no point to the AirPlay aspect. However if you're a diehard Apple fan and have lots of money spent in iTunes, this will be amazing, I'm sure of it.
That's not to say it's not without its pleasure, the device is a joy to use. I find myself wanting to listen to music from my TV just to look at the lush interface that's so simple and yet gorgeous. But, for all of Apple's shine and improvements to the device, they've failed to address the largest issue - lack of content options. Without more channels/apps like Netflix (looking at you Hulu, HBO, etc) Apple TV ultimately suffers from limited usability unless you're a big iTunes fan. While it's fair that a good percentage of people looking at this device will have some content in iTunes, Apple simply cannot rely on that to support this product alone. Features like AirPlay are a welcome addition but likely aren't enough. Especially considering that video playback is a bit choppy and mirroring, especially with games, has too much lag.
For me personally, I'm really only left with the AirPlay feature as a big feature. Which alone might be worth the price, especially if Apple can improve the performance. The content/channels/apps are, even objectively, poor. And the dependency on iTunes either running or being used for content purchases diminishes the utility of the media for me leaving the "Movies", "TV Shows", and "Music" features as empty. Yes it does everything the previous Apple TV did but better, but that's also it's flaw - it doesn't do anything new.
++ Simple set up
++ Very pretty and smooth interface
++ AirPlay (for music and video)
-- Very limited channels/content
-- iTunes only for content, even for in network
- iTunes match dependent for music
- AirPlay lags and stutters a bit too much with mirroring and games
Things I'd like to see:
1) Support for network storage for content streaming. You can jailbreak and put plex or xmbc on to do this, but why do I have to?
2) More channels/apps. I've got all the missing channels on my iPad but why not on the Apple TV? Especially annoying since this is based off iOS 5 and has hardware better or on par with the original iPad.
3) Stronger AirPlay performance. (yes it's wired in, but it still stutters for games)
In the end it does really well at what it does (most of the time) but it's a very shallow pool.
COMPARISON TO ROKU 2:
I also own a Roku 2 XS, so I figured I'd update with some remarks in comparison. The Apple TV is notably easier to set up. The Apple TV interface is also generally better, however certain apps (specifically looking at Netflix) while smoother on Apple TV are better laid out on Roku. Specifically with that, I mean Apple TV forces a text list strong interface at front whereas Roku shows you the box art. The remote on the Apple TV feels better but is more limited than Roku (Roku XS is RF as opposed to IR on Apple TV) and also lacks the instant replay (10 second) button found on the Roku XS - very handy at times. Both are limited with text entry but have smartphone/tablet apps for use (although Apple Remote is only on iOS devices, whereas Roku Remote is on Android and iOS - a point to note, but not likely a deal breaker). Image quality is comparable, Apple TV works better wirelessly than the Roku though (especially at start). While Apple's interface is generally better/faster/smoother, it still ultimately lacks in content when compared to Roku. Roku has Pandora, HBO Go, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Crackle, and many other options. Aside from iTunes content (either from your computer or iTunes cloud for movies/tv or iTunes Match) there isn't anything I'm aware of that Apple TV has that Roku does not. Apple TV does have AirPlay, which again makes it nice.
While Apple TV interface is generally better and smoother, the cost of the Roku (I got the XS for $80, so 20% less) and the instant replay button make it a better option for streaming. It's not as refined but it offers the heavy hitters missing from Apple TV. Streaming options are just better with Roku.
Unless you own an iOS device or will be upgrading to Mountain Lion (for AirPlay) or are heavily invested in iTunes store purchases - Roku is better hands down as Apple TV's use will be very very limited. Conversely if you already own a gaming console or a TiVo or something similar then the streaming options of the Roku may not be unique (between my tivo, ps3, and 360 - there isn't a thing I use the roku for that I can't do on one of those - mainly the PS3). If you're interested in a streaming device and don't already own a gaming console, Roku is likely better. If you are only interested in Netflix, MLB, and NHL and/or you're really in love with iTunes or AirPlay, then Apple TV is better.
Personally? I'm keeping the Apple TV, for AirPlay alone, hooked up to my TV in the living room. The Roku is going in my guest room. The Roku is a better device in my opinion, but it doesn't do anything unique like AirPlay. Perfect on it's own though where I don't want to buy several devices again. Apple TV though is much much limited on its own though.
I've tried other AirPlay games (Real Racing 2, NFS Shift 2) and the performance is better on these games. It's still not what I'd expect or really want to deal with but it's playable for sure. Lag/stuttering happens less often and when it does it's less severe as compared to Asphalt 6. I'll note as well that the performance doesn't have an appreciable difference when the Apple TV is wireless vs wired, so it's unclear what's contributing to the lag. But the fact that some games are doable gives me hope for the future.
Hulu was added - Huzzah! We're getting closer and closer.
I'd recently bought a MBA and have used the Apple TV for AirPlay when trying to show a video to someone. It works well but occasionally refuses to work correctly - either the video is funny or there is no audio. Requires a restart of the MBA to get working (so it's possible the error is on the MBA side).
