We’ve been eagerly anticipating the new version of Apple TV since the company announced the updated device and system in September. Universal search? A Siri remote? It all seemed too good to be true. And after spending some time with it, we can say that our excitement was justified.
Let’s start with what’s new. The Siri remote is as cool as it sounds, with touchpad navigation and a truly impressive voice function. (“Show me dramas.” “Show me Wes Anderson movies.” “Skip ahead 15 minutes.”) The universal search is also a welcome change. Want to watch Breaking Bad? Tell Siri, and it will show you where it’s available — iTunes, Netflix, Hulu — and where, given your existing accounts and subscriptions, it’s easiest/cheapest for you to watch. The actual display is still beautiful, but updated: easier to use, easier to organize, easier to customize. It functions almost exactly as your iPhone screen does and allows you to seamlessly switch between apps.
Apps? Yes, Apple TV’s new app store is where the biggest potential rests, and the offerings that are already available from various developers signal that much more is to come. (The ESPN app, for example, offers live viewing in addition to existing content.) It has the potential to turn your TV into one giant iPad: Search for homes on Zillow, book your vacation on Airbnb, use the remote as a controller to play the various video games that are starting to populate the store. (If anyone at Seamless is reading this, please create an app ASAP.)
As our content-viewing options have multiplied in recent years, I’ve clung, however stupidly, to my cable subscription. I have Netflix and Hulu accounts and loved my old Apple TV, but I still send nearly $200 to Time Warner each month. Why? Because I’m lazy. And sometimes on a Saturday afternoon, I want to accidentally stumble upon a five-hour Say Yes to the Dress marathon or mindlessly watch three episodes of Property Brothers before my brain even processes that I’m awake. Neither is a show I seek out or DVR — I don’t even like them very much, to be honest. But I like that cable presents me with a limited set of options. There’s an element of choice, but not too much.
I used my old Apple TV only when I knew exactly what I wanted to watch and could quickly access the show or film. Yes, browsing was an option, but it could feel like an overwhelming black hole of content. This system changes that. I asked Siri: “Find comedies.” Hundreds of choices — I needed to narrow it. “Just new comedies.” And there it was, a tidy selection of films to choose from, including Trainwreck and Spy. (I went with Trainwreck.) For fun, I tried a year. “Show me 1990 comedies.” That was a fantastic year for comedy, so again, time to narrow the search. “Just the ones with Julia Roberts.” Bam — Pretty Woman. (Yes, this was an absurd exercise, but the point is, it worked.) The point is, this brand new Apple TV perpetuates my laziness in the very way I want it to. I can have a totally imprecise idea of what I want to watch, and Apple TV delivers it.
Is there room for improvement? Of course. The remote is so responsive and starts playing content so quickly that the picture’s resolution can take a few seconds to catch up. Typing in your email address and password with the new remote is much less painful, though not pain-free. And some of the system’s coolest tricks — ask Siri “What did they say?” during a program and it jumps back 15 seconds and replays the scene with captions — only fully work with iTunes content. But these complaints are hardly deal breakers, and the user experience as a whole is easy, intuitive, and is the first thing that’s ever caused me to consider dumping my cable. Time Warner, consider yourself warned.
The new Apple TV retails at $149 for 32GB and $199 for 64GB.