Houston Chronicle’s Silverman reviews new Apple TV: This cake needed more baking

“For years, Apple executives have referred to the company’s dalliance with streaming TV and video as a ‘hobby,'” Dwight Silverman writes for The Houston Chronicle. “That reference has always come with a ‘wink wink nudge nudge,’ because everyone knows that Apple’s aspirations in the television arena go way beyond a mere avocation.

“Still, after the company released the third generation of its Apple TV in 2012, its progress on the TV front seemed to stagnate,” Silverman writes. “As Apple fiddled, cord-cutting burned white-hot. Other streaming devices soon passed Apple’s product in capabilities. For example, Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire Stick featured killer voice search. Roku outshone Apple in the depth and breadth of video sources.”

“While we’re still waiting for the company’s TV service, you can now buy the new hardware. The fourth-generation Apple TV is now available, and I bought one. My impression: It’s like a gorgeous cake that didn’t cook long enough,” Silverman writes. “You know what I’m talking about – it’s beautiful on the outside and tastes pretty sweet, but the more you dig into it, the more you realize it could have used more time in the oven. This new Apple TV is an unfinished product, full of potential that, for now, is largely unrealized.”

“The new Apple TV does not support 4K video. The best it can do is 1080p, the most widespread standard for high-definition video, even though the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus can shoot 4K video,” Silverman writes. “There’s not a lot of 4K content in the streaming universe – Netflix offers some, as does Amazon – but you’d expect a 2015 streaming box to offer it if only for future-proofing. The latest version of Amazon’s Fire TV and the Roku 4 support 4K, why not Apple?”

MacDailyNews Take: So Apple can soak users for another Apple TV upgrade next year? In the absence of any further information from Apple, that is, unfortunately, the only real conclusion the average consumer will make of Apple TV’s glaring lack of 4K capability.

“The App Store stands as a symbol for the promise and frustration of the new Apple TV. There’s a lot of potential here, but it’s unrealized enough to be really, really annoying at times. Many of the Apple TV’s flaws can be solved with software updates, and you can already see Apple improving the product,” Silverman writes. “But there are some baked-in design decisions – such as the out-of-date Ethernet port and the lack of 4K video support – that won’t be fixed until the 5th-gen version is released. Other drawbacks, such as inability to use a Bluetooth keyboard and the horrible horizontal onscreen keyboard, are philosophical approaches that may or may not be addressed.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s perplexing that a a company the size of Apple couldn’t manage to release Apple TV with a working Remote app for iOS devices, with a Siri capable of Apple Music search, with bluetooth keyboard support, with 4K video capability, or with gigabit ethernet, among other things.

To put it plainly, the state of Apple TV at its release reeks of laziness, mismanagement, and/or taking your customers for granted.

Even with all of that said, Apple TV is a diamond in the rough, but it’s still well worth the price.

SEE ALSO:
Apple TV 4 is a beta product and, if you bought one, you’re an unpaid beta tester – November 5, 2015
The single worst feature of the new Apple TV – November 4, 2015
The new Apple TV has more rough edges than a sack of saw blades – November 3, 2015
Apple releases tvOS 9.1 beta 1 – November 3, 2015
5 days with the new Apple TV – November 3, 2015
Apple TV flaws that Apple should fix fast – November 3, 2015
TouchArcade reviews new Apple TV: A discoverability nightmare, zany controls, and loads of potential – November 2, 2015
Terry White reviews Apple TV: Feels like an ‘unfinished’ product – November 2, 2015
ZDNet reviews Apple TV: A diamond in the rough – very rough – November 2, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015

30 Comments

  1. Although I DO have the Netflix app installed, I have never gotten any Siri results that weren’t from the iTunes store. I was at least hoping for it to search my own iTunes library, but it doesn’t do that either. And there are now no playlists for video, so no more recently added etc. to help with navigation. It’s actually SLOWER than the previous Apple TV now.

  2. I think Apple wanted to get the TV4 out for the Holiday Sales season……upgrades to firmware/apps/software etc are pending. FYI- I think USB-C port is able to handle 4k speeds. I don’t know if the capabilities of this new unit are fully “activated” right now. Obviously there will be debate on this but out of the box I have found the Siri search and activation of Netflix and Hulu functions to be a great start……

    Apps for iOSTV are coming as are links to big network options as well….

