Apple released their fourth generation Apple TV a couple of months ago with with one massive improvement: a dedicated App Store for the Apple TV. This means that developers can finally release apps for the Apple Tv like Plex, VLC etc. We finally got our hands on one for review.
We tested the 32GB base model that costs R2499 in South Africa and $149 in the US.
- HDMI 1.4
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO
- 10/100BASE-T Ethernet
- Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
- IR receiver
- USB-C for service and support
- Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
- IR transmitter
- Accelerometer and gyroscope
- Lightning connector for charging
- Rechargeable battery providing months of battery life on a single charge (with typical daily usage)
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
- Apple TV
- Siri Remote
- Power cord
- Lightning to USB Cable
Setup was very similar the the previous model. It was a simple matter of plugging it in to power and HDMI (not supplied) and once it started up, entering the WiFi password and Apple ID and we were just about ready to go.
The interface is clean and full of fancy animations. Not necessarily everyone's cup of tea but generally pleasing to the eye.
We used a combination of a US Apple ID and a UK Apple ID to install apps from both App Stores that are not available in the SA App Store. The good news about this Apple TV is that apps remain on the Apple TV once installed even if you switch stores.
Plex (free) was one of the first apps we tested and it worked as expected. Once installed, it detected the Plex Media Server on the local network, requested our Plex login and all of our media was immediately available.
The BBC's iPlayer (works with UnoTelly) was next and had all of the BBC's content including live TV streaming. The quality of streaming on a 10mb line was excellent with no buffering.
Siri was not available in via the SA login so we switched to the US login to test her out. Holding down the Siri button on the remote and speaking a fairly wide range of commands resulted in a very quick response. One of our favourites is asking the old girl to "fast forward 1 minute" and she jumped ahead in an instant. Requested apps to be opened by saying "open Hulu" was near instantaneous. Saying "Play Shark Tank" for example resulted in Siri jumping to the menu page of Shark Tank with the latest episode already listed.
The Siri remote is a huge improvement over the previous remote with not just the Siri functionality but it now uses RF instead of infrared which means no more having to point at the Apple TV as well as the ability to control supported TV's volume and powering on and off (supported TV's only). The remote also has a built-in battery and charges via the supplied Lightning cable.
Gaming on the Apple TV was similar to gaming on an iPad or iPhone: Games can be controlled using tilt and run smoothly with some games having graphics that are surprisingly good.
Dedicated gamepads are also supported with Apple selling the SteelSeries Nimbus and Horipad Ultimate on Apple.com. Don't be mistaken, the new Apple Tv will not replace a Playstation or Xbox but is good enough for smashing a few cars in Asphalt 8 or pretending to have talent in Guitar Hero.
The one downside of the Siri remote is the trackpad is made of glass (similar to a MacBook) and can get damaged if dropped onto a hard surface. We immediately ordered a protective rubber case for it (not from Apple) and will use the still supported IR remote from the previous model until it arrives. A replacement Siri remote cost R1299 in South Africa and $79 in the US.
We overall found the fourth generation to be a huge improvement over the previous model and worth the price. However, if you don't need extra features like Siri voice control and gamepad support, then their are cheaper options available elsewhere that provide similar media streaming capabilities. 4K video is not supported by this Apple TV with 1080p being it's maximum resolution. However, 4K is not yet mainstream with the majority of video available from content providers being 1080p or lower. 4K also requires a very fast internet connection with huge data usage that's currently not available/affordable for most South Africans and for large parts of the world as well. We highly recommend the fourth generation Apple TV to anyone that needs an easy to use media streaming device that also supports casual gaming with even a little bit of personal fitness thrown in for good measure.
TV OS 9.2 beta for the new Apple TV has been released with the following new features:
- Apple can be grouped in folders (iOS style)
- Bluetooth keyboard and earphones/speakers support
- podcasts app
- iPhone style apps switcher
Stay tuned for our full review of TV OS 9.2 once it's released.