Sunday, January 10, 2016

The new Apple TV 4, is it worth it?

For Christmas, we bought the new Apple TV 4 as a family gift.  We already had the previous model, the Apple TV 3 but having the possibility to play a few games on the big screen was appealing.

The main usage in our home for an Apple TV is to watch some movies over Netflix, explore the newest YouTube videos and rent a movie on iTunes, once in a while.  Nothing fancy in general.  We do have a NAS drive in the network where we keep our old DVD movies (ripped into MP4 files) as some of them are starting to degrade with time.  Of course, some home movies and pictures are also part of the collection.

As for gaming, we are casual gamers.  We've been considering having a gaming console in the living room for a while but investing 400$ into a device that we would rarely use was a major issue.  And considering the price of a brand new game at 80$ was out of the question.  What we wanted was something simple, not too pricy and fun.  For our family, the Apple TV 4 was the perfect fit. 



We selected the entry model (32 gigs) as it was on sale at 179$.  

The initial setup was easy to execute and in a matter of minutes, we were already browsing the AppStore for something cool to try out.  You probably already know about the technical details of this new device so I won't go over them again.  It's slick, it's cool and it works!

The pros:

- The remote is connected with Bluetooth so no more pointing to the device.  This is quite handy as we can hide the Apple TV 4 behind the TV set, having less stuff on the tv furniture.  
- The AppStore already has tons of apps and games available for free so you already have a major entertainment value out-of-the-box.
- Apps and games are at the same price as those for your iPhone/iPad.  The priciest games we could find was around 12$ which is less than a used Xbox game.
- Some apps/games that you already bought for your iPhone/iPad are available for free has the purchase is universal.  This is a major advantage as we had already a few games available without shelling out more money.
- Navigation is intuitive and easy to use.  Even our 7 years old got the hang of it in just a few minutes.
- The iOS Remote app is compatible meaning that you can still navigate on your Apple TV while the main remote controller is charging.
- Plex and a few other multimedia apps are available to play your content from your NAS drive. (Finally!)
- Bluetooth headset can be used thus letting someone watch a movie without disturbing the others.
- Some games do support multiplayer mode, relying on iOS devices as remote controllers.  Instead of having kids blinded by their iPod, they were all playing together in the living room having fun and interacting with each other.

The cons:

- You need to buy dedicate gaming controllers for iOS and they are not easy to find at your local store. (At least in my home town)
- The in-app purchases in some games are annoying and it's easy to slip with the touch remote control  when selecting a new game.
- Major titles are still missing in the AppStore. (Probably it will take a few months to get on par with the iOS AppStore).
- Apps cannot be organized into sub-folders like on iOS.  It can get messy as you add more and more apps or games on the main screen.
- Also, you cannot have multiple pages of your main screen as on iOS.  You end up with a really long list of apps.
- Siri is not available in all country or languages.  This is a bit annoying for it is probably a matter of months. (We speak French Canadian at home, supported on iOS but not on tvOS)
- Text entry is really annoying and Bluetooth keyboard is not compatible.  The best option for now is to use the Remote app on an iOS device.
- Multi-users for the Game Center do not seem to be supported, meaning that achievements are all under my personal account.

Overall?

If you're not into gaming but looking for an all-in-one entertainment system, the Apple TV 4 is a sure bet.  Some features are still lacking but should be available eventually as the new ecosystem will mature.  Having an extra (more classic) controller is optional but strongly recommended in some games.

For the initial price and considering the cost of the games, it's way cheaper than an Xbox, PS4 or a WII-U.  No CD/DVD to handle, completely integrated into the Apple ecosystem and much smaller than any devices connectors to your TV set (beside the Chromecast, of course).

If your are considering purchasing the Apple TV 4, go for it.  Especially if you already have iPhones or iPads.