  3. I am sickened by MDN’s opinion that Apple TV needs 4K video. The vast majority of people don’t have a Video screen to display it and even if they had, their TV is across the room and too small to see the difference. The only way to be physiologically able to see the 4K video differences is to be up close to a very large screen or to have bionic eyes installed.

    1. It’s like watching Android users lose their minds over the screen resolution of their products because they have more pixels than Retina displays.

      Glad that they are developing technology not even detectable by human sensory anatomy.

      The next time I watch a movie with a microscope on my iPhone, I will truly be missing out.

      1. I can’t believe an Android phone has more pixels than a Apple iPhone with Retina. First off you can’t not even see the pixels on a retina — so there is that many more.
        Its sort of like, 1 px (on Android is equal to 8×8 grid of micro pixels on a Retina.)

        1. The iPhone 6s is 326 ppi, as was the iPhone 5/5s. The iPhone 6s Plus is 401 ppi. There are Android phones that claim higher ppi, although the layout of Samsung’s AMOLED displays is different from Apple’s displays. Apple led the race to Retina and the rest followed. Then they started to play the old specifications game in an attempt to appear superior to Apple’s products.

    2. I am sickened by people telling those of us who like 4K to not want it. The Apple TV needed to be future-proofed, as the 4K market is growing and will matter significantly within another 12 to 18 months.

      If you don’t like 4K, that’s fine. If you can’t see the difference, there’s no point in arguing. I have a 65″ TV that looks great, and no one should tell me what I see. It DOES look better. A lot better, and no one should tell me to not want 4K mirroring from my 6S Plus and streaming of Netflix’s growing library of 4K content. The Apple TV can’t do either, and no one should tell another what he or she should and shouldn’t want.

      If you don’t like 4K, that’s fine. Some of us do, and we are allowed to ask for it. That’s the point of view that MDN is representing.

      1. Funny, I get sick of the 4K fans that keep insisting & harping on the fact there’s a difference worth bothering with at anything 60-65″ and under. Which is what most people have. I’m a DP too who’s worked with very high resolution formats and I have 4K shooting gear.

        I’m good with 4K when prices are down and bigger sets are affordable and 4K media easily available. Right now the cable companies can’t even get 1080p right, with it’s over-compressed 1080i/720p less-than-it-could-be broadcast image. A well made Blu-Ray still looks amazing though.

        I’m not against consumer 4K, just would like to see all the pieces in place before bothering with it. But right now it ain’t remotely ready for prime time. Even 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray won’t arrive until next year, which will again probably be the best medium for 4K but initially expensive. I’m not holding my breath for 4K cable to not look extremely compromised either.

        1. But you’re still telling people what they should want. Even if all an individual wants is to stream 5 or 6 Netflix shows like Daredevil, it isn’t sensible to tell customers to not want 4K capability. That’s why the Roku and others do support it already- for those that want it. Why are you arguing against what other people want? Why be ‘sick’ of what a small, but growing demographic wants? It’s a pointless argument. 4K is happening and again, the Apple TV is not future-proofed.

          Does Apple really intend to release a new one within a year or so? Not likely, and Netflix has a lot more content coming. 4K TVs sales are increasing. I’ve done the research. I prefer the discs, but that’s irrelevant. More and more will likely want the streaming. Also, average TV sizes are increasing. The research shows this. 60″ inch sets and up are more common now.

          But all of these technical facts are moot. 4K is an emerging technology, meaning it is moving forward. Why be sick of people that are enthusiastic about it? I always tell folks, if you’re not interested in it, that’s fine. But never tell me what I should want. Keeping this discussion polite and friendly, remember- to each his own. I absolutely love 4K and want the infrastructure to evolve as rapidly as possible.

          (P.S. I work in film and VFX. More of the pieces than you might think are in place already and an avalanche of content is coming sooner than most realize.)

          1. You can want whatever you want but don’t expect others to have to pay for your desires when they have no need for those kind of specs. DareDevil is a great example of why you don’t need 4K. Most of the scenes are in the dark and have limited pixel contrast resulting in huge blocks being exactly the same colour. Your eyes are not likely even able to focus on details so small at the distances you watch your big screen video. What is your optical prescription? Have you had it checked lately?

            Most Android users focus on specification NUMBERS and are uninterested in the actual user experience. Do you fall into this category?

