2015 Apple TV versus old Apple TV full review
It’s been a long time since Apple updated the Apple TV, the last significant update was back in 2012 - although there was a minor update in 2013, if you are being pedantic - either way, the old Apple TV was based on at least three year old technology, and over those three years the market for boxes that attach to your TV and give you access to extra content has evolved quickly, leaving Apple for dust. Read our review of the new Apple TV here and How to set up the new Apple TV
Back in the day Apple used to refer to the Apple TV as a hobby product, but over the last year or so, CEO Tim Cook has reiterated that the Apple TV is "no longer a hobby product for Apple" and been heard talking about how TV in general needed a refresh. For example, back in September 2014, in an televised interview with Charlie Rose Cook said: "Think how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed, and yet TV, when you go into the living room to watch TV or wherever it may be, it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you've entered a time capsule and you're going backwards. The interface is terrible, I mean it's awful. You watch things when they come on unless you remember to record them."
A year later on 9 September Apple revealed what it has planned for TV. The new Apple TV is built around an App Store, has it’s own operating system: tvOS, and utilizes Siri. It is fundamentally a completely different product to the old Apple TV – and unfortunately the new key features will not work on the old device. In this comparison between the new and old Apple TV we will look at all the ways in which the two devices are different. Here’s what you need to know about the new Apple TV and its release date.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: content
The new Apple TV is all about the apps. Users will be able to visit the App Store and download many of the apps they already run on their iPad and iPhone for use on the Apple TV. It may take a while before the apps are ready for the newer (bigger) interface but it looks likely that the likes of iPlayer and All 4 will finally arrive on the Apple TV, in the form of apps. Until we see the new Apple TV we won’t know for sure what entertainment will be available.
Another bonus with the new Apple TV is that if you want to search for a particular film or TV programme you aren’t limited to searching in one app. You can now search all your apps for the next box set you want to watch - Netflix and iTunes, for example – and the results will include the relevant content in all of your apps so you can choose the best value deal. There’s no chance of downloading a movie in iTunes only to discover it was on Netflix, for example.
Searching on the new Apple TV brings up results from more than one location (see iTunes and HBO in this example)
Speaking of searching, you can now talk to Siri via the new Siri Remote control and get the iOS personal assistant to do all the legwork, more on that below in the remote control section.
The old Apple TV was built around ‘channels’ rather than apps, which means that companies had to work with Apple to get their content hosted on the Apple TV. This hurdle meant that there was a real dearth of UK content available on the Apple TV, if it wasn’t for Netflix the old Apple TV would have very little to sell itself on here in the UK (sure there’s iTunes but you pay a premium to download content from that service).
The old Apple TV interface
More recently the old Apple TV began to offer Now TV content (that’s content from Sky TV) on a subscription basis, but what people really wanted was iPlayer and the other on demand UK channels. Apple’s competition in this field all offered this content, while Apple TV users had to jump through loops to stream it to their Apple TV, either using AirPlay to stream content from the iPlayer app on their iPhone to their TV, or using AirPlay to mirror the screen on their Mac if they were watching on demand TV there (and that didn’t always work). It was particularly frustrating for UK users to see that in the US there was a lot more content available, while we seemed to be left behind, it was as if Apple didn’t care to do any deals with TV companies over here.
There are rumours that Apple will launch a TV streaming service next year, here’s what you need to know about the Apple TV subscription service that could rival Netflix.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: games
It’s not just television. Users will also be able to browse the new Apple TV App Store and download and play many of the games that are already popular on the iPad and iPhone directly on the TV screen.
Games on the Apple TV can also take advantage of Metal, the new technology in iOS and on the Mac that enables games developers to squeeze maximum performance from the A8 chip.
These games can be played with the new remote control that ships with the Apple TV, but you can also purchase a separate controllers for even greater functionality. (Some games developers are complaining that the game has to be designed to work with the Apple TV remote, but you can understand why Apple wants to make sure that Apple TV users don’t have to fork out extra money for a specific remote in order to play a game they have spent their money on. At the unveiling of the Apple TV Apple revealed that a number of games developers have been designing games for the new Apple TV including Guitar Hero and Rayman Adventures. We’re already curious to know how Guitar Hero will work with the new Apple TV remote, we assume it will use the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope. Read: Best Apple TV games controllers.
The older Apple TV allows users to use AirPlay to mirror games on the TV screen, or in the case of some games designed for use with the Apple TV, it is possible to use the iPad or iPhone as a controller while watching the action on the big screen. Some games also offer multiplayer functionality so you can play with your friends.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: apps
Theoretically any app you use on your iPad or iPhone could be redesigned for the Apple TV interface, so expect FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Maps, and more. Maybe even iMessage - although we imagine you would have to dictate your message to Siri or use a Bluetooth keyboard.
There were no apps to speak of on the old Apple TV – sure there were channels which gave you access to some multimedia content, including YouTube and Flickr, but these were very limited apps compared to what we are used to on our other devices.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: remote
The new Apple TV ships with a brand new remote; dubbed the Siri Remote by Apple because it incorporates Siri so that you can speak your requests, meaning you can bypass menus and skip straight to where you want to be. No more button pushing. Just press the Siri button on the remote and ask Siri to find something for you.
