2021 2nd-Generation Siri Remote Review: The star of the show

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited June 11
The revamped 2021 Siri Remote is the best thing about the new Apple TV 4K. And since it's sold separately for $59, those who have the previous 2017 Apple TV 4K can save themselves over $100 and get the only thing that really matters.

Apple's Siri Remote
Apple's Siri Remote


I'll come out and admit it: I didn't hate the previous Siri Remote. At least, not with the fire of a thousand suns that others seemed to feel.

I will concede that it had its problems, including a penchant for slipping into my couch cushions with its svelte design, or for being picked up upside down in the dark.

But for the most part I enjoyed the touchpad interface, long battery life, and simple layout.

So when Apple announced a new remote, offering a strange sounding hybrid of click buttons and touchpad, I was skeptical.

That skepticism was unfounded, and I'm happy to report that the new 2021 Siri Remote offers everything that I enjoyed about the previous hardware, but with a number of welcome upgrades and improvements that make this the far superior accessory.

Touching, clicking and scrolling




The top of the previous Siri Remote was a clever design that mimicked the trackpads of Apple's Mac lineup -- a smooth, large surface that allowed for swiping and clicking. Although it was elegant, it turned out this was not a great interface for some basic activities you'd expect to do with a TV remote, like fast forwarding and rewinding.

The old Siri remote and its swiping worked fine when jumping around the home screen. But when it came time to do finer activities, like entering text on the screen, it was a chore at best and frustrating at worst.

The new touchpad looks more like a legacy Apple TV remote than the previous Siri Remote, but despite its appearance, it still offers largely the same functionality. Though the touchpad now has a series of buttons, including a ring around the outside that can be clicked for directional navigation, the whole surface is touch enabled.

The result is the best of both worlds. Those who like swiping can continue to do so, as dragging your thumb from one end of the circle to the other works just as the old remote did. And if you're having trouble with finer activities like entering text, simply clicking the outer wheel to move one letter over works great. And pressing the center of the wheel serves as a select button, as you'd expect.

The new 2021 Siri Remote also adds a third way of interacting with content -- one that harkens back to the days of the original iPod. The outer navigation wheel, being touch sensitive, can also be used as a scrub wheel, allowing users to more easily fast forward and rewind content with precision, and again addressing a shortcoming of the previous touchpad.

Scroll wheel scrubbing does come with a very brief learning curve.
It took me a few tries to figure it out, as I would try using the scroll wheel without pausing and holding my finger on the wheel. This led to an odd back-and-forth yo-yo, where instead of scrolling in one direction, the content was swiping back and forth in time. Similar complaints and issues with this have been expressed on Twitter since the Siri remote launched, and it still doesn't always work right in third-party players like Disney+ and Netflix.

The truth is, once you figure out that you need to hold your finger on the wheel for a half-step before the scrub UI element shows up on the screen, the action becomes second nature. As with all new hardware and interfaces, you'll need to learn a new trick, but in typical Apple style, it's simple and intuitive.

Notably, the touchpad/navigation buttons -- even though the space for them is smaller -- still support multi-touch. This allows for two-finger scrolling if you're using your remote as a trackpad for a remote desktop client, like Moonlight.

An all-new design




While the previous Siri Remote was a svelte -- and slippery -- combination of glass and aluminum, the new model goes all-in on aluminum and is considerably thicker, at a height of 5.4 inches and width of 1.4 inches. It has sharp edges along the top that may bother some, but I found that for a device that I won't be holding for more than a few seconds to change channels or adjust the volume, I appreciated the grippiness of the edges.

The remote adds two new buttons, most notably a Mute button that lives in the lower left corner. As before, the new Siri Remote will control other devices in your entertainment center, such as a receiver with volume controls and the new mute button, thanks to the inclusion of a legacy infrared transmitter.

The other new button is a small power button that lives in the upper right corner of the remote, and can turn your Apple TV and the rest of your entire entertainment center on and off when set up correctly.

In hindsight, it's kind of baffling that the previous Siri Remote didn't include buttons for Mute or Power, seeing as how these are very basic, expected functions when using a television set.

