According to the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, “The future of TV is apps”. The 4th generation of Apple TV is a huge leap from the 3rd generation, as the 3rd generation wasn’t a major upgrade from the 2nd. Although it has the same core features like Roku or Chromecast, it is still getting the usual Apple hype, due to the new Apple TV Remote with touch support and the new Siri integration.
From the outside, it is just a 3.9 square inch black box with rounded edges and the Apple TV logo at the top, weighing about 0.9 lbs. It has the same design as the previous generations of Apple TVs, but a little thicker and heavier, giving the feel of quality. The device has a small white light at the front, which glows when the device is turned on. On the back are the ports used for connecting other devices and power supply.
The Apple TV Remote is very slim and classy. When it comes to looks, Apple doesn’t compromise the slightest with elegancy. It has a glass touch surface which can be used to operate the TV by sliding left or right to move through a movie timeline. It can pinpoint to any particular location with accuracy and ease.
The remote comes with two microphones, for the Siri voice search, and is also integrated with accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, which allows it to be used as a gaming controller. It also comes with a rechargeable battery, which can be charged using a typical lightning connecter, and can be used for months with regular usage. If you’ve lost your remote, iPads and iPhones can also be used as remote controls, with Apple’s Remote app.
Hardware and Operating System
The 4th generation of Apple TV comes with Apple A8 processor with 64-bit support and an embedded PowerVR Series quad-core GPU. Apple claims that it gives a 25% better CPU performance and a 50% better graphics performance than its predecessor Apple A7, while drawing 50% of the power. This chip is made by their rival Samsung. Although, Apple and Samsung have a competitive relationship in the real market, they are quite happy to work together.
The device also comes with a 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM, which is much bigger, compared to the 512 MB RAM in 3rd generation Apple TVs and is enough for its internal functions. It also comes with two internal storage versions, one 32 GB, and the other 64 GB. If you are into gaming, it would be wise to choose the higher memory version; otherwise, 32 GB seems enough. Unlike Roku 4 or Amazon Fire TV, it does not have an external memory support. So, this is another reason to choose the 64 GB version over 32 GB. Moreover, Apple limits the installation size of each application to only 200 MB.
This is the first Apple TV that comes with the new tvOS operating system which is based on iOS version 9.0.1, thus bringing it even closer to iOS. It takes the design elements from iOS and implements them in the Apple TV interface. Although the apps and contents aren’t changed, the apps and layout are redesigned to suit the new system.
The main reason behind the introduction of tvOS is to bring the content to the front and keep the layout easy and accessible to the users. The layout isn’t much different from the iOS. You can add your favorite apps to the top row in the Home screen which can be navigated easily by the touchpad or the Siri.
On selecting a movie or a TV show, the cast list, plot details, reviews and other details are displayed with the video full screen. While the movie is playing, a single swipe of the thumb can bring up the relevant details again on the screen. When the TV is sleeping, screensavers are displayed in the form of slideshows.
It has a built-in power supply, unlike other streaming boxes, so you can turn it on just by connecting the power lead to the switch board. There is an HDMI 1.4 port for connecting the video output device and a 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet port to connect it to the LAN. So, you would have no choice left if you have an older TV that doesn’t support HDMI. Like previous generations of Apple TV, Apple still doesn’t include the HDMI cable in the package.
The Apple TV comes with a USB Type-C port which is the future of USB ports. The USB C port is said to be future-proof, i.e., it will be compatible with every device for data and power connection in the future. You don’t even have to worry about plugging it the right direction as it is bi-directional. Moreover, it supports USB 3.1 that gives a transfer speed of up to 10 Gbps. You can also connect a micro-USB cable using a converter.
The device also supports Wi-Fi 802.11 ac and Bluetooth 4.0 for easier streaming and connectivity. The remote works both on Bluetooth and IR transmitter. Devices like game controllers, keyboards, headphones and speakers can be connected using these connectivity features as well.
What can Siri do?
The Siri voice search makes searching stuff a lot easier by displaying results not only from iTunes but also from other services. Siri can be activated by clicking on the Siri button on the Remote and speaking the command in the microphone. Unlike on iPhones, Siri doesn’t talk much. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t do her job. She performs her tasks quickly and accurately and also performs some cool tricks. She can launch apps by calling them just by their names, can skip a video 1 minute by saying, “skip ahead 1 minute”, can turn on subtitles, or even rewinds a video by 15 seconds and display subtitles if you miss a dialogue. You just have to say, “What did he say?”
