Apple TV Review
Like most Apple products, Apple TV has a number of fans but comes with a premium price tag. In this case the cost doesn't seem justified when other set-top boxes offer more content and just as much usability at a lower cost -- unless, perhaps, you own multiple Apple devices and a full library of iTunes content. Even so, Apple TV is due for an update.
Apple TV reviews seem to agree that this device delivers the sleek design and superb user experience Apple is known for. However, buyers may not be getting the best option for the price. CNET points out that Apple TV (starting at $99, Amazon) is somewhat limited for consumers who don't already use Apple products. Roku players offer more content options, often at a lower price. Still, this set-top box suits Apple devotees who can enjoy it to its full potential and the reviewer gives Apple TV 4 out of 5 stars.
More than 2,000 Apple TV reviews on Amazon have resulted in a similar 4.5 out of 5 rating. One reviewer calls the device elegant and was won over by the easy setup and intuitive interface. Apple TV connects to an HDTV with an HDMI cable, which is not included. In addition to the content accessible through the box itself, Apple TV allows users to transmit shows, movies, and music playing on an Apple tablet, smartphone, or computer to a TV screen using AirPlay, or even mirror the entire screen onto the TV. In other words, any video that can be found on the web can be displayed in full HD on a larger screen. Mirroring requires a newer mobile device or a computer with the Mountain Lion or Mavericks operating system (mid-2011 or later).
Considering the competition, the cost of Apple TV may not seem justified. For one, although Apple TV owners can access their subscriptions to popular streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus using an Apple TV app, the box doesn't support Amazon Instant Video (a perk of Amazon Prime membership) or Redbox Instant. Apple TV reviews by consumers point to this as a reason to switch to Roku, which includes those channels and hundreds more for as little as half the price.
Perhaps the greatest asset of Apple TV is the ability to transmit a signal from a mobile device to the TV using AirPlay. A commuter could be watching a show on an iPad on the train ride home and then, with a tap of a button, continue the show on a full-size screen once they've arrived and turned on the TV. But this is a feature that essentially works only within the Apple family of products, where other devices are more inclusive. Windows users can send content to Apple TV using iTunes but can't mirror their entire desktop on a TV like Mac users can. There are workarounds, but they require a third-party solution such as AirParrot ($10). (Some Mac owners also consider AirParrot a worthwhile buy, as it allows a TV to be an extension rather than a duplicate of the computer screen.)
All in all, Apple TV is a handy addition to a fleet of Apple products, but it doesn't fit Cheapism's definition of a best buy.