To accommodate for the fact that the face of the 2021 Siri Remote is a little bit busier, Apple has moved the dedicated Siri button to the right side of the device. This is identical to how users invoke Siri on any newer iPhone.

In a change that may bother longtime Apple TV users for all of five minutes, the Play/Pause button was moved up one space on the left side. If you're used to instinctively pressing it at the bottom left corner, you may find yourself accidentally hitting Mute a few times.

Finally, the 2021 Siri Remote once again charges via a Lightning cable, which ships in the box with both the Apple TV 4K, and the standalone purchase of the second-generation remote.

So, what's bad?




The only thing the new second-generation Siri Remote lacks that its predecessor offered was gyro controls. When the first Siri Remote was unveiled, Apple tried to position it as a potential game playing interface, selling a wrist strap and showing how Wii-like games could be played with the remote.

This never took off, and anyone who is playing games on an Apple TV should just buy a standard controller. It is unlikely that most people who buy the new 2021 Siri Remote will miss motion controls.

The revamped Siri Remote also arrives alongside the launch of Apple's AirTag and the expanded "Find My" network. This led to hopes that Apple would include a U1 chip and allow users to say "Hey Siri, find my Siri Remote." No such luck, however.

The buttons on the new Siri Remote are also audibly clicky. They don't bother me in the least, but one of the team at AppleInsider complained that they sounded "cheap."

And, of course, there are the aforementioned learning curves with scrubbing through content and a newly placed Play/Pause button. But really, that's about it. If you want more from your remote, find something with a full number pad, or buy a Harmony before Logitech stops manufacturing them. If you're looking for something to control your Apple TV that offers all of the basic functionality you might need in a compact and convenient remote, I doubt these shortcomings will be seen as dealbreakers.

Apple knew it had something good here -- which is why you can buy it on its own




We decided to break out the Siri Remote as its own separate review from the new 2021 Apple TV 4K because, quite frankly, the upgrades in the new Apple TV will be so small and insignificant for most users that it doesn't make sense for them to plunk down $179 for an entirely new set-top box.

The new second-generation Siri Remote, on the other hand, is appealing, and probably makes sense as an upgrade for those who are so infuriated by the previous model that they want to send it sailing out of their window.

The main rub here is the price -- at $59, it's not cheap. For a few bucks more, you could get a Logitech Harmony, which would control all of your devices and offer more input options, like a number pad. If you have an elaborate home theater setup of which the Apple TV is just a small part, this may be the better route.

But if you're primarily or exclusively using your Apple TV, the new 2021 Siri Remote is an improvement in almost every way, addressing most -- if not all -- of the complaints about the previous model, without sacrificing some of the functionality that made the previous model unique and intuitive. It's highly recommended.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

patchythepirate
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    It really seems like many (most?) people don't know, you don't have to swipe on the old Siri remote.
    caddyman33watto_cobraNaiyas
  • Reply 2 of 27
    maclvr03maclvr03 Posts: 197member
    I set up my ATV last night. I find the new remote heavy for what it is. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 27
    peterhartpeterhart Posts: 125member
    maclvr03 said:
    I set up my ATV last night. I find the new remote heavy for what it is. 
    I agree…it is heavy. And even tho a few articles have explained it, I STILL cannot get the clickwheel scrub function to work. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 27
    PeteMPeteM Posts: 8member
    Too bad the power button doesn't use the IR to turn off the receiver that is not HDMI power control capable. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 27
    flydogflydog Posts: 968member
    4.5/5 is extremely generous given the lack of backlighting and FindMy support. The touch interface is also still maddening, but at least there’s a way to completely disable it now. 
  • Reply 6 of 27
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,393member
    peterhart said:
    maclvr03 said:
    I set up my ATV last night. I find the new remote heavy for what it is. 
    I agree…it is heavy. And even tho a few articles have explained it, I STILL cannot get the clickwheel scrub function to work. 
    The app has to support it. Crap apps like YouTube don’t. 