All in all I still enjoy and use this device but it's only used for AirPlay for me. If you don't own other Apple products or don't intend to use AirPlay I still say your money is better spent on an Roku. I'm still going to leave this as a 3 star review for me. Again it's gained more features but not enough in my mind yet. It's close to a 4 though, but the dependency on iTunes and other Apple devices to be anything unique keeps it down. Feels more like it's supposed to be an accessory for Apple products, not a device to itself so much. Which is fine, but then I'd expect better performance.
UPDATE 3 (Final Update):
So taking a look back on this after nearly two years of ownership. Things have improved content wise - HBO Go is there, Disney and a few other channels have appeared as well. But for all of content improvements they've still ignored the larger flaws while the improvements to competing devices (notably Roku and WD) and the introduction of the Chromecast manage to further highlight the flaws and shortcomings of the Apple TV. There's still no NAS support and most services that could compete with Apple's iTunes (Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Amazon Instant) are still missing and likely will be for the foreseeable future.
The Apple TV interface, while simple, is becoming stale and ugly in a few applications (YouTube and Netflix jump to mind). Roku has drastically improved their interface, bettering Apple as far as I'm concerned. All the while the Chromecast has come on to the scene and for $35 does many comparable things (including whole screen casting similar to AirPlay from laptops - although admittedly not as smooth yet).
Now, more than ever, the value proposition of Apple TV is largely tied to you and your participation in Apple's ecosystem. If you need iTunes access or your need AirPlay, this is the only device to get them on. But if you don't, there's really not any reason I can provide to buy an Apple TV anymore. Even a year ago you could make the argument that if all you needed was Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube hat the Apple TV was as good option thanks to its attractive interface but since Roku has fixed their interface with the Roku 3 this simply isn't the case anymore; the Roku is now the box to beat. The additional content channels provided by Apple TV do help its use, but it seems more apparent that they're deliberately leaving out competing services (or at least that those services have no interest being on Apple TV). So if you use Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Instant, and several other services you have to get something else (for now at least).
I'm not saying Apple TV is a terrible device, I still have mine hooked up in my living room for AirPlay. But if you exclude iTunes and AirPlay there's simply no reason to buy it over a Roku or WD TV or Chromecast anymore really. While iTunes and AirPlay are valuable features I could argue that the absence of Amazon Instant, Vudu, Spotify, Pandora, and Slingplayer are notable weaknesses that other platforms don't have. So in the end it really is based on your ecosystem needs. If you're heavily invested into Apple's world and can do without the missing services then by all means get an Apple TV. But in nearly any other instance your money is better spent elsewhere.
657 of 737 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2012
As the title hints, our household is already well furnished with Apple products. And as it has been said in other reviews in this thread, it will be a much more positive user experience for people who have Mac computers, or iPad / iPhone / iTouch, for these last three can be used as remote controls with an excellent free app ("Remote") from Apple.
If it were not for Apple's attention to detail, the installation of the Apple TV could be a bear for less technology-savvy consumers. But, even though I've installed a network or five before, in my mind this couldn't have been easier. Opened up the package, plugged stuff up, and things came right up on the screen. Used the included remote to log in. It should be noted that logging in (This means you have to have an Apple ID login and password) must be done on all devices you plan on involving in what is essentially a kind of network parallel to the wi-fi network you have in your house (although of course it runs on it).
You must log in, and turn on Home Sharing, on the Apple TV, in iTunes on any computer you're planning on using, and also on any iPad / iPhone / iTouch you're using as a controller. It should also perhaps be noted that these logins are separate from logins and passwords you may be using for Netflix, Hulu, or any other media you are accessing through Apple TV. This all takes some time, but it's a one-shot deal.
The nicest surprise (which I had not come across in my research) about the Apple TV is that it includes a high fidelity TOSLINK optical audio out connection in addition to the HDMI connector. The Sony receiver on our home stereo is rather old-school in that it predates HDMI, so we weren't going to be able to run the Apple TV signal through that. Instead, I'd have to run the HDMI cable directly to our Samsung HDTV. However, the receiver does have TOSLINK inputs, so I just use a cable I had lying around, and I have excellent sound through our stereo speakers.
Once everything was up and running, I was very gratified by the far better picture and sound that I was getting compared to streaming Netflix through the Wii (which we have done for several years heretofore). I already knew that the Wii's specs for picture and sound were pretty low, but for me, the increase in performance alone was worth the price of the Apple TV and cable.
Apple's attention to the end user experience has always been one of the best features of owning their products, but the icing on the cake for Apple TV is the "Remote" app. Free, simple, and elegant. Once I used it, I knew I'd have to put the included remote in a safe place, because I wouldn't be using it again except in some extraordinary circumstances.
There are some complaints in the reviews that the Apple TV lacks certain online media services. This may be the case, but for what it does provide, and for how it performs, we are very pleased.
