First reviews say 4th-gen Apple TV is evolutionary step forward, has untapped potential

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited November 2015
The early reviews are in for Apple's fourth-generation Apple TV, slated to ship to preorder customers on Friday, and the general consensus is that, while not a revolutionary product, the set-top streamer is a step in the right direction.




Apple is touting Apple TV as the "future of TV," but reviewers are not quite on board with that statement. While a nicely designed piece of hardware with a slick user interface, the small black box is lacking a standout feature that would put it beyond competitors. It also comes at a disadvantage, at least for some, without offering support for 4K streaming.

Re/code's Walt Mossberg found Apple TV's dedicated App Store and Siri-powered voice functions superior to offerings from Roku and Amazon, but bemoaned a lack of compatibility with key apps. For example, Siri search is not tied in with the tvOS App Store, meaning users have to type in on a "maddening" on-screen keyboard.

"I don't know when, if ever, Apple will reinvent TV. But this isn't the moment. I can say that, if I were buying a streaming box right now, this is the one I'd buy, if only for the promise of lots of apps," Mossberg said.

Writing for The Verge, Nilay Patel also had qualms about Siri's inability to search for apps, adding that Apple's virtual assistant lacks the personality found on other devices like iPhone. Siri can accept commands, like opening apps and looking up sports scores, but it doesn't offer any feedback or trademark quips.

Both Patel and Mossberg agree that signing into channels and app services is particularly painful. Apple TV does not offer a single sign-in function or account restore feature for existing owners, which means users have to input their information on an app-to-app basis using the onscreen keyboard.

"Not having a single sign-on for apps that require a cable subscription is exactly the sort of piddly nonsense that needs to get solved before the future of TV actually gets here," Patel writes. "And solving exactly this sort of piddly nonsense for people again and again is what turned Apple into the richest company in the world."

Opinion is split over the new Siri Remote, which features a glass trackpad portion and only a few physical buttons. Geoffrey A. Fowler from The Wall Street Journal says the remote is Apple TV's greatest asset and is as intuitive as using an iPhone. Bluetooth connectivity is another plus, though Fowler noted his setup suffered interference from nearby devices.

BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski points to Apple TV's App Store as having great potential, while touting Siri's ability to process natural language commands. He also praises ease of use and Apple's usual attention to detail.

Other reviews:

David Pogue for Yahoo:
But here's why Apple executives keep calling the Apple TV "the future of TV": it can run apps far beyond TV and movies. Apple wants us to think of the Apple TV as another phone or tablet, capable of running all the same kinds of apps.
Brian X. Chen for The New York Times:
Gaming on Apple TV is off to a promising start. The remote control includes motion sensors so it can double as a game controller. The game Beat Sports relied on the remote's motion sensors -- swinging the remote makes the on-screen character whack a ball with a bat; the object of the game is to swing and whack the ball to the beat of the music.
David Katzmaier for CNET:
To get the most out of Apple TV you need to be invested already in the Apple universe, with games, TV shows and movies you've purchased from iTunes and the App Store. That's a shame since it offers the best streaming experience today, and more potential tomorrow once app developers go to town finding ways to exploit the big screen and that slick remote. But if the previous Apple TV was any indication, this one's only going to grow more appealing.
Stephanie Schomer for Entertainment Weekly:
It has the potential to turn your TV into one giant iPad: Search for homes on Zillow, book your vacation on Airbnb, use the remote as a controller to play the various video games that are starting to populate the store.
Apple started accepting preorders for the fourth-generation Apple TV on Monday and the first units are scheduled to ship out on Friday.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 99
    sounds great. seems like AI is trying too hard to highlight negatives in the interest of appearing fair and balanced. the article states reviewers are mixed on the remote, but the quotes following it are positive. huh?
  • Reply 2 of 99
    Siri doesn't work with all search functions? That needs to be changed.
  • Reply 3 of 99
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    The hardware can do 4K streaming. It will happen when the contracts with the content owners have been signed.
  • Reply 4 of 99
    Lack of Siri app search and lack of universal sign-in shows me that Steve Jobs has been dead for too long. These are the kind of things he would not have let ship until they were "perfect".
  • Reply 5 of 99
    mcarling wrote: »
    The hardware can do 4K streaming. It will happen when the contracts with the content owners have been signed.

    I recently read something that refutes that rumor. According to the person who got the information directly from Apple there is no 4K support in the new AppleTV.

    I'll look for another confirming source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnarcher/2015/09/10/the-new-apple-tv-is-already-out-of-date/
  • Reply 6 of 99
    davendaven Posts: 694member
    I recently read something that refutes that rumor. According to the person who got the information directly from Apple there is no 4K support in the new AppleTV.