    0. Pause video (just like you do to start normal scrubbing)
    1. Tap the outer ring and hold 
    2. Wait for jog dial circle to appear on screen
    3. Jog right or left 

    As for weight, this is lighter than nearly every TV remote I’ve used for decades (which all contained removable batteries). Heavier than the prior version, but lighter than any normal big plastic remote. 
    edited May 25 Japheywilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 27
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 354member
    'In a change that may bother longtime Apple TV users for all of five minutes, the Play/Pause button was moved up one space on the left side. If you're used to instinctively pressing it at the bottom left corner, you may find yourself accidentally hitting Mute a few times.'

    I have been hitting the mute button several times a day since Friday. Does that make me dumb?
    Their focus group must have been 100% potential customers who have never owned an TV. Since they were adding buttons anyway, why not just replace the Siri button with the mute? 

    What a bad UI decision. 
    edited May 25 williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 27
    jabohnjabohn Posts: 560member
    I wonder why Apple put a USB-A cable in the box. My iPhone SE2 and AirPods Pro are older products and both came with USB-C cables.
    williamlondonrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 27
    ionicleionicle Posts: 67member
    Dont like it, looks chunky and old fashioned compared to the svelt siri remote
    williamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 27
    So is there any reason to use the original method to put the Apple TV to sleep (press and hold center D-Pad)? Is it the same results as using the new power button?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 27
    This thing looks incredible. Can't believe I'm actually excited to use a remote control lol. I'm also looking forward to the weight, don't know how that's supposed to be a bad thing. Also, who are all these people that can't find the remote?? Of course, I lose mine all the time for a moment, but I can search all the places I might have left it by the time it would've taken me to open the Find My app. Now, if you could clap twice for it to beep, that would be something!
    williamlondoncypresstreewatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 27
    ivanhivanh Posts: 564member
    The Google TV remote, part of the US$50 deal of Chromecast, can control volume, on/off and other functions of hundreds of brands of AV and TV. Can Apple TV remote do it?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 27
    ivanh said:
    The Google TV remote, part of the US$50 deal of Chromecast, can control volume, on/off and other functions of hundreds of brands of AV and TV. Can Apple TV remote do it?
    Maybe not, but it also won’t work to sell your viewing choices to the highest bidders. Apple TV may be “premium priced” (Apple margins), but there is also a reason why Chromecast and Fire devices are dirt cheap—your data is subsidizing the price. No thanks. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 27
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 767editor
    ivanh said:
    The Google TV remote, part of the US$50 deal of Chromecast, can control volume, on/off and other functions of hundreds of brands of AV and TV. Can Apple TV remote do it?
    If your receiver and TV support HDMI CEC, then yes, it works automatically. My TV is about 4 years old and my receiver is about 6 years old, and both turn off with the power button on the Siri Remote. If your devices don’t have HDMI CEC, you should probably look into a Harmony or other “universal” remote that is meant to be more functional with a variety of devices. An intentionally simple remote without a number pad is not the right solution for that kind of user. 
    patchythepiratewilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 27
    maclvr03maclvr03 Posts: 197member
    Appleish said:
    I have been hitting the mute button several times a day since Friday. Does that make me dumb? Their focus group must have been 100% potential customers who have never owned an TV. Since they were adding buttons anyway, why not just replace the Siri button with the mute? 

    What a bad UI decision. 
    I couldn’t agree more. The mute and play/pause should be switched. 

    So is there any reason to use the original method to put the Apple TV to sleep (press and hold center D-Pad)? Is it the same results as using the new power button?
    Yes, by pressing and holding the new power button it will power off the tv and ATV
    ——
    Second night using the remote. The scrubbing with the wheel I can’t figure out the trick. It’s not seem less to me at all. The best result for me is still left to right to scrub. Also while playing with it I somehow got it in picture and picture… I really didn’t mind the old remote at all. Obvious things others pointed out I would’ve liked to see backlighting & Find Me seems like a no brainer. Especially if you have kids? I never had a problem losing the remote.
    edited May 25 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 27
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,652member
    When your remote is more expensive than a competitors product .....

    I could buy 2 fire sticks for this. 

    Anybody want to justify the price? Most remotes are <$10. I have an Apple TV and I don't really like the old remote, but this is insanely priced. 

    Edit:

    Glad someone found this informative. It was more of an opinion really. But thanks!
    edited May 26 williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 27
    asdasd said:
    When your remote is more expensive than a competitors product .....

    I could buy 2 fire sticks for this. 