While watching a movie, if you say, “Who acts in this?”, a series of names of actors pop up on the screen, without halting the video playback. To search a movie, you can say, “Find Jurassic World”. It will bring up a list showing movie results in different apps like iTunes, Netflix, etc. You can choose the option you like. Or you can specify the app name during search like, “I want to watch Jurassic World in Hulu”, or something like, “Watch Alice I Wonderland in iTunes”. It will directly open the movie in the specified app (Hulu in the first case and iTunes in the second). You don’t need to know the name of the movie to watch it. You can even search by saying, “Find me some comedy movies”, or, “Show me some movies from 1990”. You can narrow down the search by specifying, “Only the good ones”. Siri will filter results to show only the movies with high ratings.
The iTunes Store has a huge and unending collection of movies, TV shows, and music. It has both HD and SD videos for both, rental and buying. Although you cannot download any media, you can stream any rented contents once, and bought contents as many times you like. You can also view the movies from iPad or iPhone on your Apple TV.
Though, you can watch the videos bought from Amazon in a large number of other devices, if you do not have any device other than Apple products, it isn’t much of a worry to you. Moreover, you can buy TV shows arranged in seasons and episodes from iTunes.
Video, Audio and Image Support
As the latest family member of Apple i.e., iPhone 6s supports 4K video, many of you would think that the 4th generation of Apple TV would support it too. But it isn’t the case. It supports HD videos up to 1080p with a frame rate of up to 60 frames per second. The video formats supported are M4V, MOV, and MP4 with H.264 encoding.
It supports a wide range of audio formats like HE-AAC, AAC from 16 to 320 Kbps, protected AAC (from iTunes), MP3 from 16 to 320 Kbps, VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV. It also supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 7.1 Plus audio.
The image formats supported are JPEG, GIF, and TIFF.
If you are blind or have other disabilities in vision or hearing, Apple TV still lets you get the best out of it. There are lots of accessibility features that come handy in these situations. The features are,
- Increase Contrast
- Bold Text
- Closed Caption and SDH support
- Reduce Motion
- A Shortcut for Accessibility
You may have some kind of disabilities. But that doesn’t mean you do not have the right to entertainment, and no one understands it better than Apple.
Other Streaming Services and Applications
There are other streaming services other than the iTunes for streaming videos and music like Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, Showtime Anytime, HBO Go and HBO Now. There are lots more that are to be added soon, according to Apple.
The main feature that makes Apple TV special is its apps, which can replace your phone or your PC. A few names are Zillow (real estate app), QVC, Airbnb, Madefire (a comic book reading app), etc. Although some apps give great user experience, a few apps suffer some problems. Like when using the Zillow app, some photos get blown out. Airbnb offers just the basic browsing and not more than that. Moreover, who would prefer to do online shopping on his/her TV rather than on the computer or mobile device? I guess we can figure that out in the future.
A lot of people love to workout using videos. Zova app is the perfect app for that purpose. It even works with an Apple Watch and track heart rate. There are a lot of possibilities with iOS apps and a lot of developers are working on that.
Airplay is also a streaming app like iTunes that can stream music, videos and photos to your Apple TV. With AirPlay, you can connect your iOS display to your Apple TV. To connect, install the app on both of your devices and connect them via Wi-Fi.
When it comes to streaming videos, Apple TV 4 offers the most luxurious option right now. To rephrase the previous sentence, no one currently provides, what Apple TV 4 is providing, not just in this price, but in any price range. Moreover, the sleek and touch supported remote is the main attraction in this generation of Apple TV, along with the Siri voice search feature, which makes the usage of the TV a child play even for no-brainers.
If you already own an older version of Apple TV and is satisfied with the brand, you can’t even imagine what you can achieve from this upgrade. This upgrade is a huge jump from the previous generation, from processors to remote features, apps, and other hardware. The navigation is much easier combining the remote touchpad and the Siri voice search.
Apple has come down to make its place in the market of television without making an actual television. Now, it is to see if he succeeds in this attempt. Maybe you know the answer, don’t you?
- You can stream videos and music using iTunes and other apps and store them in the cloud
- A lots of apps for different utilities are supported by Apple TV
- Compact design
- Remote with touchpad
- Great quality video and layout
- Better processor with lower power consumption
- 2 GB RAM compared to 512 MB RAM in the previous generation
- Siri integration
- High price
- Entertainment apps aren’t that compelling
- App store isn’t organized properly