Tech Test: The New AppleTV

Apple offers a new death blow to the stranglehold of cable companies.

According to his biography (the Mossberg book, not these half-assed movies) Steve Jobs said that he had “cracked” television in the final months of his life, seemingly similar to the way that he had “cracked” music with iTunes. Back then, AppleTV was a pet project that only offered a small spattering of services, mostly those of the iTunes store itself. Fast forward seven years and three more iterations and the AppleTV is back in force and Jobs’ end game answer to television seems to be the same one that made all of Apple’s recent products popular. Apps. 

Upon first look, the AppleTV reappears in largely the same form factor but just a bit taller to make space for the new internal HDD since the 4th Gen AppleTV comes in both 32 and 64-gigabyte flavors. That hard drive is a new necessity, as the AppleTV now needs HDD space to store the games and apps you’re planning to put on it. Rounding out the design are familiar power, HDMI, Ethernet and USB-C ports. The Optical Audio Output is conspicuously missing. 

However, you have to go beyond looks to really see what’s different about this AppleTV from its previous brethren. Gone are the days of an AppleTV that comes pre-loaded with every imaginable streaming service under the sun including two different HBOs (Go and Now). Instead, the new AppleTV comes with very few items installed but the App Store is your gateway to all the rest. That doesn’t just mean better streaming options than before—awesome DIY streaming apps like Plex now join Netflix and Hulu—but apps and games are now in the fray. 

This is the point where the AppleTV hoists a huge portion of its workload on the redesigned remote control. The new remote borrows a minimalist mentality from the old, sleek, silver version but is updated to include volume controls (about damn time) and touch controls reminiscent of the touchpad found in a Macbook. It’s fine for navigating through Netflix’s offerings but, when it comes to games, the new remote falls way short for even the casual games that currently populate the AppleTV App Store. We found ourselves often overshooting in Crossy Road, the Frogger clone, and we know it’ll take a significant amount of patience should they ever try to port hardcore games to the little peripheral. For now, anyone suggesting that the AppleTV could replace your PS4 or Xbox One should be laughed out of the room. 

Is this the revolutionary product that Jobs envisioned changing the way our culture watches television? We’d say no. Instead, it’s a device that helps facilitate the tidal shift that’s been happening for the past half-decade as cord-cutters refuse to give money to cable companies intent on failing and infuriating their customers. Since the latest AppleTV offers so many options to hasten the death of regular television, it’s aces in our book.