    Anybody want to justify the price? Most remotes are <$10. I have an Apple TV and I don't really like the old remote, but this is insanely priced. 
    We have a house full of firesticks (5) and (2) two ATV4K’s, one of which is brand new. 

    To be candid the Apple TV experience so far exceeds that of the firestick that we are replacing firesticks a little at a time. 

    The cost is easily justifiable - to this family at least. 
    williamlondonpatchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 27
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,652member
    asdasd said:
    When your remote is more expensive than a competitors product .....

    I could buy 2 fire sticks for this. 

    Anybody want to justify the price? Most remotes are <$10. I have an Apple TV and I don't really like the old remote, but this is insanely priced. 
    We have a house full of firesticks (5) and (2) two ATV4K’s, one of which is brand new. 

    To be candid the Apple TV experience so far exceeds that of the firestick that we are replacing firesticks a little at a time. 

    The cost is easily justifiable - to this family at least. 
    I like the Apple TV but am not updating now. But the price of this remote, which I could use because it works with my last gen device,  come on!
    edited May 26 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 27
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,195member
    asdasd said:
    When your remote is more expensive than a competitors product .....

    I could buy 2 fire sticks for this. 

    Anybody want to justify the price? Most remotes are <$10. I have an Apple TV and I don't really like the old remote, but this is insanely priced. 

    Edit:

    Glad someone found this informative. It was more of an opinion really. But thanks!
    3 new remotes is cheaper than one new ATV 4K.. I have 3 2017 ATV 4k's in my home which I plan on getting new remotes for. Is the price for these well built remotes too high..maybe for some folks it is.

    I have felt it in my hands and it definitely is not a $10.00 remote, and far above what you would get for that price. For those that drop remotes or have kids these things will last!

    It is totally worth it and justifiable to replace the remotes and never have to touch on OG siri remote again ABSOLUTELY!  B)

    edited May 26 williamlondonasdasdwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 27
    asdasd said:
    When your remote is more expensive than a competitors product .....

    I could buy 2 fire sticks for this. 

    Anybody want to justify the price? Most remotes are <$10. I have an Apple TV and I don't really like the old remote, but this is insanely priced. 

    Edit:

    Glad someone found this informative. It was more of an opinion really. But thanks!

    I have two, no, three responses to that:

    1) It looks awesome and I want it.

    2) It's about as close to perfection for its purpose as you can get, aesthetically and functionally. In an imperfect world, especially one that has been getting more imperfect and chaotic by the minute, having something that is close to being objectively perfect brings me brief moments of peace (of mind), which are otherwise rare and elusive. In a world where unchecked subjectivity is leading people to the extremes of abstracted, vapid convictions, it's cathartic to know that there are some things out there that have objective meaning and purpose.

    3) A good analogy to explain how these things are meaningful is architecture, particularly the failure of American Moderinist architecture, which believed that humans only need a bare minimum of functionality for their environment. Notoriously, architects would even go into homes that they already built and sold in order to remove "unnecessary" decorations placed there by the owners. This is, of course, antithetical to human nature. Yes, for purely pragmatic purposes, all we need for a work or living space is a 7' cube. But, we are not pragmatic beings. We are imbued with an innate urge to seek out forms that are intuitive and ascribe to universal traits of beauty. The simplicity and symmetry of the remote helps us better organize the controls in our mind and puts our mind more at ease. The contrast of the black buttons against the bright aluminum has a similar effect. The heft, and the use of a strong substance such as aluminum gives a sense of substance and durability. Even the Ancient Greeks, 2,500 years ago, knew these things about human nature, which is why the added refinements to their temples, such as entasis (a slight bulge, nearly imperceptible, in the middle of a column, which satisfies our intuitive expectation that the columns are truly carrying the immense weight of the cornices above them). Just like with architecture, and just like with most things in life, these traits mostly skip over our conscious awareness; but, we still sense them. We experience a certain feeling when using an Apple product, just like we experience a certain feeling when we enter a well-designed building.

    These are the reasons why I love, rather than merely like, Apple products. And I'm incredibly grateful that there is a company out there that not only has the ability, but also the willingness, to make products like this, even if it costs a bit more.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
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