If you aren’t feeling talkative you don’t have to use Siri, the new remote also has a glass surface that reacts to touch in the same way as the trackpad on your laptop does (although it’s not multitouch like the newer MacBooks). You can swipe your finger around the remote to move around the screen, and one of the benefits of this is that you can do it in the dark because you don’t need to see the buttons.
There are buttons though. There’s a Menu button and a Home button towards the top of the device. The Siri button is just above the Play/Pause button, and there is a Volume up/down button beside them.
The older Apple remote just had a Menu and Play/Pause button with a circular up, down, left, right button above, and a Home/Select button in the centre of that. When Apple launched the remote for the original Apple TV they made much of the fact that TV remotes have too many buttons and it is confusing to use them. Some people find the Apple TV remote a little too restrictive though, and have switched to third party remotes instead.
One of the most frustrating things about the Apple TV remote has been the fact that inputting text is a headache. Scrolling through the onscreen keyboard to enter the details of the programme or film in a search field, or simply entering your password, was a frustrating experience. There was a solution to this though, you could download the remote app on the iPad or iPhone and use the keyboard on that device to tap in your search term. Alternately you could use a Bluetooth keyboard. The new Apple Remote gets around this issue by utilizing Siri, but if you did want to type something using it we imagine it could be similarly frustrating.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: dimensions
At first glance the new Apple TV looks like the old Apple TV, but it is quite a bit taller, and more than 150g heavier. Not that you’ll be carrying it around much so that probably doesn’t matter to you.
Here how the measurements compare:
New Apple TV:
Old Apple TV
Essentially the older Apple TV was less than an inch high, while the new Apple TV is almost half an inch taller.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: ports
Both the new Apple TV and the old Apple TV connect to your TV via HDMI, although the new Apple TV uses the HDMI 1.4 standard that increases the maximum resolution to a rate high enough to deliver 4K video at 24 frames per second, which is more than enough for watching videos – although the Hobbit was famously shot in 48 frames per second. (There is actually a newer HDMI 2.0 standard, which has even higher bandwidth and can stretch to 60 frames per second – which would be better for gaming). You will need a separate HDMI cable as one doesn’t ship in the box, which seems a bit unreasonable to us. HDMI 1.4 isn’t a new standard, it launched in 2009, so chances are your existing HDMI cable is compatible.
Both the new and old Apple TV have a 10/100 Ethernet port, so you can plug straight into a wired network. The new Apple TV offers 802.11ac, while the older model was limited to 802.11a/b/g/n.
There is a USB Type-C port on the new Apple TV, compared to a micro USB port on the old Apple TV, but this is just for service and support. The only time we have ever had to use this port was when there was a problem with a software update on our Apple TV.
The older Apple TV has one port that the new Apple TV lacks - optical audio, more on that below in the audio section.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: specs
The new Apple TV is a huge leap ahead of the older model in terms of the hardware specs. There is a dual-core A8 chip with 64-bit architecture in the new model, compared to a single-core 32-bit A5 chip in the old Apple TV. The A5 chip dates back to March 2011 when it was introduced with the iPhone 4s, it’s positively ancient.
The biggest and most obvious difference is the fact that the new Apple TV models come in two different capacities, a 32GB and a 64GB version. The Apple TV hasn’t had any storage since the first Apple TV, which launched back in 2007. That model had a 40GB or a 160GB hard disk. There was no storage in the second or third generation Apple TV.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: Audio
As we mentioned, the older Apple TV has one port that the new Apple TV lacks - optical audio. Using an optical digital-audio cable (also known as a S/PDIF or TOSLINK), you could connect the old Apple TV to a home theater receiver with an optical digital-audio port. Some people are disappointed that this port is no longer available.
The new Apple TV does sport Bluetooth 4.0 though so if your audio equipment works via Bluetooth you can connect that way – this means that your Bluetooth wireless headphones will work with the new Apple TV. Both devices have an IR receiver. We’re happy about the idea that Bluetooth headphones will work with the new Apple TV as it means that you won’t disturb others while watching the latest action movie late at night. In that same vein, there is also a special night mode on the new Apple TV that means you can turn down the sound effects to enhance the audio, again, minimizing the disturbance to the other people living in your house.
New Apple TV vs Old Apple TV: Price
The UK pricing for the new Apple TV is still to be confirmed. We have the following pricing for the US:
The 32GB version will cost $149
The 64GB version will cost $199
To get an idea of what the pricing might be in the UK, we looked for similarly priced products. The iPod Touch retails at $199 in the US and costs £159 in the UK. While the iPad nano costs $149 in the US and costs £129 in the UK.
The older Apple TV cost just £59, but even that price was higher than the competition, for example, the Roku Streaming Stick costs £49.99, while the Google Chromecast costs £30. With these prices in mind the potential £129 price of the new Apple TV looks steep.