Apple TV has become an essential part of my living room ever since I purchased the the second generation of the device back in 2010. I never upgraded to the third generation since the only improvements were a bump to 1080p from 720p and increased processing speed. I told myself I would skip that generation and wait for next one like many of us do. Little did I know I would have to wait 5 years to get my hands on a new Apple TV. Towards the end of the Apple TV 2's life, I began to experience weird glitches, endless buffering and the way too often random restart. When the newest Apple TV was announced I knew I would be there on day one.
1. Design & U.I. / While keeping the same framework from previous Apple TV, the fourth generation version got a much welcomed facelift. Navigation is extremely fluid and quick. It still uses the grid of icons but Apple has added some nice design elements to freshen up the user experience.
2. Siri Voice Search / This was the most exciting feature that I took away from the WWDC announcement of the new Apple TV and they delivered on it. Voice search is quick and brings up all the available apps that a movie or TV show can be viewed in. Currently iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime are supported but Apple has already said they will be opening up the API to be available to other apps. For now, it's the easiest and quickest way to find and watch a show or movie.
3. Apps / This is the first time Apple has opened up it's TV platform to developers to make apps. It's still early but I've already been extremely happy with apps like Zova, TWIT TV, Zillow and YouTube (it's back!) to name a few. The possibilities are endless for what we'll see on the Apple TV app store.
1. The Remote / The remote itself is light and feels fine in the hand. It does not feel like a premium piece of hardware like an iPhone or iPad but it does the job. The touchpad for navigating works well and the click feels nice. I do wish the buttons were back lit and Touch ID would be an amazing addition. Obviously the added cost of Touch ID would increase the price but it would be a perfect addition.
2. Siri / The voice search works great great for finding TV shows and movies. I also love the voice enabled navigation options. I can say things like "rewind 1 minute" or "fast forward 10 minutes" and it works great. The "what did he/she say" is fabulous but outside of searching for something to watch or navigating a show I haven't found much use for Siri. You can ask about the weather, the score of a game and launch apps but I feel like there could be more especially on a device where voice search is the preferred way to navigate the device.
3. Gaming With The Remote / I was excited to see what gaming would be like on the Apple TV. I wasn't expecting a PS4 or XBox experience but I thought indie games like Shovel Knight, Guacamelee, Super Meat Boy and others would be perfect for a device like this....but then Apple required that games be compatible with the remote. It's a less than ideal way to game and you're basically getting many one trick pony games where you're either clicking or using the built in gyroscope to game. The device itself is more than powerful enough to run many of the top indie games out there but not being able to require a game controller holds the device back from getting many of the great indie games out there. At the same time, it's tough to tell whether or not Apple cares to appeal to these types of gamers or the casual gamer is more than enough.
1. No Apple Remote App or Keyboard Support / Entering login info sucks. Taking away support for the Apple Remote App and bluetooth keyboards make it even worse. The onscreen keyboard is a giant row of characters and when you're auto-generating passwords from 1Password like myself it becomes a headache. Some apps like YouTube let you authenticate on your phone or computer which works well but some do not have that option. It would be nice to have some sort of Apple TV app on your phone that would allow you to log into services from there.
2. No Amazon Video App / This one you can't blame on Apple. With the addition of the Apple TV app store anyone can develop an app for the Apple TV. Amazon is just choosing not to. Is it because they were excluded from previous version of the Apple TV or do they just want to push their own hardware to Amazon Prime members? I can't tell you for sure but the only one that loses is the consumer. You can still AirPlay from the iPhone or iPad app but a dedicated app would be much better.
I can safely say anyone who enjoys their current Apple TV would definitely find the new version to be a great upgrade. If you're using an Apple TV 2 you'll definitely want to upgrade to this for the speed alone. For Apple TV 3 users, Apps and Siri voice search will make a Apple TV 4 a worthwhile upgrade. Comparing Apple's streaming device to other boxes and sticks is a bit more difficult. You won't get 4k like Roku 4 or Amazon Fire TV but content isn't quite there yet. Other devices have apps but the developer community around Apple is much stronger that any other device. I think you'll find the best apps being made for Apple TV in the future and for that reason alone I would recommend the Apple TV 4 over any other streaming device.