    If think you are correct. I recall reading somewhere that the hdmi port physically won't support 4K. That isn't a deal breaker for me. I would just move this Apple TV to wherever my old 1080 tv goes and get a new Apole TV for my 4K tv provided I get a 4K tv and the Apple TV at the time supports 4K.
  • Reply 7 of 99
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    dukemeiser wrote: »
    Lack of Siri app search and lack of universal sign-in shows me that Steve Jobs has been dead for too long. These are the kind of things he would not have let ship until they were "perfect".

    Yeah these are two bummers. Having to sign into apps individually is a pain in the ass.
  • Reply 8 of 99
    I see no reason to upgrade from my current Apple TV.
  • Reply 9 of 99

    I have two ATV3's and recently sold two ATV2's. The ATV3 does everything I want right now and I can't see this new ATV4 bringing anything new until the apps start coming out. I think I'll wait for the ATV5 with Siri access everywhere and 4k. This is definitely not revolutionizing TV in it's current condition. They should have waited another year, polished Siri, signed all the content providers and solved the single login. That would have had a much bigger splash than this.

  • Reply 10 of 99
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I don't get the big deal about a streaming service aka a skinny cable package OTT. So basically it's just a cheaper cable package with fewer channels, and most likely not something where you can choose what channels are in the package. I'll keep my DirecTV.
  • Reply 11 of 99

    I don't see how signing into apps individually is that big of a deal. Sign in once and you never have to worry about it again. The signing in process goes fast when you use the remote app on your phone. The lack of 4k support is not a big deal either. There is hardly any content out there in 4k right now. On a side note, I sure do hope my Apple TV arrives on Friday. I just got a shipment notification about an hour ago. 

  • Reply 12 of 99
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member

    They should have made it easier to charge the remote using the Apple TV.  Does the cable that is included also plug directly into the Apple TV?  Even better would be wireless charging by placing the remote on top of the Apple TV.

  • Reply 13 of 99
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member

    Can you charge Apple Pencil by plugging it into the Siri Remote? <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

  • Reply 14 of 99
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

     

    They should have made it easier to charge the remote using the Apple TV.  Does the cable that is included also plug directly into the Apple TV?  Even better would be wireless charging by placing the remote on top of the Apple TV.




    The charging cable is the Apple standard Lightning to USB so of course it plugs into the Apple TV. The Apple TV has a USB-C port on the back. 

  • Reply 15 of 99
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Boltsfan17 View Post

     



    The charging cable is the Apple standard Lightning to USB so of course it plugs into the Apple TV. The Apple TV has a USB-C port on the back. 




    So the included cable is Lightning to USB-C?

  • Reply 16 of 99
    haggar wrote: »
    They should have made it easier to charge the remote using the Apple TV.

    I don't see it as a big deal. Can probably go weeks between charges and the small battery will charge quickly.
    Does the cable that is included also plug directly into the Apple TV?

    No, because there is no USB-A port on the Apple TV. What we don't know is if the USB-C diagnostic port will supply power, so that those are willing to fork out for a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter on Monoprice will be able to charge via their Apple TV.
    Even better would be wireless charging by placing the remote on top of the Apple TV.

    I had been hoping for inductive charging for years using the top of the device, and for those that have an Apple TV that isn't well placed for such charging or simply want something closer to their couch or side table, they could offer an inductive charging stand as an accessory purchase, which may have yielded them even more revenue and profit.
  • Reply 17 of 99
    thrangthrang Posts: 1,002member
    I recently read something that refutes that rumor. According to the person who got the information directly from Apple there is no 4K support in the new AppleTV.

    I'll look for another confirming source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnarcher/2015/09/10/the-new-apple-tv-is-already-out-of-date/

    Technically, the box can pass several forms of 4K video - that article has a lot of bloviation but ignores this. Certainly Apple will enable it at least for iPhone 4K videos...
  • Reply 18 of 99
    daven wrote: »
    If think you are correct. I recall reading somewhere that the hdmi port physically won't support 4K. That isn't a deal breaker for me. I would just move this Apple TV to wherever my old 1080 tv goes and get a new Apole TV for my 4K tv provided I get a 4K tv and the Apple TV at the time supports 4K.

    I think it was Andy Ihnatko who said he specifically asked Apple if the new Apple TV would support 4K and they told him "no".
  • Reply 19 of 99
    boltsfan17 wrote: »
    The charging cable is the Apple standard Lightning to USB so of course it plugs into the Apple TV. The Apple TV has a USB-C port on the back. 

    Those comments conflict with each other. Plus, even if it was a USB-A port, it doesn't mean that the port would have to supply power since it's only stated purpose is for diagnostics for Apple techs or other authorized repair shops.
  • Reply 20 of 99
    thrang wrote: »
    Certainly Apple will enable it at least for iPhone 4K videos...

    I don't think there is any certainty there at all. My gut feeling is that Apple won't support 4K UHD until they the iTS content ready to support it with H.265 encoded content with a certain threshold of content providers on board, and that this will come with an updated version of the Apple TV HW and SW.
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