Movies, music, Net browsing, gaming and voice controls – all in this incredibly smart little box
Billed as the ultimate hub for home entertainment, Apple TV provides access to a huge selection of ondemand movies and IPTV shows and at the same time is a terrific way to listen to music and view photos.
This isn’t a television set. It’s a tiny box that connects to the Internet wirelessly or by LAN to stream movies and TV shows from providers such as Netflix. You can also download apps for games and fitness, lifestyle and education programs to enjoy on your TV set.
The Apple TV box is 98mm square and 35mm tall and weighs 425 grams. You choose the 32 or 64GB version depending on storage needs and you get an even tinier Siri Remote with a Lightning connector for recharging the builtin battery.
The box hooks up to the TV set via an HDMI 1.4 port and to the Internet through a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet LAN port and builtin ac WiFi with MIMO.
There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 for linking to an enabled keyboard so you can use the box like a computer surfing the Web (you need an app for that).
A 64bit A8 chip funnels in the power and it’s fine for playing various video formats, including H.264 of up to 1080p at a rate of 60 frames per second and MPEG4 up to 2.5Mbps. The audio formats covered are AAC, MP3 AIFF, WAV, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1.
To watch movies and TV shows, pick the services you like and get their apps – Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, Watch ESPN or YouTube.
I patched in with True Online’s FTTX fibre-optic connection at 30/5Mbps and streamed Netflix movies with Apple TV on Samsung’s Q7F QLED TV. My connection was via Linksys EA8500 MIMO router, swapping between an LAN cable and Wireless 802.11ac.
The flicks I watched from Netflix looked fantastic, as did high-definition YouTube clips.
First-timers need to log in with an Apple ID before accessing videos and photos stored in the iCloud and purchasing movies and music from iTunes.
Using the box as a minicomputer running on Apple’s tvOS operating system, you’re connected to the television set through the Touch function on the remote and Siri voice-command assistant.
The Touch surface on top controls the Apple TV features much as you use a touch pad on a notebook computer. It’s quite easy to navigate, scroll and select onscreen items, swiping up, down, right and left.
The Menu button hops back one step and the Home button brings you to the home screen. Move your thumb in any direction and the action is mirrored on the TV screen.
You can move around a movie timeline while watching – just hit Play/Pause button and then slide back and forth on the Touch surface. Swipe quickly to fast-forward and rewind rapidly, more slowly to proceed frame by frame.
Rest your thumb at certain points of the Touch surface and tips appear about what action is available on the particular app you’re using.
Adjusting settings is a simple matter of swiping downward on the Touch surface to access options, such as audio language and subtitles. You can even skip chapters in a movie or redirect the sound to compatible speakers and Bluetooth headphones.
The new feature Reduce Loud Sounds is a clever way of keeping peace in the neighbourhood, too.
The most fun feature about the remote is the Siri button, which can be pressed and held like on a walkie-talkie to give voice commands to Apple TV. Apple TV supports dictation in Thai, though not the full Siri functionality. That you can only get in English.
If you can want to jump ahead in the playback, for example, you say, “Skip ahead 10 minutes.” And how’s this for cool? If you didn’t catch what a character in a show said, just ask, “What did he say?” Siri will skip back and temporarily turn on closed captioning so you can see what you missed!
Then ask Siri to try that new app you just downloaded for Apple TV. “Open YouTube,” you might say.
The remote makes it easy to customise-arrange apps on the home screen. Highlight the app and press and hold the Touch surface, then swipe to the new location. Press again to anchor it. Apps moved to the top row show their shortcuts immediately above.
Swap apps around by double-clicking Home to see which ones have been used most recently and then rearranging them. It saves you going back to the Home screen again. You can also swipe upward to force-quit an app.
The main-event entertainment just comes streaming in, of course. Apple Music has more than 30 million songs to choose from as well as whatever else you’ve got on iCloud and iTunes.
The box will pull down your stored photos and home videos from My Photo Stream, which automatically uploads new photos taken on any iOS device. AirPlay will wirelessly stream photos and videos from your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Mac.
The Home Sharing function will send content from your computer’s iTunes library to Apple TV so you can enjoy them on the big screen. Use Apple TV as an interface for your iPhone or iPad to browse the Web on the big screen – you need the AirWeb app on the handheld gadget and a connection to mirror the content on Apple TV. There are apps for watching Facebook and Twitter videos, too.
As for gaming, the Siri Remote becomes your console with its builtin accelerometer and gyroscope. I tried it the Bowling game, using the remote to simulate the real throwing of the ball. A Remote Loop, available separately, tethers the remote during play.
Serious gamers will appreciate the support for MFi-based controllers. You run, jump, shoot, kick, throw, punch to your virtual heart’s content.
Apple TV with 32GB of storage retails for Bt7,200. With 64GB it costs B9,200.
- Chip: A8 with 64bit architecture
- Ports and interface: HDMI 1.4, 802.11ac WiFi with MIMO, 10/100BaseT Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0, IR receiver, USBC
- Accessibility: Voice-Over, Zoom, Bold Text, Closed Caption and SDH support
- Storage: 32 or 64GB
- Dimensions: 35x98x98mm
- Weight: 425g
- Siri Remote: Bluetooth 4.0, IR transmitter, accelerometer and gyroscope, Lightning connector for charging