09 Feb Apple TV: Vision of the Future
Por Will Greenwald. Noviembre 5 de 2015. Para www.pcmag.com
It’s been more than three years, but we finally have a new Apple TV.
The last time Apple updated its popular media streamer was back in 2012, and it has really started to show its age. Thanks to the new iOS-based tvOS 9, Apple has solved one of those problems; the new media streamer now offers plenty of apps.
A new Siri-powered remote makes navigation via voice a breeze.
SEE ALSO: HOMEKIT: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.
The new Apple TV has the same matte black plastic design and squarish shape of the previous model. It measures the same 3.9 inches across, but is nearly twice as thick at 1.4 inches. It’s still a very tiny box you can stick almost anywhere underneath or behind your HDTV.
This version sees the return of local storage in the form of 32GB of solid state memory (or 64GB), to be used for apps and games. Unless you intend to download a lot of games, the 32GB model should suit you just fine. The reintroduction of local storage doesn’t explain the thicker profile of the device. It’s likely a combination of storage and increased processing power.
The remote has been completely redesigned, and now looks and feels more like an iOS device than ever. It’s a flat, slender bar, with curved edges and a Lightning connector on the bottom for topping up its rechargeable batteries. You could easily mistake it for a new iPod touch. The back is sturdy aluminum, and the front is approximately halved width-wise into glossy and matte black sections. The matte black portion holds the built-in touchpad for navigating on-screen menus, along with the Menu/Back and Home buttons. The touchpad is responsive and comfortable, and physically clicks rather than relying on surface taps, so you won’t accidentally trigger it.
Microphone/Siri and Play/Pause buttons occupy the glossy section of the remote, along with a volume rocker. Two small microphone holes near the top, one each on the front and back sides, are for voice control. A small black rectangle on the front holds an infrared emitter as a backup control if the Bluetooth connection to the Apple TV doesn’t work.
TvOS and the App Store
The new Apple TV uses tvOS 9, an iOS-based interface that greatly improves the media streamer’s capabilities. The interface looks largely the same as before, with a rotating selection of featured content on the top two-thirds of the home screen and big, colorful icons for apps and services below. The biggest addition sits squarely in the middle of the icon bar: the familiar App Store ‘A’ icon.
Unlike previous Apple TVs, you no longer have to settle for a small handful of Apple-endorsed apps and some of the bigger names in streaming services. The Apple TV now has a full app ecosystem, with dozens of free and premium titles available. The major video services are present, like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, along with network-specific services like CBS, FOX, HBO Now, NBC, PBS, Showtime, and more. There are also weather apps, sports apps, and a slew of games ported from iOS like Asphalt 8, Geometry Wars 3, and Transistor. Most apps don’t require a lot of space, but you can expect to see the Apple TV’s storage fill up if you download a lot of games. As mentioned earlier, 32GB should be more than enough storage for most users.
Outside of gaming, tvOS adds some welcome multitasking support. Tapping the Home button twice brings up your open apps, with full-screen previews of what you’ll be jumping into. Like in iOS, you can just swipe upward to close different apps from this screen if performance starts to feel sluggish.
TvOS also adds Siri voice control to the Apple TV. By pressing and holding the Microphone/Siri button on the remote, you can speak into the mic at the top and voice any commands or questions. Siri can open apps; search for movies and TV shows based on title, genre, and actor; answer basic sports, weather, and trivia questions; and even enable or disable features like closed captioning. Voice search reaches beyond Apple’s media libraries, and a search for Breaking Bad brought up options to watch the show on both Netflix and iTunes.
Music and Local Streaming
If you want to listen to music on the Apple TV, you’ll want an Apple Music membership. iTunes-based radio stations are available to listen for free, but individual artists and albums need Apple Music for any on-demand search and playback capability.
The beloved local streaming and sharing features of previous Apple TVs are still present on the new model. Apple HomeSharing lets you share media on your computer over iTunes with the Apple TV. You can stream any music you want from an iOS device to your HDTV over AirPlay. AirPlay support also includes screen mirroring, and be able to mirror your iPad’s screen on your HDTV with very little noticeable lag.
The Apple TV is an attractive, streamlined, feature-filled media streamer that Apple fans will appreciate for its extensive iOS support and iTunes integration. The addition of app support and voice control with Siri, make it a significant improvement over the 2012 model.
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