Apple TV (2013) review

Still one of the best streamers on the market

Apple TV
The new Apple TV supports full HD video and comes with a new interface

TechRadar Verdict


  • +

    Very easy to use and set up

  • +

    AirPlay streaming rock solid

  • +

    Movies in 1080p HD quality

  • +

    AirPlay Mirroring with iOS devices


  • -

    No TV tuner

  • -

    AirPlay is locked-down

  • -

    Movie rentals are expensive

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The rumours have been pointing to an update for Apple's "hobby" Apple TV for a while now. But while we wait for an official announcement, it's still worth noting that the current product is still a respectable device.

Announced at the same time as the new (now not so new) iPad in March 2012, the current Apple TV wasn't the full on Apple iTV, the rumoured Apple television that many had hopped for, rather it was a small revision to the existing media streamer of last year, retaining the same form factor but with an updated menu system and faster processor.

The biggest change though is its new ability to stream and play full 1080p HD movies - the previous model could only manage 720p, which was all the iTunes Store offered for movie rentals and purchasing anyway.

Of course, this meant that Apple had to update a lot of its iTunes Store catalogue to 1080p for you to get the most out of it, but nowadays most new movies are being offered in 1080p.

As well as enabling you to purchase and rent movies Apple TV does two other things of note - it acts as a browser for selected Internet content (YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, iCloud, Podcasts, etc) and thanks to Apple's AirPlay system it can receive content streamed from a Mac, PC or iOS device and play it on your television.

apple tv

And, just to be clear, here's what it can't do - most importantly you still can't use it to watch free-to-air TV channels, so it's not a proper Set-top Box solution, and you can't use it to browse the full web or do email, like you can with an iPad.

The full implications of this become clearer when you realise that some popular web sites, which would make total sense to be access via an Apple TV, are unavailable.

apple tv

And because you're in Apple's locked-down world there are no third-party apps available for the Apple TV which could add these features in - you have to wait for Apple to officially support them via a software update.

In fact, the Apple TV isn't designed to be customised at all - you have the feature set that Apple provides, and that's it.

In the box

In the box you get the Apple TV, which is a small black box measuring only 23mm x 98mm x 98mm that weighs just 0.27kg, a nice-looking aluminum remote with very few buttons, some setup instructions and a power lead.

apple tv

The Apple TV has exactly the same ports and connectors on the back as before. There's an ethernet port, an Optical Audio port and a HDMI port for connection to your TV. You'll also notice a Micro-USB port, but this has no use for the home user - it's just for Apple's Geniuses to use when diagnosing problems.

The Apple TV processor has been upgraded to the A5 chip to cope with 1080p HD movie playback. iFixit has done a teardown on the Apple TV and found that the Broadcom 4330 Wi-Fi chip inside also supports Bluetooth 4.0+HS, although it currently makes no use of this technology - it's possible that the functionality could be added in a future update.

apple tv

The current Apple Remote uses Infrared, this requires line of site to your Apple TV, which can be a pain - a Bluetooth remote would be far superior.

Setup process

Connection to your TV is via a HDMI cable, but be aware that there isn't one in the box, so you have to purchase that separately.

The first surprise with the new Apple TV compared to the previous generation is that once you connect it up to your TV is that it talks to you! A voice asks you if you'd like to enable the Voice Over feature by clicking a button on the remote three times.

Voice Over reads out what the menu option you've currently got selected is, so it will be a very useful feature for visually impaired users who need extra help navigating the menu systems.

Proceeding on, you set up the usual things like language then select a WiFi network - if you've never done this before then it will be your first encounter with the Apple TV's tedious way of entering text and numbers - you have an alphabetically ordered block of letters that you have to have to slowly manoeuvre around using the remote's click wheel.

apple tv hand

It's frustrating to use because the layout is so unfamiliar - having the letters arranged like a computer keyboard would have been more intuitive.

Going through the process of painfully entering your WiFi password one character at a time using this input method only to realise you got one of the characters wrong and have to do it all over again is heartbreaking, especially when at this stage you just want to get on with enjoying all the great content your Apple TV promises.

It's a shame Apple still use this input method because everything else about the Apple TV is so easy to use it stands in sharp contrast to other media streamers.