Addendum: This Apple TV is just the gift that keeps on giving. I was under some misapprehensions about the capabilities of AirPlay, specifically AirPlay Mirroring. Google it, go to the Apple support page, and then do enough links. Photos and music may be displayed from your iDevice simultaneously through the Apple TV to your HDTV. Great!
91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2012
I first bought a Roku 2 XS from Costco then returned it for the Apple TV. The reason that I needed a device like this was to stream Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime for my wife and kids. We got rid of cable TV and decided to stick with over the air broadcast HD tv and internet streaming to save money. Here's why I decided to stick with the Apple TV.
1. WiFi strength - My router is upstairs and my TV is downstairs.
Roku 2 XS - it took about 4 or 5 attempts for the Roku to get setup under my wifi. First of all it could not see my 5ghz signal and for some reason it would go through the setup on my 2.4ghz signal, but end in an error. Finally, on the 4th or 5th attempt it went through.
Apple TV - The setup was a breeze. It saw both my signals and the setup went through after the first attempt.
2. Interface - I needed a VERY USER FRIENDLY INTERFACE. My wife is NOT tech savvy, but I consider myself above average when it comes to electronics.
Roku 2 XS - The Roku's interface wasn't bad, but I didn't like how all of the channels were laid out in a single horizontal layout. You have to scroll sideways to view the channels. If you have a lot of channels installed, then it's a little troublesome to scroll to the end to go to the channel you want. You can list the channels in different order, but I like being able to view all the channels in a single screen. Once you click on a channel, the interface gets even worse for me. Netflix is a good example. The netflix interface is set up so that you see the suggestions for all of different genres of movies and shows on the main page. You have to scroll through a number of menus, which are hard to find, at first, to go to the recently viewed, instant queue, complete list of genres, search, and other sub menus. I wasn't as frustrated with it, but it took my wife so long to figure out some of the BASIC menus on the Roku box that she just ended up watching some shows on her 13" laptop, instead. Happy wife, Happy life...Roku so far was not helping me.
Apple TV - The channels are listed on one page with many more channels easily viewable at the same time on the TV screen. The interface just looked cleaner upon first glance. For some reason, it also seemed to scroll a lot smoother as I was scrolling through the channels. The Netflix channel was a LOT simpler to scroll through, as well. Once you click on the netflix channel, all of the different sub menus are listed on the right hand side of the interface. You can easily go to your instant queue, search screen, genre list, new arrivals, etc, without having to figure out where those menus are. My wife was able to find the kids shows, instantly. This made her happy.
3. Channels - I was looking for a box for Netflix, Hulu, Movie purchases and rentals, and Amazon Prime.
Roku 2 XS - Roku had all of them. I was pretty happy about that. The box that I bought from Costco also came with Angry Birds. That was a nice feature, although I only played it once and never had a desire to play it again. The Roku also had some other channels that the Apple TV does not have, like VUDU, Crackle, etc. I think the Roku is far superior to the Apple TV when it comes to the channel lineup. The main way to purchase/rent movies on the Roku is through Amazon. I like this because I actually like purchasing through Amazon rather than Apple. It seems like Amazon's prices are, generally, lower.
Apple TV - Does not have Amazon Prime, and probably never will, but it does have Hulu and Netflix. I can't imagine that Apple would allow Amazon Prime to be a part of their Apple TV channel line up. Too bad. This was one of the things that really deterred me from buying it, initially. You can purchase/rent movies through Apple. I do believe Apple's prices tend to be higher, but I don't really purchase/rent movies for streaming, so it didn't matter to me that much.
4. Streaming Quality - This was the real game changer for me.
Roku 2 XS - I read that the quality of streaming on the Roku box was great. I'm sure the quality is great for those that have good wifi strenght or have the box connected via an Ethernet cable. I didn't have the luxury of having the box connected through a cable, because my router is too far for a physical connection. As soon as I started streaming a movie through netflix I was getting less than stellar quality. It also took about 20-30 seconds for every movie/show to get started. I figured it needed some buffering time. The movies were not coming through at HD quality and I was getting frustrated that I couldn't get the box to receive any movie at HD quality. Finally, I got one movie to start at HD quality, but in a few minutes it reverted back to a lower quality video. I'm sure this had to do with the wifi signal, but this was the main reason that I returned the box back to Costco.
Apple TV - I thought that getting the Apple TV would not solve my issue with the bad wifi signal to the Roku box, so I was a little scared that I would have the same problem with the Apple TV. Once I started a movie on Netflix I saw a rotating, circular animation on the screen and I thought, "GREAT, It's going to take forever to start." Wouldn't you know it, after about 5 seconds the movie started and it was perfect. The quality of the video was HD. I thought maybe it was because I was using my 5ghz signal, so I changed the wifi setting to my 2.4ghz signal and the video quality was perfect, again. I'm not sure why the Roku box didn't catch the wifi signal as well as the Apple TV, but I've not had problem, yet, with the Apple TV not being able catch a strong signal from my router.
5. Playing local media through a computer/iPhone/iPad via box -
Roku 2 XS - I can't really comment on this for the Roku box, because I didn't really try it. However, I do know that you can download software to your computer to stream movies from you computer to the Roku.
