Apple TV (4th generation)
Now you can run apps on your TV
£129 (32GB), £169 (64GB) Manufacturer Apple, apple.com/uk
Requires HDMI cable Includes Siri Remote, Lightning cable (to charge remote)
The fourth version of Apple’s set-top box represents a fresh start. Though it looks similar to its predecessor, save for a 12mm increase in height, the new Apple TV introduces the Siri Remote – packed with a trackpad, motion sensors and a microphone – and tvOS, which crucially brings apps to Apple‘s box.
For better or worse, tvOS’s menus use a similar layout to the old Apple TV, but with embellishments such as multi-layer icons that give a 3D effect, and stereo-positioned sound to help you pinpoint the current selection across the screen. It looks great, yet it also feels familiar. There’s barely anything installed by default that you might want to hide, yet we hope for support for folders soon.
Navigation is done by swiping or tapping on the remote‘s trackpad, and clicking it to select things. Fast swipes speed you around menus more quickly, or you can hold the Siri button and say what to open.
Speaking to Siri to search for video (“Show Tom Hanks films”) mostly works well, as does refining results (“Just those from the ’80s” or “Just comedies”). Siri can’t control music yet – that’s coming – so it’s easier to stream from another device as the lack of an alphabetical index makes very hard work of browsing tunes.
Searching using the on-screen keyboard (a single row of letters) is far and away the most annoying thing about Apple TV. This input issue is exacerbated by the inability to use a Bluetooth keyboard or the iOS Remote app in its place. It leaves a sour taste when your password is required for purchases, encouraging the use of a weak password. We’re dismayed that Apple allowed text input to ship in this limited state.
Motion sensors in the remote draw comparison with Nintendo’s Wii console for gaming, but only two buttons (play/pause and the trackpad’s button) can be used for gameplay, and there’s no sensor bar to allow for games that require pointing at the screen. Game controllers made for iOS work with many games, though everything must be playable with the remote, which concerns us due to the simplicity it enforces and how that might limit games on Apple TV.
We like the ability to train the box to recognise signals from TV and home theatre remotes and use its Siri Remote to send them instead.
A trio of choices
This new model comes in two capacities, yet tvOS manages storage for you, clearing things out as
Searching using the on-screen keyboard – a single row of letters – is by far the most annoying thing about Apple TV
needed. Apple recommends the 64GB model if you’ll use many apps and games. You can pre-emptively manage storage, but you can’t tell tvOS to never delete an item.
Home Sharing, AirPlay, and extending your Mac’s desktop are also possible on the older £59 model, yet you might think this one more sensible for its future flexibility. There’s great potential in tvOS, especially where media streaming is concerned, but it’ll take time to see whether game controller restrictions are too tight for Apple TV to ever offer living room games as satisfying as on traditional consoles – though we were lightly entertained by what’s on offer. Alan Stonebridge Apps make this the best Apple TV yet, with potential to overcome the US-centric focus of older models.
Versatility from third-party apps
Trackpad and voice control
Lack of alternate keyboards
Siri’s reach is limited at present
tvOS is reassuringly familiar, but this is most positively not the Apple TV you’re used to.