Apple TV has always been a slightly odd beast for Apple – a hobby project due to the fact Apple has little control on content i.e. multiple cable providers and streaming services – it’s a veritable minefield to crack. Steve Jobs in 2011 said he had finally cracked the TV market, well, 4 years after his passing, we now have a fatter new black-puc on the block and we’re calling it, Apple TV.
In 2013 I bought a Apple TV Gen 3 model – the one with the slightly updated processor. Yes it was useful for Airplay and Radio listening, but for me personally, it went relatively unused. I’d always wondered what all this XBMC stuff was so bought a Android Minix box which was terrible, I really hated that, especially with the turd looking remote with spare tyre rubber odours!
Up steps the Apple TV Gen 2 to replace my Apple TV Gen 3 box. I bought this off eBay from a Japanese seller who had installed XBMC. Apart from the downgrade from 720p to 1080p (Airplay from a iPad 2 is in 720p) and a loss of some apps (the Jailbroken ATV2 is set in time from which it was JB) it was fine for my needs and added some TV streaming from international broadcasters.
A week ago I decided to give the Amazon Fire TV a go – I’d pretty much stopped using Airplay on my ATV2 as my iPad 2, still running iOS6 had now become near-obsolete with video streaming apps like BBC iPlayer and BT Sport no longer supported. A second chance for a non-apple piece of tech. Oh, and this was also bought off eBay from a seller who had apparently installed Kodi with 12,000,000 bells and whistles of ‘too good to be true’ streaming goodies. I would just like to state, I subscribe to Netflix and would prefer content owners to focus on this type of service than segregating everything over to multiple broadcasters and streaming providers – keep it simple for the consumer guys!
Exterior design – Apple TV Gen 4 – late 2015
‘It’s put on a bit of weight’ were my first thoughts as Eddy Cue unveiled the end slide – it almost reminded me of those comical mock ups of Ewan McGregor in Star Wars attire with a very long iPhone produced shortly after the iPhone 5 launch. It is 12mm fatter than it’s predecessor – yes thats correct, Apple have made a newer model FATTER! See, not everyone wants a skinny model, curves are good and healthy. It’s also 153g heavier.
Exterior design – Amazon Fire TV box – late 2015
Remember those CD things from the 1990s-2000s? Well this is pretty much the same size and look of a black CD case. Much flatter than a ATV2 but with a overall larger footprint. The fact that it operates with a Bluetooth remote means you can stow this away in a cabinet or even behind the TV – there is no way to turn the device off too (except from the mains) so there really is no reason to have this on show.
Both the ATV4 and FTV feature HDMI outputs but both do not support HDMI 2 which you will see on devices that support 4K Ultra HD. Will the Apple TV support 4K? Simple answer, no! Despite iPhones etc being able to shoot 4K video clips, there is still little content out there for 4K Ultra HD – we are still awaiting the arrival of 4K Blu-ray and for H.265 HEVC to become more mainstream. Although the adult industry usually leads on this, you can find some H.265 HEVC videos on this NSFW website!
The ATV4 does not have a optical out, vs its predecessor. The Amazon Fire TV has got an optical out. Also worth noting, the ATV4 has an IR receiver so you can operate your TV with the new Apple remote whereas the FTV has no universal remote features.
The ATV4 also has a USB-C port which is for ‘Service Only’ ie, you can’t add your own filth to our iTunes sand-boxed of loveliness. The FTV has a regular sized USB port on the back which is only useable for expanding the stupidly low 5GB of available storage – it was actually around 1.8GB when I first used my FTV.
Both ATV4 and FTV use a Bluetooth enabled remote – no more having to point it at your TV. The ATV4 is more advanced than the FTV with a touch pad but both also offer limited voice searching. The ATV4 remote also has a built in battery whereas the FTV uses two AAA batteries. I’m not sure this matters that much and certainly the back cover of the FTV is very difficult to get off so id probably prefer a built in battery than nail-breaking AAA battery covers. The ATV4 comes with a Lighting to USB cable so you can charge it up using any old USB charger.
This is where the ATV4 wins hands down – the FTV doesn’t even need to show up for this one. Quite what Amazon were thinking selling a media streaming and app-buying device with 8GB of storage (5GB usable – mine started with 1.8GB for some reason!) is beyond me! A stupid decision – yes the now operable USB port can be expanded to allow for more app storage, but it’s still extra hoops to go through. I tried to download a Asphalt Rally racing game on the Amazon Appstore but apparently, it needs twice the storage of the app to download. This was apparently a 1GB game that required an additional 1GB of temporary space whilst it downloaded and installed. So much for ‘trying stuff out’ and spending money.
The new Apple TV comes with 32GB or 64GB of storage, the Gen 3 ATV came with 8GB (the same as the FTV).
Both use voice commands to search for content. The FTV is only useful if you subscribe to Amazon Prime as this voice search only searches Amazon based services. Siri (Apple’s name for voice searching) on the other hand has a wider-reaching search facility in that it shows whether the content is available on Netflix, iTunes etc and it also offers a more intuitive experience, for example ‘show more James Bond Movies’ will show more James Bond movies available in iTunes. It will also skip back automatically 15 seconds and temporarily show subtitles if you say ‘What did she say’. Ideal if you have poor sound mixing or a muffled actor.
Apple seem to be playing catch up to other companies such as Amazon, Samsung and Android. Apple has never been about being number 1 or first to market, but letting it’s competitors almost beta-test new tech for them then releasing a refined device with easy to use, reliable technology. The problem is, The Amazon Fire TV is an excellent device let down by a useless storage amount of 5GB / 1.8GB and artificial limitations meaning if you’re not giving Amazon £80 per year, your left with a limited box.
The new Apple TV has much more storage than the Fire TV, better and wider-reaching voice searching, Airplay, a cooler remote control without a cast iron AAA battery flap to remove to change the batteries and of course iTunes integration – so if you have lots of iTunes content then the ATV4 will always be your first choice.
If the Apple TV gen 4 runs KODI then I would sell the Fire TV without any hesitation as its overall superior to the Fire TV. I would keep the Fire TV if Mr. Jeff Bezos came around my house and manually added more storage to a 2015 device crippled by stupid corporate douches.