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Customer Review

576 of 687 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Better Match for iOS Users Than Fire TV, March 16, 2012
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 16, 2012 11:07:50 PM PDT
KHWADI says:
I like it a lot but Vimeo is slow,WTF. Netflix is fast and good. I hope they add Hulu.

Posted on Mar 17, 2012 1:19:25 PM PDT
Phenomenal review. Very comprehensive and helpful. Thank you for taking the time.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2012 2:05:28 PM PDT
Thanks. I will expand upon it later.

Posted on Mar 19, 2012 8:42:00 PM PDT
rgold says:
Spears & Munsil calibration disc is to complicated for my Apple-ified brain. Replacing my old was a requirement practically for 1080p.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2012 3:17:11 AM PDT
I've been trying to figure out why people have seen such great improvement going from 720p to 1080p, maybe it's a matter of their TV's scalar not working as well as mine.

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 2:18:48 PM PDT
G. FRANCIS says:
Great review.

Posted on Aug 19, 2012 10:17:40 PM PDT
Hi, thank you for your review, but I'm still lost. I have an Apple laptop, Apple desk top and apple tv with wireless capabilities.
I tried to watch a free movie from amazon which I'm able to do on the computer but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to mirror the movie to the tv from the laptop. I have the newest Mountain Lion version on the laptop but not on the desktop. I also have a blueray dvd player connected to tv.
If you can tell me what I need to do to be able to see the movies from amazon on my 2 1/2 year old Sony tv, it will be greatly appreciated. I cannot buy a smart tv.

thank you kindly.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2012 1:37:31 PM PDT
Purple Bee,
If your notebook is capable of mirroring, then you should see an icon in your menu bar that looks like a triangle pointing upward into a rectangle. The menu that pops up when you click that icon should have your AppleTV listed as a place to mirror. If you go to the Amazon website and start a video playing, you should be able to use that menu to turn on mirroring, and a widget in the video to go full screen. I did this as part of testing for this review, and like I said it worked although it was softer than I'd have liked.

Posted on Sep 25, 2012 6:30:34 AM PDT
BCP says:
I think you are mistaken in saying you can only run 720p-I have the oldest and first or second Apple TV that cost 400 bucks as it has 30 gig on board memory and as a musician it is my go to device for playing jazz and improvizing as my whole itunes library is resident-no need for annoying airplay or airtunes which works at best 65 percent of time if the device has no grounding issues and you use Belkin cables which you can not seem to find kit on apple any longer. The new apple tv is a stupid streamign device which is essentially simply a way to avoid laying your ipad of computer on top of your TV rack to play-yes in HDTV or with S-Video you could only play older formats but still-it seems absurd that an old ipod with video jack could have just had a darn HDMI interface port and done the same and better-with a 40 gig ipod with and HDMI you have apple TV or better-yes Youtube that mine has at least in limited fashion and some other items are nice but the old Apple TV although not the best is far far better than this new dumb streaming box that if it had memory like the Apple Airport Extreme can have a hard drive or time capsule there is just no excuse to not make on board flash an option-its just stupid...let folks pay 99 more for the memory to avoid all the buffering and hiccups if there wifi net is not 100 percent up to snuff--i can not get airplay to work on my express and airport express is the worst single product you ever released-i have one dead one and got a free on fro family member who did not use and its just nutso--not going to deal with dumb device that simply is a few dongles with interfaces that does almost nothing.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 9:04:27 PM PST
alex says:
Great review. You laid out exactly what I wanted to know about the device without having to read between lines in the marketing pitch Apple attempts to give.

My only real question is this. Do you know of any "set-top boxes" as I believe they are called (something that I could hook up to my home theater system most importantly, and if possible to a TV that does not have bluetooth capabilities) that would allow me to wirelessly stream Spotify from my computer to my home theater system?

It'd be great to watch videos on while playing whatever music I happen to be in the mood for, all at the same time but I haven't come across any device that would allow for this. Do you have any suggestions to point me in the right direction as far as the simpler needs I have for a product like this? Thank you very much.
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Review Details

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Glenn R. Howes

Location: Nashua, NH

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,195