Apple TV - I connected my iTunes to the Apple TV via homesharing, and voila it was done. The movie came out very nice. I did not consider Airplay as a reason to buy the Apple TV, but after I tried i fell in love with it. Airplay is NOT GOOD for watching movie through screen mirroring. The quality isn't that great, but it's not too bad watching it through homesharing via iTunes. I have all of my kids' DVD's ripped and in iTunes and it's a great way to view through the Apple TV on the TV screen. We also take a lot of pictures and video on our iPhones and we have been using Airplay to show the kids the videos that we take of them through the Apple TV. They love it and think it's great that they can view the videos on a big screen. There is one thing that took me a long time to figure out, though. When you try to view a video recorded through an iPhone via Airplay it will take FOREVER for the video to buffer. For 1 minute video it took about ten minutes to buffer. I figured out that you have to use "Airplay Mirroring" then view the video through the mirror mode and not through direct Airplay. I hope that makes sense. If you go through this route the video plays instantly without any buffering.
Full Disclosure: I am what people might consider an Apple "Fanboy", BUT I first bought the Roku box, because I thought having more available channels and a cheaper price through Costco would be worth it. However, the Apple TV won out in the end because it was easier to use, the interface was better, and the quality of the videos were better through the way that I had it set up.
If I had the ability to set up the box through a wired ethernet connection, then the results might have been different and I might have stuck with the Roku 2 XS. Despite a slightly higher price and not being able to access Amazon Prime, I'm happy with the Apple TV.
64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2012
Bought an Apple TV just to play around with and a bit because had grown very tired of my Samsung smart TV features crashing.
The box is small and the black flat color makes it easily hidden away. The remote is a beautiful machined work of art. It fits nicely in the hand and the simple concept should be a lesson to any company that makes remotes.
Setup: Could not be simpler. Plugged it in to TV and within 5 minutes was logging in to Netflix and streaming video. Most difficult part was remembering passwords to do one-time logins.
1. The UI is simple, elegant and easy to use.
2. The video quality is excellent, it does not downgrade quality. Streaming Netflix on my TV or through XBox always was frustrating in regards to video constantly coming in at different resolutions. Used to blame it on my Internet connection until seeing the difference on Apple TV.
3. iTunes integration is really nice and easy to set up. No complicated directions to follow, Apple TV walks you through in an easy to follow manner.
4. Never crashes. The smart TV functions on my Samsung TV crashed or froze so frequently that I figured it was just part of using it... And it was, but not with Apple TV. In almost a year of using it, it has not crashed or needed to be reset one single time.
5. If you have an iPad, iPhone or Mac computer Airplay is great. You can easily mirror the device onto your T.V. to show slideshows, presentations or anything you can think of.
6. Can run slide shows from either Photostream or Flicker
A couple of months ago my cable bill went through the roof after discounts expired. Total bill was coming to over 200 dollars a month and best they could do was to reduce it to 120. This was without any premium channels. After doing a little math I concluded I could pay for Netflix and Hulu plus as well as buy the TV shows not available on either of those services on iTunes and still pay much less per month.
Only drawback for me is no Amazon content available. Maybe in the future...
After two years of use and two years of having no cable I am more than happy with my choice of cutting cable and going this route. Over all the savings alone have more than paid for the Apple TV box. Since the time I wrote the review several apps have been added and content has increased to the point I just do not see going back to cable at all. Recently when I was presented with a chance to get video service with my internet for just $3 more I declined. What is the point of having a bulky cable box when I can watch the latest programs on Hulu plus when I want? In addition there is now even streaming news as well as a greater variety of services offered.
Do yourself a favor and ditch cable video for either Apple TV or one of the competitors. You will save money, be able to watch what you want when you want to watch it.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2012
The title "Wii No More" is because no longer do I use the Wii for playing YouTube or Netflix videos through my TV. In fact, since getting the Apple TV I haven't even turned on the Wii. The Apple TV is much faster at downloading content for play and rarely pauses during playback. For that alone, I would have given the Apple TV 3 stars. Because there's so much more to love about the Apple TV, I've given it 5 stars.
Things I love:
1. Airplay Mirroring - if I want people to see something I'm doing on my MacBook, I turn on Airplay Mirroring and just like that, it's on the TV. No more trying to squeeze in to see the MacBook screen or dragging a cable across the room to connect the MacBook to the TV.
2. Playing content from a computer - as long as Home Sharing is setup I can pull music and video directly from a computer and play it on my TV. The perfect exercise music is always easily accessible.
3. Customizing the Home Screen - with the latest Apple TV update, I can remove the home screen icons that I don't use. With parental controls I was able to remove some of them before, but now I have complete control, minus a few "required" icons.
4. The Remote App - conducting a search on the Apple TV can be somewhat of a hassle if you are using the Apple Remote that it comes with. Once I started using the Remote App on my iPhone, a keyboard pops up on my phone that I can type the search query in. Down, down, right, right arrow pushing is not required to get to the next letter.
