AppleTV 4th Generation

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Oct 30, 2015 in Apple, Tech |

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Since the AppleTV 2 was released in way back in 2010, I’ve always hoped that Apple would enable functionality for apps on the TV as this is always something I’ve found lacking. Granted I could have always accomplished this by jailbreaking it, however I’ve always found tinkering with custom firmwares to be a double edged sword, so I always left my Apple kit vanilla.

Then in 2012, Apple released the AppleTV 3, with an improved processor (same processor as the iPad 2/iPad Mini), improved bluetooth and I though, “finally…here we go”, but it unfortunately it never happened.

The following year iOS7 was released including the MFi SDK allowing you to sync a bluetooth controller to your iDevice to play games. At this time, micro consoles were all the rage, with the rise of the OUYA and various other Android based consoles appearing on the market, I though…”here we go”….only to be disapointed again.

With the announcement of the AppleTV 4, It seemed my dream has finally come true, and the little black box that lives under my TV, would finally be getting an upgraded to allow apps and games.

Now before I pop on a party hat and start rejoicing, I’m going into this a very cautiously, as I don’t think it’s going all singing, all dancing experience I’ve been waiting all these years for. As you may be aware, I’m heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, and have spent literally thousands on media over the years. What I was hoping for was the same as I got with the Vita TV is, the ability to download any big name games I’d previously bought and play them on the big screen. However restrictions like the inital 200MB download limit per game/application (although potentially up to 2GB additional resources can be then downloaded), the fact that every game has to be playable on the new touch remote, makes me fear we’re never going to see any of the big name games I want to play on the big screen, and it’s simply going a store full of AppleTV specific flappy bird and angry bird clones.

Now I decided to go for the 64GB version, in the hope that one day in the not too distant future, Apple will create a MFi specific section on the store, and increase the file size limit to allow developers to create some truely awesome games to take full advantage of the new hardware, or at least port them to the AppleTV with ease.

So how is it? It’s pretty good. The initial setup was extremely easy, I was given the option to setup with phone. Simply enabling bluetooth and move my phone close to the device. It then used the setting on my phone to populate the main information, wifi, appleID etc. As part of the setup you can also enable location services, which seemed a little odd at the time, but made sense later when I saw the Weather Channel app auto populate my location.

Overall the UI feels very clean, snappy and has a nice little 3D effect when you’re selecting an app. I was glad to see initially there were no 3rd party apps installed, as I’ve found over the years my other AppleTV’s have become over bloated with apps I’ll never use, so it was good to be able to select the apps I actually wanted.

Although most of the default apps are familiar, iTunes Movies, iTunes TV etc, you now have access to Apple Music, and as I’m one of those that stuck with it after the 3 month free trial, it’s good to see it enabled on the box. To the left of this is the ever familiar App Store icon. Once in, you’re met with the familiar app screen layout you get on other app devices. Currently there’s not really any type of filtering or sorting, so you just have the recommended and purchased tabs. I guess when they’re more content available, I hope to see the usual category system we get on other apps stores . Within the purchased tab,  there were a handful of apps, likes of Speediest.net, Asphalt 8, Jetpack Joyride and the likes. Obviously I clicked on them all and set them downloading, to see how they look on the big screen. I guess one huge (for me) omission from the store was Apples own Podcast app. As most of you are aware, I listen to, and even record a podcast or two, so the lack of podcasting capability was rather strange.

The first app I tried was Speediest.net, although it felt like a very cut down version of the version I use on my phone, it was functional. Next on the list was Asphalt 8. As I started up, I got a message saying ‘Downloading Bundle’, and the proceeded to download the rest of the files it needed. Once loaded, I got the message of ‘Controller Optional’, so I dropped out of the game, synced my Mad Catz MFi controller to the TV and reloaded the game. Sure enough, I was able to fully control the game, and the entire AppleTV with my MFi controller. The experience was ok, the game ran a little jerky at times, however assume it was only a first run problem. Interestingly, the game seemed to download the track that it needed to play, I guess this was Apples App Thinning at work.

Moving away from the apps, I decided to have a look at the bread and butter stuff, and have to say, everything is a lot snappier than it previously was. I currently own 227 iTunes movies, and on my AppleTV 3, these would take a good few seconds to load, on this..instant. Same with the TV and music, everything was snappy.

So I guess the final thing is the controller, well it’s the same…but different. Instead of the previous navigation circle, you’ve now got a touchpad, that does the same thing, however a lot my touchpady. You now have the addition of a home button, and volume controls. Now I have to admit I was impressed when I pressed the volume button, only to see the volume go up and down on my TV without me having to punch in any settings…..ah, technology. Finally there’s the Siri button, press once, then press and hold to talk to Siri….she still doesn’t understand me.

All in a nice little upgrade, it’s still early days, but I’ll be interested to see how the app store evolves in the coming months.

As always, unboxing photos below.

 

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