Hands-on With The New Apple TV

The new Apple TV is here, and it’s small, shiny, and pretty dang slick — but it’s not without its drawbacks. We just got to spend a bit of time with it following its debut at Apple’s press conference. So what’d I think? Join us after the jump for the first impressions.

The Good:

  • Oh man, this thing is small. You could smuggle this thing into a foreign country, if you know what I mean.
  • It’s silent. Dead silent.
  • The interface is easily one of the slickest I’ve seen on a media box, though it hasn’t changed much (outside of the new Netflix fun) since the release of Apple TV 3.0 in October of last year.
  • I don’t generally carea bout the aesthetics of media hardware; it goes in an entertainment center, where no one sees it. That said, this is one nice looking piece of kit.
  • Apple’s network was obviously optimized and stress-tested, but all of the streaming content started up damned quick. The picture quality was great, and there was no sign of any buffering jitters..
  • AirPlay support from iOS devices — that is, being able to stream video off an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch — was completely unexpected, and is really well implemented. Two taps, and it’s on your tv.
  • Netflix! A great feature for sure — though with everything from TVs to toasters coming with Netflix nowadays, it’s not exactly groundbreaking.

The Bad:

  • Though Steve nor anyone else at Apple would confirm it, this thing is almost certainly running iOS — and yet, it has no App Store (yet.) With Google entering this space with their Android boxes, third party apps were something we were really hoping for. I’d bet money on an Apple TV App Store launching eventually.

The Ugly:

  • Thanks to the new dark shiny coat, it seems to be a total dust/fingerprint magnet. Keep it in an entertainment stand and don’t paw at it all the time, and you should be fine.
  • No local storage. Mehhh. Streaming content over your network is great, but it requires a remote computer being on at all times. Of the few people I know who own Apple TVs who aren’t over 60, this is a pretty big ding against the whole concept. The winning formula is local storage and streaming — not either or.
  • The microUSB port, it seems, will solely be for servicing the hardware. No external drives.

Conclusion:

The new Apple TV is slick, tiny, and, at $99 bucks, comes in at a ridiculously reasonable price. That said, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who I thought could handle a more flexible piece of hardware. My grandma? Sure. My NZB-downloading friend who acquires all of his media through non-iTunes means? Probably not.