            1. I never asked others to ‘pay for your desires’. We don’t even know what the price would be, were it to have supported 4K. My only point was some people want 4k, some don’t care, so don’t argue with those who were hoping the Apple TV would support 4K. If someone doesn’t care or like 4k, etc. why even bother with the discussion?

              And in the latter part of your first paragraph, you’re arguing about what I can see. Why? I know what I’m seeing. Optical prescription? Why ask someone that? Are you attempting to tell me what I see? I watch 4K. I see the difference. I like it. I don’t use Android, and I know a great about video tech, etc., but I know when to use empirical evidence and not just specs when evaluating a given feature. I also don’t insist that someone like what I do. I’m not telling anyone here to like 4K. This is supposed to be a friendly debate. Questioning my eyesight and whether I’m a sucker for the spec wars comes across as a bit inflammatory.

              I merely asked that no one be antagonistic about the enthusiasm for 4K and the growth of the emerging, related technologies.

            2. Have you ever done a double blind study on your preference for 4K versus 1080p? Use the same TV, the same video and compare without knowing which is which and then see how many times you got it right or wrong. Be completely objective.

          2. I’m stating my opinion about 4K and the 4K media situation, not telling people what to do. Learn the difference. Everyone’s mileage varies and everyone can do what they damn well please. Also it’s obviously not all about just “loving 4K” but analyzing where the market is and how soon it will be more practical to jump in. Fools and early adopters can rush in anytime they like. I’ve been an early fool myself on occasion in the past.

            Just how insecure are you hearing another opinion and taking it as an insistent demand as something you should do? Take it down a few notches, act your age (assuming you’re older than 12) and calm down. In MY OPINION 1080p was a more exciting development than 4K UHD is. 4K I plan to buy into at my leisure, and when it makes sense. I suspect that will be in 2017.

    3. It doesn’t matter that there is no 4k content! You have to think of what else could be in 4K. Gaming Apps, the interface, those beautiful ariels apple sent out.. Thats really it….but thats reason enough alone to have 4K in this box.

  4. Apple had years to get this right. YEARS. And they are soundly beaten by Roku???? Amazon?? WTF Apple? Are you at least a LITTLE bit embarrassed Apple?

    Apple TV and Apple Music….two epic fails by Apple. They should have been smash hits.

    1. Yes for Amazon to start from nothing and exceed in some ways what Apple has done in their upgrade is a little embarrassing. As i have so often said its about perception as much as reality and yes 4K is not important now but if I buy this product I would want at least 3 years out of it and who knows what the situation is in 1 or 2 years.

  5. Finally! Noooow MDN gets on board with the complaint of no 4K.

    While it’s likely they are waiting for all of iTunes to be upgraded to 4K, it still sucks they cheaped on the hardware compatibility, because it does mean I will be buying yet another one in the near future.

    Oh well, this ATV4 can replace my ATV3 that’s on my 1080p bedroom TV, and I can give the ATV3 to someone else, perhaps a homeless person.

  6. “So Apple can soak users for another Apple TV upgrade next year?”

    That’s assuming Apple releases Apple TV on a yearly cadence. It might be on a 2-year release cycle for all we know.

    1. Maybe, but the point still stands. People, whether right or wrong, are thinking Apple held off on a feature so they can add it to the next model and give people a reason to upgrade.

      My biggest complaints are the lack of Bluetooth keyboards, no Apple game controller, no updated Remote app, and worst of all, no rethinking of how to handle passwords.

      Still, it’s a wonderful device, it just could’ve been so much more, and so much sooner. Hopefully many of these things will be updated.

  7. Who says MDN doesn’t rake Apple over the coals when they deserve it?
    The problem is (make that perception) Samsung, Google and Microsoft deserve it much more often that Apple does.

  8. Actually, the linear alphabet text entry interface on the new Apple TV makes sense for the new Siri Remote—simple left/right slides are much easier than two-axis gestures.

    By the way, if you use the old Apple Remote with the new Apple TV, the letter interface automatically switches to the old grid style.

  9. Don’t really care about 4K. The fact the remote app no longer works and the fact siri cannot system wide search YouTube, apps or apple music make it a big dissappointment.

    The pack in remote is a nice improvement to the horrible predecessor, but not being apple to type or voice search on my iOS device make me want to plug back in my apple tv from 2011.

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