As much as I enjoyed my Roku streaming media player, I’m an Apple user and always have been. I still craved the Apple TV. Everything on the Roku was great, but I really wanted to be able to utilize iTunes, something that isn’t available on the Roku. Once we finally upgraded to an HDTV, I knew my next purchase would be an Apple TV, and it was.
Apple always seems to be able to do a good job of tying all their products together, especially their mobile products. They all work so well together, from iOS to iTunes. Breaking away from that brand just for one product keeps you still longing to return to the brand again. While I wanted the Apple TV in order to work with my iTunes, what I found was that it’s the AirPlay feature that I really don’t want to do without.
1. Ease of Setup
The Apple TV is just as easy to set up as the Roku. It simply plugs into the back of your TV. The only difference is that while the Roku works with both the older RCA-style cables (with the white, yellow, and red plugs) and the newer HDMI, the Apple TV only works with HDMI. The plug is not included with the unit and will need to be purchased separately.
Plugging in the Apple TV utilizes your existing WiFi Internet service. It recognizes the service on its own and asks you to put in your password. It should be noted that when first signing into the unit, it’s asking for your password or key to your Internet service, not any of the individual channels. Once the AppleTV is signed in, it presents you with a screen of all the channels that are available. While the Apple TV doesn’t have as many channels as the Roku, the ones it does have are all worthwhile. This means there are less signins and passwords to keep track of.
2. iTunes and YouTube
Both the Roku and Apple TV have Netflix, but the Apple TV also has iTunes and YouTube. Signing in with your existing iTunes account, you can rent and/or purchase movies, TV episodes and seasons and can also play the iTunes music you already have. This is what really drew me in and what I found I was missing with the Roku. I could listen to Pandora and could rent movies from Amazon, but I already have so much tied up in iTunes. I like to joke that I personally built a wing on Steve Jobs’ home just with my iTunes purchases. I felt like it was going to waste not using it on the Roku. Along with playing the content from your purchasing history, turning on Home Sharing on iTunes on your computer will pick up all the music you have in iTunes in the Computer Channel.
Additionally, the Apple TV plays YouTube videos. Many people just use YouTube as their source of music, as it allows you to make up a playlist. This is of course in addition to all the other types of videos that YouTube plays. You can search for specific videos and can also sign into your existing YouTube account to watch videos you have uploaded yourself as well as access your list of favorites.
While it was the ability to play iTunes content that drew me to the Apple TV, it was the AirPlay feature that made me fall in love with it. I knew it had that capability, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of how great it could be. AirPlay allows you to stream content from your Apple mobile device to the AppleTV. This includes just about any video. I’m a movie and TV reviewer, so I receive content from networks and studios for previewing and reviewing purposes. Having to watch it on my MacBook or iPad is a pain.
With AirPlay I can stream it directly to my TV. Opening up the content on my iPad or iPhone, it shows the AirPlay symbol, and pressing that allows me to choose whether I want the content to play on my mobile device or the Apple TV. That also meant that after I recorded videos of my daughter’s ballet rehearsal, I could show them to family.
Along with video and music, I can also view photos. While I miss the ability to view Facebook photos that I enjoyed on the Roku, I can instead view photos stored on my Photo Stream or Flickr. Since you have already signed into your iTunes account, it will automatically also synch your Photo Stream from your computer or Apple mobile device. I wanted to have some Facebook photos as well as just pictures I’ve taken or uploaded with my iPhone and iPad, so I saved some of my favorite pictures from Facebook to my Photo Stream to customize this. I don’t use it to view my photos though, per se. I went into the Settings channel on the Apple TV and set it to use the PhotoStream as a screensaver when the Apple TV isn’t in use.
As can be seen, the Apple TV is really a great product if you are already an Apple person. Most of the stuff are deeply integrated and you can easily switch from one platform to another. For those who have never owned an Apple product, you can still get the Apple TV, but you won’t be able to maximize all the features that come with it.
Is Apple TV for you? Or you prefer Roku media player better? Let us know in the comments.