5. Size matters - the Apple TV is so small, making it easy to place anywhere. I set it on top of my DVR along with a Kinivo 501BN Premium 5 port High speed HDMI switch with IR wireless remote and AC Power adapter - supports 3D, 1080p, which is on a OmniMount Tria 1 B - 1 Shelf Wall Furniture (Black/Dark Glass) mounted behind/above my TV.
6. iTunes integration - renting or purchasing new movies/TV shows from iTunes is so fast and easy. If I have subscribed to a TV show, the show automatically downloads to the Apple TV. And I can also choose to download purchases to my MacBook if I want.
572 of 682 people found the following review helpful
When Amazon released the Fire TV I rushed to buy one. I've plenty of Amazon hosted content and the prospect of a set top box which was both faster than my 3rd generation Apple TV and allowed for games made it seem like as great deal. So I did buy one, in fact, I bought two as I saw the opportunity for writing software for the big screen. But after a few weeks of novelty, my kids and I have reverted to using the Apple TV, although I will still switch over to the Fire TV now and then.
The Fire TV is noticeably peppier given the newer processor in it. But this really only shows up in things that the Apple TV doesn't do, namely playing games. The more games I played on the Fire TV, the more I realize that Apple will have to release a 4th generation Apple TV with a dual core A7 and a beefier GPU should they want to compete in the light set top gaming market. This current model is not going to be a competitive gaming platform. And that's OK.
When it comes to what it does do, the current Apple TV is plenty fast at navigating, and displaying content. It shows 1080p high quality very well. Better, in my opinion than the Fire TV. And the unified 2 dimensional grid interface used by the video apps on the Apple TV is more efficient than the haphazard interfaces seen on the Fire. The Netflix app on the Apple TV is noticeably more polished and surprisingly given the hardware differences, much smoother scrolling than the utilitarian standard Android version distributed in the Fire TV App Store. Since much of what we use a set top box for is watching Netflix, the more pleasant experience wins.
As for controllers, the Fire TV remote is fine, and speaking into the voice recognition microphone, for that content it supports, is much nicer than arrowing around an on screen keyboard. But two things, it doesn't work everywhere not YouTube and not Netflix, and I don't use my Apple TV's remote. I pair a small Bluetooth keyboard, the kind found in iPad Mini typing cases, with my AppleTV and use it as my primary controller. Nicer than the remote, nicer than the iPhone remote App, nicer than the Fire TV and its fancy Bluetooth remote. It rocks when searching, jumping around lists and most importantly entering passwords.
So, with a keyboard and a smoother Netflix integration, my family gravitates back to the Apple TV. But it is purchased content that keeps us there. We have a fairly large amount of movies bought from iTunes (maybe 100) and a huge number of TV shows and I don't care to have two places where I keep this content. Yes, this is the dreaded lock in but even if I were choosing a lock in today, I'd still choose iTunes for my content. One, every weekday there are free TV episodes to snag, and they are free longer, so I can bulk up on interesting new shows before choosing seasons to buy. There are a few free TV episodes on Amazon but there are only a handful at one time. Two, I have Apple devices and they are easily provisioned with movies or shows for trips or just watching from bed. Three, I tend to think there is more HD content and the HD quality tends to be better. Having said that, it is a great feature of the Fire TV that it supports the Dolby Master Audio format, and not just Dolby Digital. I appreciate that Apple arranged its rights contracts such that I didn't have to pay to upgrade HD content from 720p to 1080p.
We do switch over to Fire TV for Prime video content and dabbling with games.
I hope Apple opens up the next Apple TV to 3rd party apps. That's a huge advantage of the Fire TV.
I also have a Mac, and the integration of the Apple TV with OS X 10.10 has been quite flexible, and useful in a business setting or just as a way to share content amongst friends and family.
Airplay support is one of the great advantages of Apple TV. I mainly use it to send music or podcasts to my home theatre speakers, but I have used it for sending Amazon Prime content to the big screen. I've even integrated Airplay support into my own apps I write, so I have one app that sends antenna signal quality to the TV and I had other drawing apps that show everyone what the user has drawn. It's a great feature, that I only wish more app developers took advantage of.
People often ask why an iPad doesn't have an HDMI port. The AppleTV is the iPad's HDMI port, and a better than wired one that allows you to maintain mobility while still projecting to the big screen.
Energy efficiency is first rate, at around a Watt during playback and practically nothing when asleep.
I had to set the device to require a password for purchasing content from iTunes, and to enter my password via the Remote app on my iPhone, as otherwise, my naughty children would have purchased every episode of Fairly Oddparents. You can now setup sharing accounts for your individual children and be notified on your iPhone when they want to purchase something. The one problem with this setup is that purchases are not pooled in one location, so you end up searching in two places for your content.
Keep an eye out for discount iTunes gift cards occasionally found online. You can often get content at 20% off via these deals.
