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Apple TV (2015)
Sometimes to buy a product, you need to go the source. That was the case with the new Apple TV (2015). Unavailable on Amazon and out of stock in most Apple Stores and Best Buy's in the area, I had to go to Apple's store in their headquarters in Cupertino, California itself just to pick one up. The headquarter's Apple store is at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino and has a smaller product selection but also a lot less crowded compared to the typical Apple store.
The headquarter's Apple store itself is a simple elegant mix of wood and glass allowing a lot natural light into the store that you typically don't get from the mall version.
The Apple Store has its own display area for the new Apple TV (2015) and similar to the Amazon Fire TV, is also promoting its game controller integration.
Like other Apple products, Apple TV wins on best packaging design compared to similar streaming media players on the market.
Opening up the Apple TV box, it comes with a fancier remote control and power cable compared to the previous Apple TV (2013) version. The squarish black look and feel of the new Apple TV box is also similar to the previous box.
It also includes a Lightning cable that is used to charge the remote control. Interestingly enough, the Apple TV remote is the first instance of a non-iPhone/iPad/iPod product that has a Lightning female connector.
The Apple TV is also the second Apple product to come with a Type-C USB port. However, Apple just uses this as a debug port and is not meant for consumers to use.
Setting up the Apple TV was easy, especially if you have an iPhone or iPad lying around to help with the setup.
Once you get past all the setup items, you are then introduced to tvOS, Apple's new operating system for Apple TV. Amazon, Google, Apple, and Roku are all battling out trying to get developers to create apps for their streaming device platforms. On the Apple TV, heavy Apple users can enjoy apps they already use like Apple Photos and iTunes as well as popular apps like YouTube.
Apple TV, Amazon, Google, and Roku all now offer voice recognition commands through their remote controls, though Apple's Siri is the most widely recognized. All systems also now promote gaming as another key feature.
Only Apple TV comes with a remote control that also allows you to use touch to interface easier with the screen. This touch screen remote is similar in concept to Sony Bravia Android based 4K TV's touch based remote, of course without Siri.
Unlike Sony and other companies, Apple sees any of their products as works of art and the Apple TV remote is no exception. Even the previous version of the Apple TV (2013) was housed in a sleek aluminum casing and had a simplicity that was more art than function. With the Apple TV (2015), the remote control has added both style and function with its simplicity of buttons.
When you compare the Apple TV remote with other smart TV remotes, the Apple TV's is the thinnest and most artistically designed. It's material and weight also help it feels like a premium product compared to the cheaper plastic feel of the other remotes.
The simplicity does come at a cost though. Trying to enter user names and passwords by swiping your finger is slightly stressful especially when you attempt to land on an exact letter.
However, the Apple TV user interface has been optimized for swiping and really feels different compared to the media players. Icons enlarge when selected and large featured images have almost a 3D feel as you swipe through them.
The biggest complaint about the Apple TV is that it still doesn't support 4K, while you can find 4K offered on Amazon Fire TV's, Google Android TV's, and the Roku 4. Since everything with Apple is about the user experience, and the 4K user experience is less than perfect right now, perhaps Apple is correct in holding off for a bit more. You can bet when there is more 4K content available on iTunes, Apple will come out with a new Apple TV that makes a great 4K user experience.