I am testing a new (4th generation, Oct 2015) AppleTV as a replacement for my 2nd generation AppleTV (Sep 2010).
My initial impression is overwhelmingly positive! I am finally replacing the older AppleTVs entirely.
I was an early adopter, got my first AppleTV (Silver, ran stripped version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger with FrontRow) when they first announced the device in 2007, mostly as an experiment in bringing internet content (YouTube, iTunes Movie rentals, Flickr) to my big TV screen. I liked it so much I hacked it to do Boxee and Xbox Media Center (XBMC) and bought one with a 160GB drive a few months later for the basement recreation room.
When the little black 2nd generation AppleTVs came out in 2010 I was skeptical, but experimented again, and at first was not impressed. The move to iOS without any applications was a hindrance, and I had come to rely on XBMC seeing my big media share of my own library of content… Then in January 2011 they were jailbroken and XBMC and Boxee and Nito were all available and I switched to 2nd generation AppleTVs with every TV… and there I stayed…
The 3rd generation (2012) AppleTV, and it’s faster revision (2013) did not interest me as they could not be jailbroken; and without XBMC access to my growing library of media served from an old Mac Mini, they simply were not viable.
In 2014 I started looking at Roku as an alternative… I really like iTunes access (no other digital streaming catalog has closed captioning as good as iTunes) and AirPlay had become essential… but Roku had much more stable XBMC and Plex clients for seeing my huge media library and they came with support for Amazon Prime as well (something AppleTVs still don’t do). Roku3 remains a top recommendation from me.
I am thrilled that the new AppleTV (Oct 2015) finally gives me the best of almost all worlds. I downloaded the free app Plex and with Plex Media Center (free download) loaded on my old Mac Mini my huge library is available on the latest/greatest AppleTV that does AirPlay, HBO Now, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix. I see no reason (other than budget) not to replace all the old 2nd generation AppleTVs with the new ones. So now what do I do with three hacked AppleTVs?
Huge honorable mention goes to Roku who has two models now (Roku3 and Roku4) that are simply astounding streaming media players – they too do Plex out of the box, they also do HBO Now, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube. The Roku does not have Apple’s App ecosystem, and it does not have AirPlay support nor iTunes media support; but it does do Amazon Prime, and is a little cheaper, and has the amazing headphones jack on the remote feature that is spectacular.
4th Generation AppleTV Out of the Box experience:
1) I love that it automatically pairs with an existing iOS device (iPhone/iPad) to grab AppleID and avoid some typing manually through the cumbersome remote controlled on screen keyboard.
2) I love that it detected wired ethernet and automatically set that up correctly even after seeing Wi-Fi on my iPhone.
3) I love that some apps (YouTube) send you to a website on a laptop/desktop/tablet/phone with a simple code to avoid some typing manually through the cumbersome remote controlled on screen keyboard your long login/password to YouTube/Google.
4) I love being able to move the apps around so that Plex, HBO Now, Computers, and Search are at the top of the screen instead of the much more infrequently used iTunes Movies, iTunes TV, iTunes Music and Photos.
5) I love the new remote, much easier to swipe through menus and settings in general, though I do miss the Remote app on my iPhone working with the AppleTV (that was better still, and made typing in passwords much faster).
6) I HATE that connecting to Computers for Home Sharing, connecting to HBO Now and most other accounts requires the manual remote control based hunt and peck username and password keystroke entry – this is a HORRIBLE experience and needs to be beaten out of every interface. It would be acceptable with the Remote App working again, or any BlueTooth keyboard – but neither is an option yet… and it is painful to set up accounts.
7) Switching from Kodi/XBMC to Plex is a big change, but not as big as I was worried about – and it turns out to be VERY pleasant; the ordering of shows, the marking of what was watched and remains unwatched is a breeze through Plex Media Server’s web based software (on the computer/server) and the Plex client is fast and beautiful and easy to use. Huge improvement over XBMC Gotham (13.2) that I was using.
8) I love that AirPlay once again works from those devices I foolishly upgraded to iOS 9 before updating my old AppleTVs (iOS 9 devices cannot AirPlay display to older AppleTVs any more).
9) I have not figured out how to load key features from the AppleTV remote into my Logitech universal remote yet – and I need to at least get the basics set up there – but for now we have two remotes in use.
I may go to a mixed AppleTV 4 and Roku 4 household; because I love AirPlay, gaming apps, and iTunes Media on AppleTV; and I love Amazon Prime and remote based headphones on Roku.