As for the differences between the 2nd generation and 3rd generation models, they are identical both in appearance and except for the 1080p capability in functions. While the newer model has a faster processor, in practice, the interface is zippy fast on either with any slowness due to network problems. If you don't have a 1080p TV, there is no reason not to stick with the 2nd generation, and even if you do, you might not notice a difference. Both have gigabit Ethernet ports, and I recommend using a wired connection to your router if it is at all feasible.
Apple is continually adding services, most of which I immediately disable. However, at a minimum, you should sign up for your free month's trial of HBO Now (just remember to access your account via iTunes and disable auto-renewal). Other third party channels I like are YouTube, Netflix, Crackle, Smithsonian, NBA, PBS, and PBS Kids. I used to record PBS programming a lot via my antenna, but now I often just get it on the Apple TV.
So, in general, as an iOS user with a fair amount of purchased content, I've been happy with this device. It's my go to device for most of my streaming needs. Still, I hope Apple takes Amazon up on the challenge and releases a more advanced, fast enough for games model with Siri integration and 3rd party gaming.
148 of 174 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2012
Quite frankly, the Apple TV is the most used consumer electronic device in our house, by far. Surprisingly even more than the TV, to which it is attached, because we stream music directly to it as well, without turning on the TV. It' almost always on, either playing music, showing photos or playing TV shows and movies. We have decided a few years ago that we switch all our electronic devices to Apple products because they can work together so seamlessly. The Apple TV is something like the window to everything Apple; this is the ultimate presentation device. It has access to all our devices and can play or display pretty much all the content we ever purchased/downloaded/created, straight on the big screen.
It's super easy to use and the interface is fast and responsive. We own a Samsung TV and a Samsung Blu-ray player, both of which actually have access to Netflix and other online services built-in, but boy ... you don't want to use them, believe me. They are laggy, ugly, have horrific user interface design, bad image quality and crash all the time. Since we don't have a cable box and we don't watch live TV, the TV is just a dumb box that displays the Apple TV's picture. The Blu-ray player is only used to play Blu-rays and DVDs occasionally.
True, content on the Apple TV costs money: Netflix, iTunes, etc. However, if you are an adult with a job who otherwise spends over a $100 on cable TV, then the Apple TV suddenly becomes the potent alternative as an on-demand video box and gateway to all the content you already own.
A couple of words about the changes between the old and the new Apple TV 2. The new one obviously has higher picture resolution (1080p) but even more importantly the rented and purchased iTunes (and Netflix) contents are also encoded in much better image quality. I wouldn't really notice the increased resolution, but the improved compression definitely makes it a worthy upgrade.
Frankly, I don't agree with people who complain about the user interface changes. I think the new interface is easier to use, especially inside the Movies or TV Shows menu, where the submenus are readily available in the pop-up menu on the top of the screen.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2012
We are a no-cable house. We use Netflix, iTunes, Pirate-themed seeded download sites (cough cough), and have tried a number of streaming options, with mixed results.
Plug it in, it works. No weird connection issues (ROKU, I'm looking at you), no weird signal drops (XBOX, I'm looking at you), plus its HD (WII, I'm looking at you).
If you have every tried to play your OWN video library on an XBOX, you'll know it requires a PhD in Microsoft file conversionailty - basically, everything you want to do requires 4 steps and an update. Want to watch a downloaded movie on AppleTV? Drag it into iTunes. Thats it. Drag it. I don't know how well ROKU plays your own video library as mine worked about as well as a 5th grade science project and I hurled it out the window in rage. (not really)
How tiny is this remote? I know its the future and all, plus Apple always assess you a premium for design simplicity, but I even have skinny little ET fingers and hit the input key instead of the arrow key. Plus, the super simple remote can make things a little tricky (sometimes the left arrow takes you back, sometimes the menu button - or to turn on CC in Netflix, you hold the input button 5 seconds) Also, the box and remote are so tiny, you have to make sure they are well within each others line of sight. No pointing the remote up in the air as you browse.
I had a ROKU - hated it. I had an XBOX, had a WII, tried plenty of streaming options. Not ONE works as easy and as flawlessly as Apple TV. Plus AirPlay mirrors for my iPad? FREEWAY SOLITAIRE on my TV? Yes, please.
76 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2012
Just like other reviews have said, the full utility of the Apple TV (aTV) really depends on whether you have already bought into the Apple eco-system or plan to in the future. To determine if the aTV would fit my family's needs, I did my research, but I had to search mutiliple websites to answer my questions. This review is aimed at providing all the information I wanted to know before I pulled the trigger on this purchase.
