The new Apple TV has arrived and, as expected, features Siri and App Store access.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, lauded the launch as a “big day for the big screen,” while Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, called it “the future of television.”
While some may disagree with that assessment, Apple’s latest TV set is jam-packed full of features and innovations that could make it the perfect device for installers.
Unfortunately, there are also a few things that it lacks – including the fact that 4K is not supported, while some other smart platforms boast 4K streaming.
Arguably the biggest feature to adorn the new Apple TV is Siri, Apple’s voice assistant.
Siri has already found her way into Apple’s other iOS products, but now she will take centre stage on the Apple TV.
Key to the new Apple TV is the ‘Siri Remote’, which is used to interact with tvOS; Apple’s new TV operating system.
The top of the remote includes a glass touch surface for swiping through content as you would on an iPhone, while the bottom features an array of six buttons.
One of those buttons is dedicated to none other than Siri.
Using Siri, Apple TV customers will be able to call up content from a wealth of online libraries, including Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, HBO and Showtime – notably, the latter three are only available in the US.
Siri can answer a wide range of questions, including ‘who is in this movie?’, or ‘find me the best funny movies from the 80s’, or even ‘what did she say?’ (which will rewind the movie 15 seconds and temporarily bring up subtitles).
Siri can even answer questions unrelated to content, such as ‘what is the weather like outside?’ or even ‘did Manchester United win their last game?’.
While Siri will be key to locating content on the Apple TV, as well as interacting with content, Apps will be what sets the new Apple TV apart from its predecessors.
“There has been so much innovation in entertainment and programming through iOS Apps, we want to bring that same excitement to the television,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services.
“Apps make the TV experience even more compelling for viewers and we think Apps represent the future of TV.”
With the addition of the App Store, the Apple TV will be receiving thousands of Apps and Games.
Gaming on the Apple TV will be facilitated through the Siri remote, which features an accelerometer and gyroscope that can detect motion – much like the Wii remote.
That is not the only way to interact with games on the Apple TV however, as users may also hook up their iPhones.
At the press conference, Apple showed off a multiplayer version of Crossy Road, with one user interacting with the game through the Siri Remote and the other using their iPhone.
The Apple TV will support both the iPhone and iPod Touch as an input device, but failed to mention whether other devices, or the iPad, would be included at a later date.
One thing key to the company’s gaming strategy with the Apple TV is universal Apps.
Like Microsoft’s unification of Windows, which means Apps can be coded once and then accessed on the company’s full range of products – from mobile phones to the Xbox and everything in between – Apple’s approach is to unify games on the iPhone and the new Apple TV.
With this unification, users will be able to start playing a game on the iPhone and finish it on the Apple TV, or vice versa.
Early adopters won’t need to worry about the number of Apps available at launch either – as Apple has already announced a wealth of Apps coming to tvOS.
Disney Infinity 3.0 will be one of the first games from Disney Interactive, but the company is also working on a Star Wars game, while Guitar Hero will be Activision’s first.
Harmonix is also developing games for the platform, which is said to include a rhythm-based Wii Sports-style game, that will be exclusive to the Apple TV.
To facilitate this huge update for the Apple TV, the company has had to completely overhaul the hardware – complete with a faster processor and more connectivity options.
While the output resolution is still limited to either 1080p or 720p, the faster Apple A8 chip should mean everything on screen is as smooth as can be.
In fact, at the press conference Apple showed off an App for Major League Baseball that could play multiple games on the screen at one time, all running in 60fps.
The Apple A8 chip is a significant improvement from the third generation Apple TV, which came equipped with an A5 chipset – the same as that found in the first generation iPad Mini (the A8 is the same as that found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus).
There is also 2GB of RAM available, as well as support for 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi.
Gaming fans will also be able to utilise any console-style MFI controllers.
Some custom installers will be a little disappointed by one omission from the latest Apple TV hardware – an optical audio input.
In fact, while the dimensions of the device have largely remained the same, other than the fact that the new generation Apple TV is 10mm thicker, the number of ports available has actually changed drastically.
The traditional USB port has been replaced by USB-C, while the HDMI port has been updated to HDMI 1.4.
There is still the ability to connect the Apple TV to a wired network however, with 10/100 Ethernet support.
One of the biggest changes to the hardware is support for Dolby Digital 7.1, up from the Dolby Digital 5.1 support found on the third generation Apple TV.
Time will tell how Apple’s set-top box will fare in the market, although it already has a lot of well-established competition.
Google’s Nexus Player may have hardware that appears inferior to Apple’s new TV, with just 1GB of RAM, but it offers much of the same experience – with voice search, Apps and games.
The Nexus Player also benefits from a lower price point – just $99.00 in the US (although can often be found for $69.99), as opposed to Apple’s $149 price point. In the UK the Nexus Player retails for £79.99, while UK pricing has yet to be revealed for the Apple TV.
While Google makes its own Android TV hardware, the company has opened up its software to other manufacturers – unlike Apple.
Users wanting powerful Android TV hardware could always opt for Nvidia’s Shield TV, which is powered by the Nvidia Tegra X1 – a processor boasting 34x better performance than the third generation Apple TV.
The Shield TV offers 4K playback but that comes at a cost – $199 in the US, the same price as the 64GB Apple TV.
Then there’s Amazon’s Fire TV – which is scheduled to be updated shortly and is available in the UK for £79.00.
Apple’s newest TV set-top box is likely to see some success, but with competition hotting up in this space, it will be interesting to see just how much market share the company can claim.
The Apple TV goes on sale in October in the US and UK in two variations, a 32GB model and a 64GB model, costing $149 and $199, respectively.
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