The New Apple TV with 1080p… and that’s about it
When they announced a new Apple TV at the Apple event a couple weeks ago, we ordered one for the lab right away. The announcement focused on the addition of 1080p (which finally brings Apple in line with the likes of Roku), but I wanted to see just what else was new on this box. Answer: Nothing we don’t already have on the 2nd-generation Apple TV. Read on.
Apple TV does have a shiny new icon-based interface, which I like. It’s easy to navigate and nice to look at, so no complaints there. But the same interface is now on my old Apple TV, so it’s certainly not going to inspire anyone to spend $99 on a new device and I doubt the addition of 1080p is going to be enough for most people to justify it either.
When the Apple TV 3 (or is it Apple TV 2S?) arrived last week, I promptly unboxed it and sat it on top of the last model for comparison. Totally identical, except for the bottom of one box being a bit scuffed.
Just like the 2nd-generation Apple TV, this one has outputs for Optical Audio and HDMI, plus ports for Ethernet and a power cable. It also comes with the same low-profile remote, which can also pair with and control any Apple computer. Nice, right?
Except that it will automatically pair with any Apple computer, and it can control several devices in unison. So if like me you have your Apple TV set up in an room with several Macs, using the Apple TV becomes a fun game in which you change the volume on all the computers in unison while you scroll up and down through categories in Netflix (POP!-pop-pop), and 3 random songs begin playing in unison when you choose a movie and press Play, and then you press the menu button and it launches Plex on every computer in the room. This “fun” will continue until you manually disable the RF feature on each computer.
Apple TV’s major drawback – lack of content – still hasn’t been addressed, and it makes for a really limited experience. For movies and TV, you have the choice of Netflix or iTunes only.
Content purchased through iTunes gets expensive quickly, and it also takes some time to load before you can actually start watching it — over my slow connection at home, I experience about a 10-minute lag time for a 30-minute episode. If the screen saver comes on while I’m waiting for my episode to start playing, that’s a problem. And between the expense and the wait time, I can’t imagine a lot of people giving up their cable/satellite subscriptions in favor of iTunes.
All in all, it really isn’t fair to call this a “new” Apple TV. It’s a refresh that adds 1080p – which already exists on virtually all other OTT streamers, and really should’ve been included back in 2010.
And for those of us without massive HDTVs, the difference between 720p and 1080p isn’t really appreciable. Certainly not worth 99 bucks. So if you have a 2nd-generation Apple TV and are considering shelling out for new one, you might consider saving that money for some new TV episodes instead.