First, a word on my previous entertainment setup/usage. I had a Apple Mac Mini MC270LL/A Desktop used as a Home Theatre PC to a Samsung 1080p TV with an additional Sony BDP-BX38 Blu-ray Player Wi-Fi Ready / Internet Apps that was given to us. However, most of our movies were bought from iTunes and stored on an Iomega MiniMax FireWire 800/USB 2.0 1TB Desktop External Hard Drive 34937 (White). Add in a keyboard and mouse, and you can start to mentally see the clutter around our TV. We used this setup to primarily watch Netflix from the Safari browser and Hulu (free version) from Hulu Desktop - throw in a spot of Youtube on the side. As mentioned earlier, movies (and music) would be rented or purchased from iTunes. Even though the Blu-Ray player has Internet Apps such as Netflix, Hulu+, Pandora, Amazon video, etc; it wasn't used much at all, except for the odd DVD/Blu-Ray disc somebody loaned to us. However, when the Blu-Ray player was given to us, they forgot to remove their Hulu+ (paid version) account information, and we got introduced to the full glory of Hulu+ (it was nice to go watch past episodes for shows we discovered three seasons in). My wife and I both have an iPhone and iPad each, but we have no other laptops/desktops besides the Mac Mini.
Even though Apple's website has numerous pictures of the aTV, I was still very much surprised by how small this thing is. The official size is 3.9 inches wide by 3.9 inches deep by 0.9 inches high, and I even read multiple reviews that it was literally the size of a hockey puck, but I still stood amazed at how compact, sleek, and sexy this little black device was. The aTV replaced the Mac Mini, external hard drive, keyboard, and mouse. My wife could not be happier at the reduced "nerd clutter".
Many reviews have talked about the ease in setup, so I won't belabor the point. Just know that like all things Apple, the aTV "just works" out of the box. Plug it in, type in your wifi, iTunes, and Netflix information and you're set to go.
Apple always goes with a minimalist design, but I'm always concerned that anything "minimalist" will lack strength and functionality. I'm the type of guy that will use a 4x4 post to hang a bird feeder. However, this minimalist remote feels solid in my hand. My fingers wrap around perfectly, and the buttons have a solid response and feel. I can scroll through Netflix adding movies to my queue for hours without fatigue or risk of carpal tunnel. Additionally, the Apple Remote app works flawlessly and is really put together well. There may even be a lot of people who use the app as the primary remote, since it works so well. For me, there will be no more spending 30 minutes trying to find where the 2 year-old stole the remote off to, since my iPhone/iPad can seemlessly step in until the remote turns up 3 days later. Some people may also be pleased to know the old Apple - Apple Remote remote control can work as well, and for the more budget minded people, can be a cheap replacement/backup. I will say searching for content with the remote can be cumbersome. You have to move the remote cursor to each letter to spell out words. You can get pretty quick at it, but it is not the same as a regular keyboard. Unfortunately, the Apple Remote app for the iPhone/iPad won't allow you to use its keyboard to aide in the process. Unless you are willing to jailbreak (which currently there is no jailbreak for the aTV 3), you learn to be more efficient like searching for a TV show once, and additing it to your instant queue in Netflix or adding it to your favorites in iTunes. While a minor convienence, it doesn't effect my rating of the product.
Like most people, I'm looking for ease of use. I don't want to navigate through 10 submenus before finding information on a movie to press the back button 10 times to look at another movie. This was the downfall of the internet apps on my Blu-Ray player. The aTV home screen is setup with app icons like on the iPhone/iPad, making navigation between the apps simple. The implementation of the Netflix app is quite user friendly. I like it much better than using Netflix's website from the Mac Mini. The iTunes store is the same friendly user experience. You can quickly scan different movies, read a synopses, and move on. If you are looking at an Adam Sandler movie, you are one click away from seeing the other Sandler movies available on iTunes. The whole menu system is awesomely designed to quickly find a movie or TV show and start watching.
Movies from the Cloud:
I hated standing in front of the TV looking through DVDs only to find the DVD I wanted to watch wasn't in the case, and finding it 3 days later sitting next to the remote. With the mac mini, I stored all my movies on an external harddrive. While this added another piece of "nerd clutter", all my movies were readily accessable whenever I wanted. aTV takes this a step further: All your iTunes purchases are available through iCloud. Anything you have purchased via iTunes on a particular account can be streamed over the Internet to your aTV, so no need for a harddrive. In fact, I was quite surprised to find 3 movies that I had bought 6 years ago, that I had completely forgotten about. I bought them on a laptop that had crashed, and I assumed the movies were gone forever. However, iTunes kept up with that purchase, and it was quite the nice surprise when the aTV started streaming them for my lost enjoyment. These streamed movies take about as long as a Netflix movie to load and start playing (only a few seconds with my internet connection). Also, you can purchase additional movies and TV shows from the iTunes store directly from your aTV, and know they are safely stored in the cloud for your progeny to enjoy.
iTunes Home Sharing:
Also, if you have a laptop/desktop computer on your network with movies/music stored in your iTunes library, then you can stream these over your network to your aTV. This takes less time to start playing than if you are streaming from the cloud, but honestly, I find the cloud so convenient, that I don't use this option much except for playing music from one of our playlists. To me, the difference in load time is negligible. However, this is the only option to play music in your iTunes library, unless you have paid for iTunes Match which will allow you to stream iTunes purchases from the cloud. Also, if you have ripped any DVD's to your computer, then iTunes Home Sharing is your only option to stream to your aTV. But when needed, it works well.
