Early Apple TV Reviews: NY Times Says It's The Best

Early reviews of the fourth-generation Apple TV are quite positive. Here's Brian Chen of the New York Times: "the upgraded $149 box is now the best TV streaming device you can get for your money." He says he's tested the other major devices in the past month — Roku, Google, and Amazon — and the Apple TV is better at streaming video. In addition, he says, "While the new Apple box has flaws, it also has a cleaner interface for finding things to watch and a niftier remote control — not to mention more compelling apps and games."

Games and apps

Regarding games, Chen mentions Beat Sports and how it uses the remote’s motion sensors. The object is to swing the remote to make the character on screen use a bat to hit a ball in sync with the beat of the music. He also mentions the Airbnb app, which sounds intriguing. It offers immersive pictures of the rental apartments that are available. Imagine sitting in your living room, remote in hand, surfing through Airbnb listings and deciding where you want to stay. Zillow, the app for shopping for homes, is also available. This is a great example of the rich app ecosystem that Apple offers and that will be hard for other devices to match. Chen also mentions the Periscope app, a fascinating new service that lets anyone with a smartphone broadcast live to the world.

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Apple says that already hundreds of apps are available, and they're just as varied as the huge library of iPhone and iPad apps. Out of the gate the potential for the Apple TV to be yet another multipurpose device is clear to reviewers — and it's causing excitement. Chen said that he reviews so many devices he's a bit jaded, but he's definitely excited about the Apple TV.

Criticism of setup

Reviews are typically criticizing the setup process. According to Chen, the manner in which one enters login credentials for services such as Netflix is even more cumbersome than the method used in the previous Apple TV.

Walt Mossberg likes apps, remote, and Siri

The legendary Walt Mossberg, formerly with the Wall Street Journal and now with Re/code, is similarly positive about the new Apple TV: "if I were buying a streaming box right now, this is the one I’d buy, if only for the promise of lots of apps."

He cites problems with the device, but highlights two main strengths: the app ecosystem and the remote. Here's what he says about the app ecosystem and the potential of Apple TV as a new platform: "In effect, Apple TV has become a sort of iPhone or iPad for the TV, a platform for apps usable across a room. By making the box another vessel for its giant assortment of third-party apps and home-grown services, Apple is putting itself in a position to host programming the networks and studios are increasingly streaming, as well as new kinds of TV content."

Mossberg also likes Siri. He tested it against the voice feature of the other major devices and found it to be superior. He gave as an example wanting to see the movie When Harry Met Sally but not being able to remember the name. You can simply ask, "Show me movies with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.”  He also liked the fact that Siri can also do follow-up questions. He first asked for movie mysteries and got a long list of results. Then he stipulated “only the good ones,” and Siri filtered the list based on critics’ ratings.

Lack of 4K video, plus more setup issues

So what didn't he like about Apple TV? It doesn't stream 4K video (though he said that he compared it to a box that does stream 4K and couldn't really see a difference on his TV). He found it annoying that the new Apple TV doesn't remember your apps and your login credentials for those apps that were on your old Apple TV. You have to start all over, which entails searching for the apps in the App Store and then re-entering your login information. Also, searching for apps is tedious, since you can't yet use Siri to do this. And he complains that the number of apps that Siri works with initially is very limited. That will change, though.

There's one cool feature of setup that he does like, however. You can simply hold your iPhone running the latest iOS next to the Apple TV, and it will automatically use Bluetooth to get your Wi-Fi and iCloud settings.

Other reviews

Buzzfeed offers a detailed review under the telling headline, "The Apple TV You Finally Wanted Is Finally Here." Yep, he likes it.

Famed tech journalist David Pogue offers his take on Yahoo. In short, he clearly sees the huge potential, but also says it still has a lot of bugs. The bugs include inconsistent responses from Siri. That is, not all of the touted features work in all of the apps, but Apple says these issues are quickly being fixed. For example, currently the query, "Who's in this show?" only works for Netflix and Apple streaming videos. And again he's annoyed by the setup difficulties.

Mashable gives an in-depth look at all the features. The bottom line: if you're already an Apple user, go for it. If you have an earlier Apple TV, it's a no-brainer. But if you're not already part of Apple's ecosystem, the fact that it's more expensive than the other boxes might be a turnoff.

Siri to be able to search Apple Music

One early criticism was that Apple TV's Siri couldn't even search Apple Music, but Buzzfeed has reported that this feature will be coming to the Apple TV early next year. 

Video demo on CNNMoney

A short two-minute video on CNNMoney includes an interview about Apple TV with Apple VP Eddy Cue and a demo of the Apple TV:




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Author Details

Jim Karpen's picture

Author Details

Jim Karpen

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.