The new (4th generation) next-to-or-under-your-TV box has received mixed reviews, it’s fair to say. On the one hand, tvOS looks pretty good, and the existence of an App Store improves the experience. Reviewers have heaped praise on the Siri Universal Search feature, which allows you to search for a title and see results from multiple services with the free ones defaulting to the top of the results lists.
Others have praised the new remote, which is diminutive but intuitive. It pairs easily with your TV so you can control the volume, but you can also override that setting and have it control another device like an A/V receiver. The swiping and tapping works pretty well for navigating those on-screen menus: far better than using the buttons or rocker on a traditional remote. It fits nicely in your hand and is no bigger than it needs to be. On the other hand, it has as much non-functional empty space at the bottom as it has functional empty space at the top, so it’s easy to pick it up upside down and find yourself fumbling in the dark for the right button or place to swipe.
As I did with the iPhone, I waited for this 4th generation until there was something I thought might be useful. We’ve never had a games console for the kids, but here was a way of getting one that would also serve as a telly box. Over the years, I have actually bought a lot of iTunes content (mostly SD, so I can use it at work through the projector), and it mostly just sits on my laptop. So here was an opportunity to put that content on the TV for all to use, as well as use Airplay for non iTunes content also on my laptop.
On top of that, I’m hoping to reduce the number of remotes in the living room. I barely watch live or HDR-recorded content anymore, relying on catch-up services through my NowTV box for the most part. But there was a NowTV app for the old Apple TV, and I could, in theory, lose one box and one remote (as well as the HDR box/remote) if everything was available on the Apple TV.
NowTV gives me a number of Sky channels as well as access to BBC iPlayer, All4, ITV Player, and Demand5. On my Sony BluRay (another remote), I access Amazon Prime video.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I fired up the new Apple TV and there was almost nothing available, other than Netflix, to which I do not subscribe.
So I added a 6th remote to the existing set up and had to order a 4th HDMI cable to fill the last empty slot on the Sony TV.
A week on, and the NowTV app has finally appeared. Which is great: the sound and video coming through Apple TV seems to be higher quality than that supplied by the white box. But there is still no iPlayer, All4, ITV Player, or Demand5, so I need to keep the NowTV box plugged in for now. And, of course, Universal Search doesn’t seem to work for NowTV, so I’m just seeing iTunes results. And Amazon seem to be playing some kind of ridiculous game and not intending to support it at all. Which means I might switch from Prime to Netflix when my first year expires. Clock’s ticking, Amazon.
Hum. As for games, well. I’m not big on games. So far we’ve tried Alto’s Adventure and Crossy Road. Apart from the difficulty in jumping the first chasm (with little momentum) on Alto, it seems fine. But it’s not as if the graphics or sound blew my mind or anything. I’ll wait till the kids want some kind of heavy adventure or shoot-em-up to see what it’s really like.
As to the major complaint about the Apple TV: that it doesn’t support the old iOS Remote app and neither does it support the BlueTooth keyboard, so you have to enter passwords etc. with the Siri Remote, well. The chance to enter *some* passwords when I first launched it would have been nice. As it was, I waited a week to enter my NowTV account details, and that’s it so far.