The aTV certainly doesn't have the same amount of content as the Roku or even my Blu-Ray player. For internet content, the aTV is limited to Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, MLB.TV, NBA, NHL, and WSJ. Most of these speak for themselves, but I would like to expand upon MLB.TV. Now, I enjoy baseball, and Altanta Braves games is one thing I have missed since we got rid of cable 5 years ago when we got the Mac Mini. MLB.TV blacks out the Braves games since I'm so close to Atlanta, but I would probably be too cheap to pay the subscription price even if that wasn't the case. However, even without the subscription, MLB.TV will stream a 2-3 minute Sports Center-like recap of the games. I know it isn't the same, but it is more than I've had for 5 years, and I'm exstatic. The main gripe I've read about content is the lack of Amazon Instant Video on the aTV. I'm an Amazon Prime member, so I get the unlimited streaming videos. Even though the aTV lacks Amazon support (or even a iPhone/iPad app that I can mirror to the aTV), I'm not too upset. Amazon's library is not very large, and the movies they do have (that I would actually watch) are 99% of the time on Netflix too. If Amazon continues to develope their Instant Video library, then this may become more of an inconvience. This really comes down to whether you are an iTunes user or an Amazon instant video user. If the latter, and you have bought movies from Amazon Instant Video, then the Roku or similar device is for you. The other main gripe is lack of Hulu+, I'll address that below in the Hulu paragraph.
If you have an iPhone and/or iPad, there is no excuse for not having an aTV. The Aiplay/Mirroring feature is amazing. I can display my iPhone/iPad screen up through my aTV onto my HDTV. You will be surprised just how useful this is. Say I was reading the news on my iPad and found a video of San Diego mucking up their 4th of July fireworks display, I can Airplay the video to the TV, and my wife and I can laugh in unison. When I go out of town for a business trip, my wife can mirror her Facetime video onto the aTV, so the kids can all see me on the "big screen" without having to squeeze themselves around the "small screen". Another useful feature, is if you prefer searching for videos on your iPhone/iPad, then you can open up Netflix (or similar apps that support Airplay) find the video you want to watch and Airplay it to the aTV. Now there is a difference between Aiplay and Mirroring. Airplay is used by apps that have been specifically designed to use the Airplay feature (many of Apple's apps do this) and fill up your TV screen. Mirroring will only put a mirroed video iPhone/iPad screen. This will only be in 4:3 aspect ratio, so you have these black bars on the left and right of the screen. But Mirroring is surprisingly responsive with hardly any noticeable lagging. I have found a mirad of uses for Airplay/Mirroring. You will not be disappointed.
Mirroring can be combursome for watching lots of videos. This is one of the reasons why it took me so long to buy an aTV. With the gift of Hulu+ on the Blu-Ray player, I realized that this was a feature I wanted, but the aTV didn't have Hulu+ built in, and Mirroring would only play a 4:3 video of it, and not utilize my entire TV. So I waited. My patience was awarded on May 21, 2012, when Hulu released version 2.5 of their Hulu+ app for the iPhone and iPad. The update improved Airplay Mirroring to stream a 16:9 video to your aTV. It almost fills my entire TV, leaving only about a 1.5 inch black bar around the borders on my 55 inch TV. It was difficult to find information on whether this new implementation was good or not. I can certify that Hulu's update solved the problem, and Hulu+ mirrored from my iPhone/iPad to my aTV is a great solution. I enjoy sitting on my couch browsing my queue in Hulu+ then sending it to the aTV for the family to watch. The video is crisp and responsive. It is a pleasure to use. For those wondering, I do have my own Hulu+ account now, and am happy to pay the subscription fee.
***UPDATE 2 Aug 2012***
Apple pushed down a software update, and now Hulu+ is natively supported on the aTV. It has it's own appp icon right next to Netflix on the home screen. While I didnt mind aiplaying Hulu+ from my iPhone, the native app is more convenient. Initial impressions are Apple has done a good job. It is intuitive and easy to use. You can even sign up for Hulu+ directly from the aTV. If Hulu+ was a hang up for you on getting an aTV and my original review didn't sway you... Well now you have no excuses.
Given the rumors of the iTV, I think Apple has more in store for the aTV. It is way too much for Apple to expect everyone to buy a whole new TV to get their new features/content. To overcome those user's who won't pay $2K for a new TV, I think all the new wiz-bang features will be offered in an aTV software update. If the rumors are right, that could be as soon as this year. And if I'm right, there will be a mad rush to buy aTV's, and I'll be glad not to have to fight lines at the Apple Store or waiting 2 weeks on backorders. Again, this is pure speculation, and this review will either be prophetic or be my shame.
If you aren't an Apple-fanboy, the aTV still has a lot to offer. This is a must have item if you are already in the Apple eco-system, but is useful for those people only looking to cut their cable bill because of widespread internet content, and it is much cheaper than a HTPC. My advice mirrors other reviewer's. Know what you expect your purchase to do, and determine if a particular product meets your needs. The aTV does this for me in spades, but it additionally has the user friendly experience that Apple provides.