The Apple TV is a great product to consider buying. Once referred to by Steve Jobs as "the hobby", the Apple TV has grown to become one of the best products Apple has ever made. If you're thinking of buying an Apple TV, then you have a few options.
In this feature, we'll look at the different models of Apple TV, and what each one offers (and costs).
- What Apple TV models are available?
- What's the difference between the third- and fourth-generation Apple TV models?
- New Apple TV complaints
- Is it worth buying the new Apple TV, or should you get the cheaper, older model?
So before handing your cash over to Apple, let's take a look at the different Apple TV models.
See also: Apple TV review
What Apple TV models are available?
Apple is currently selling two different types of Apple TV, in three model options. Going to the Apple Store shows that you can pick the new Apple TV from £129, but scrolling down reveals an older model for just £59. Here are the models:
- New Apple TV (4th generation), £129. This device is the basic model of the new Apple TV. It comes with 32GB of onboard storage for apps, games, movies and other content.
- New Apple TV (4th generation), £169. This device is the premium model of the new Apple TV. It comes with 64GB of onboard storage but is identical to the basic model in all other respects.
- Apple TV (3rd generation), £59. This device is the older model of Apple TV, and it comes with 8GB of onboard storage.
On the surface, it would seem that you pay an awful lot extra to go from 8GB up to 32GB (or 64GB) of storage. However, there are far more differences between the 3rd and 4th generation Apple TV than just storage size.
What are the differences between the third- and fourth-generation Apple TVs?
The Apple TV has morphed a lot over the years, since its first introduction in 2009. When it started, the device was a simple way to sync content from your iTunes library and watch it on your television. The content was mostly limited to music and videos from your iTunes library.
The second version got rid of the syncing and made it easy to stream music and video from your Mac or iOS device (using AirPlay) and introduced new services such as Netflix and Now TV along with streaming from iCloud.
And then we get to the models that are available to you.
- Apple TV (3rd generation). The third generation (which is still on sale) took this idea of streaming and ran with it. You can stream just about anything from a Mac, iPhone or iPad (including the whole screen), or bounce content such as iPlayer from your iPhone or iPad to your television using AirPlay. It also has apps such as Netflix and Now TV, you can also play music with iTunes Match, Apple Music Library or Home Sharing, and any photos you have in iCloud Photo Library can be displayed. You can also buy or rent the latest movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store.
- Apple TV (4th generation). The latest version of the Apple TV does everything the third generation did (which was, to be fair, an awful lot) and two big new things. The first is a Siri remote, that works like a touch-screen when you flick your finger across it, and enables you to speak to your Apple TV using Siri. The second new thing is apps: developers can now make apps for the Apple TV, and you can buy them from a store. The Apple TV (third generation) had a few apps, such as Netflix and Sky, but these were built-in. The new Apple TV has apps from other people, such as a BBC iPlayer app, games, health apps, karaoke and much more.
As well as the above, the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update will add more functionality to the 4th generation Apple TV. While there is no official release date for the update, we expect it to drop soon after the March event. The main addition to the new Apple TV in tvOS 9.2 are folders, which looks to help organise the Apple TV home screen in a way that will be familiar to iPhone and iPad users. Once the update drops, you’ll be able to drag and hold apps (when in ‘wiggle’ mode) on top of each other to create folders, just as you’d do on an iOS device.
As well as the addition of folders, tvOS 9.2 boasts updates to Siri, namely support for more languages. While at the moment only US English is officially supported, 9.2 will bring support for US Spanish (for those in the US) along with French Canadian (for those in Canada), Australian and most importantly, for us anyway, UK English (for the UK). Hopefully, tvOS 9.2 will make Siri a bit more accurate for us Brits with heavy accents.
The app switcher has also been redesigned to look more like its iOS counterparts with users able to flick through active acts in a left-to-right card fashion. Currently, the system displays a very large thumbnail in the center of the screen showcasing the most recent app, with older apps to the left and right. Along with a redesigned app switcher, users can look forward to an official Podcasts app and official Bluetooth keyboard support, which will definitely come in handy when entering login information on the many apps available on the TV.
So the big difference is that the new Apple TV has apps, these offer a much wider range of variety and functionality to the Apple TV. There're a lot of great games to play on the new Apple TV, and you can play them using the Siri remote or buy a dedicated games controller and use the Apple TV as a lightweight video games console.
While we love the new Apple TV, it, like any product on the market, isn’t perfect and suffers from bugs of its own. The most prominent Apple TV bug at the moment is one that could cost owners money because it seems that some Apple TV boxes are randomly powering on and with them, many connected TVs. The Apple TV supports HDMI-CEC, which means if your TV is HDMI-CEC compatible, your Apple TV can turn on your TV itself without any need for a remote. It means that, in theory, you could wake up the Apple TV and the connected TV with a single click.
However, with this bug, it’s causing TVs to turn on randomly. Now, while many modern TVs use very little electricity, there is another issue – plasma TVs. Plasma TVs suffer from Plasma burn-in when left on a static screen for too long, causing the image to stay on screen even when changing channels. As well as this, it could disrupt sleep if plugged in, in a bedroom. There are numerous threads on Apple’s support forums discussing the issue, and while many hope that the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update will fix the bug, it has yet to be confirmed by Apple.
Is it worth buying the new Apple TV?
So when buying an Apple TV, you have two decisions to make. The first is to pick between the £59 Apple TV (third-generation) and new Apple TV; the second is whether to get the £129 32GB model or £169 64GB model.
Siri is nice on the new Apple TV, but we don't think it alone is worth paying twice as much. What's more compelling is the wider range of apps available on the new model. If you like to play games and use apps (other than video) then the new Apple TV is worth the extra money. The additional apps are great fun to use, and gaming on the Apple TV is much better value than using a PS4 or Xbox One.
If all you want is an easy way to watch a video, play music and view your photos on a television, then the £59 Apple TV (3rd generation) offers all the functionality you need. It has Netflix, Sky and Now TV and you can use AirPlay to stream other services such as BBC iPlayer and Amazon Video. It's perfectly functional and using an iPhone as a remote control is better than the Siri remote at any rate.
If you're really after a bargain, don't forget that there are cheaper alternatives to the Apple TV range. If all you want is BBC iPlayer, ITV, On Demand (All 4), Sky and Spotify then the Now TV box is great value at just £14.99. Roku also makes similar devices that can be picked up for a better price.
Having said that, we like to stick inside the Apple ecosystem so we can use services such as Apple Music, iCloud Photo Library and use AirPlay to bounce content from our iPhones.
Read more: New Apple TV vs old Apple TV