My Thoughts on the Apple TV

A few months ago my father-in-law let me borrow his first generation Roku. I hooked it up to the smaller TV in the basement our kids normally use to play video games. I was surprised to find them using it more than I had imagined and decided to purchase one of the newer Roku models for our larger TV upstairs.

While at Best Buy I checked out the Roku 3 they had on display and was impressed at how much more responsive the menu was compared to the older model at home. That’s when a Best Buy associate asked if I watched HBO. I told him that yes, we do watch a number of shows on HBO, such as Game of Thrones. He then asked if I was a Comcast, Dish or DirecTV customer. When I told him DirecTV he cringed and I figured there must be a catch.

Of course, there’s a catch. There’s always a catch when dealing with cable or satellite providers.

What I found out was that DirecTV doesn’t allow HBO streaming over a Roku device. Of course, they do allow it over Xbox and Apple TV (and probably other similar devices) but not Roku. I have no idea why. I had no reason not to believe the Best Buy associate but did a quick Google search on my iPhone to confirm the bad news.

So I ended up buying the $99 Apple TV even though it has fewer apps than the Roku. I was disappointed, but that didn’t last too long. When I got home, I plugged the Apple TV into the back of my Samsung TV via HDMI cable and began the setup process.

And here is where Apple schools everyone – they make the setup process as painless as possible.

As you begin the setup process, the Apple TV asks if you own an iOS device. I have an iPhone so, once I select the automatic setup link, the Apple TV connected to my iPhone and pulled off data to connect to my iTunes Store account, configured itself for my Wi-Fi network and chose my language, region, and format preferences. I assume the Apple TV came with an instruction booklet but I didn’t need it.

I wish it could have transferred over my Netflix account and password but otherwise, the entire setup process is brilliant.

Using the Apple is like every other Apple product I own in that someone has taken great pains to make sure even the smallest of details are clear and easily understood. The remote has three buttons and the best testimonial I can give it is that my 5-year old can use it. That’s not the case with the DirecTV remote which must have been designed by someone who hates life.

Everything works as you expect it to work and is a joy to use. Since I added the Apple TV, our Xbox and horrendous “Genie” DVR from DirecTV haven’t been used as much. The Xbox sounds like a jet engine once the fans spin up and DirecTV seems more interested in placing more and more ads inside their guide than delivering a quality product. If it were not for live sports, I’d get rid of DirecTV today and I still may do that soon.

I’m not going to cover all the features of Apple TV. A full list of available channels is available here. But I wanted to mention our favorite feature called AirPlay. In short, it allows me to stream pictures or video from my iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to the Apple TV. This sounds geeky but is freaking awesome in practice. Tonight, my daughter took pictures of her brother who turned 1-years old today and then sent them to the TV for us all to see.

So, although I was initially bummed about the Roku 3, I’m thrilled I ended up with the Apple TV.