I really wanted to give the new Apple TV 4 a test drive and for those who didn’t have a chance to play with it, here are my impressions after fanboying about it for awhile and spending two hours in an Apple Store playing with it.
The new Apple TV 4 is a great piece of hardware, a lot smaller than I imagined it to be, although I know it’s thicker than the older generations. Siri is great and really capable, except when it’s not. The true potential on this new device is the Siri universal search and the apps and I can see how this can and will become a great asset to go along your TV.
I put Siri through a lot of stress tests. I asked her many many questions and I came to the conclusion that movies and TV shows/series wise, it does about 70% of what you’d expect it to do. But it still isn’t what you want it to be. Examples: I asked Siri to Show me movies with Kristen Bell. It was successful. First movie that showed up was Frozen. Really loved Frozen, but there were a few animated movies in that list so I decided to get rid of them. Not the animated ones – well here is were basic logic falls apart. Instead of filtering and showing me just live action movies, Siri showed me JUST the animated ones. There were also multiple instances when I said Just the action movies or Just the highest rated ones and she understood Does the action movies and Does the highest rated but I will blame my accent and the loud noise in the store for that. Another example is while looking at a TV Series card like Mr. Robot I asked Who stars in this. To my surprise it came with with I don’t have this information right now, although if I swiped down a bit I could see the cast. Or asking for Sci-Fi TV series (with Sense8 or Orphan Black in mind) got me the same I don’t have this information right now. Specifically asking for Sense8 got me I want to watch sensate which again failed so I had to pause between sense and specifically say eight for it to catch it and show me Sense8. Asking for Movies with Meryl Streep worked fine, but I wanted to see the highest rated ones. That again got me I don’t have ratings for these movies or something similar along the lines.
On another hand Siri is pretty good at getting you at the right episode with a particular actor. The Apple employee demoed a few like Show me the Friends episode with Danny DeVito and it worked like magic. Or Show me BBC Sherlock which is on Netflix and it opened the Netflix app at the right screen for me to start playing it. It is also pretty good when you ask for movies in which star multiple actors Show me movies with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway correctly showed me The Devil Wears Prada.
So great potential, really enjoyed trying lots of things with Siri, but still lacks context at times. Also wish it was able to perform searches on Apple Music. But that’s coming. The Apple employee also mentioned that they will also introduce a feature to ask “Who is that?” while a movie is playing and Siri will be able to tell who the actor is, but as all Apple fanboys know this is not confirmed or even not even a rumor and we might not see this until maybe next year with tvOS 2. It might also have been to convince some people to buy it, or just his personal opinion. I wouldn’t take this as a certain thing that will happen.
Well, there were just 16 apps or so to play with and I tried them all. I couldn’t download more from the App Store as it said it was a Demo Unit. I love to cook and travel so the AirBnB and Kitchen Stories look amazing on TV. Craftsy looked like a nice thing to do in your weekend as a family activity and for those who are nerds and geeks (maybe like me) and love comic books Madefire is absolutely stunning. Reading comic books like that is a fantastic experience. Beat Sports didn’t quite catch me, but this guy says it’s great fun.
But what really stressed me out was how unintuitive was to input my email and password on the Netflix app by just using the remote. Awful! I really hope they will update the remote app to support typing in using the iPhone because I can see how this can cause a lot of stress.
Another interesting point is I am surprised how many apps are already available for the Apple TV, given it’s only been a week since they launched it. But the frustration comes when you’re searching for them or when you want to discover new apps. The App Store looks nice, but it lacks categories, and searching for apps that you don’t know exists is actually frustrating. I know this has been mentioned before though. Maybe with more apps coming up they will introduce categories too and hopefully Siri App Store search.
I really love the UI, and the nice effect you get when you hover over app icons. It’s not just a nice touch, it’s mesmerizing and fun. It’s parallax and it shines and it’s very satisfactory to feel it at your fingertips. The screens for showing movies info and the cards are also very nice. Transitions are nice too.
But sometimes you wish it supported 4K and the movies info cards were better. For instance I was looking at movies with Meryl Streep and decided to check out the August: Osage County and the Sandra Bullock in the back was so pixelated. I was standing fairly close to the TV, but it wasn’t that, it just looked like a very compressed JPG image. And I think that’s a bit unacceptable. The App Store had app cards but unlike on the iPhone and iPad some rows you could see you can swipe to see more, but some didn’t. So I had to guess I am able to swipe on that row to get more of the same Apps. So a bit of inconsistency there.
Overall, really liked the UI though.
Siri remote and extra controllers
The small Siri Remote is great, small and comfortable, but it takes a little getting used to it and I was a bit afraid it would slip. Shadowmatic is a lots of fun, once you get how to play with it and rotate things using the edge of the remote. I think most of you know, but maximum number of devices you can pair with the Apple TV is 3. First is the Siri Remote, and 2 extra devices, either iPhones or any MFi controller. Playing Asphalt 8 was pretty nice with the remote, but the when I tried Breakneck I felt the remote was either not calibrated or the app not properly optimized. WAY TOO sensitive when it shouldn’t be and a lot of late input when it should have been quick. I hope it’s not the sensors in the remote though.
Once you get used to the fact that the MENU button also acts as back button and the TV button is like a Home Button on the iPhone, but for the TV, the whole interface is quite easy.
Personally I think it’s a very nice toy to play with, but given that I barely watch TV and I only have a Netflix subscription, I wouldn’t get it for myself, at least not at its current state, and not for £129/$169. Perhaps with time, the apps will increase its worthiness as a casual games console. Also I just wanted to point out that I am by no means an expert or a reviewer whatsoever, just an Apple fanboy with great expectations and a pretty tech savvy person. Let me know what you think.