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

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Once the setup is done you're into the main Apple TV interface, which has had a complete refresh for this outing.

In an effort to simplify, and at the same time allow for expansion, Apple has taken a more iOS-style approach to the Apple TV's interface. While it has received criticism from certain quarters, we like it.

Instead of text-based menus everything is now represented by an icon, just like on iOS. The icons are flatter and wider than their iOS counterparts, but you can clearly see where Apple has drawn its inspiration. As you move around the menus selecting each icon, text appears underneath it to tell you what it's for, which means you never feel confused or lost.

apple tv main menu

At the top of the interface you have a sideways scrolling carousel of the latest movie releases. Typical rent price of a new HD movie is £4.49 ($4.99) - this is expensive compared to, say, Sky Box Office, which was offering Twilight Breaking Dawn and Moneyball for just £2 in the UK store when we checked, but obviously you need a paid-for Sky account to access this service.

iTunes was still over twice the price for the same movies though. Obviously you'll need a decent broadband connection to rent movies using Apple TV but there are some advantage to Apple's system. For example, it's more convenient.


You don't have to wait for a specific movie start time. Instead just choose your movie and it starts downloading whenever you want. Apple TV seemed to need about 5 minutes of buffering before you can start watching your streaming download, which isn't an unreasonable time to wait.

You also get a page of information about each movie, including a cast list, customer reviews, and links to similar movies in an Amazon-style 'Viewers also brought' before you decide to purchase. It's also possible to watch movie's trailer by clicking the Preview button, which is handy.

apple tv

Once you've rented an iTunes movie you have 30 days to start watching, and 48 hours to finish watching after you've started. The best feature is that you can view across multiple devices, so you could start watching on your Apple TV and finish watching on your computer. However, this is only available on Standard Definition films, which rules out all new film releases and seriously hobbles what would be an otherwise brilliant feature.

On the whole, the range of new titles is good, and easily comparable to Sky Box Office, and there's also an impressive back catalogue of films.

apple tv top tv shows

But Apple TV isn't just about film - moving down the interface our next stop after Movies is TV Shows. Here you'll find an impressive collection of shows buy. The promoted shows here have a UK-bias, which is good, but there are a lot of American shows also. Want to catch up on series 4 of Madmen? Not a problem. It's £2.49 ($2.99) an episode to buy (there are no rentals available for TV programmes.)

Next is an option called Music - this is only for subscribers to Apple's iTunes Match service (£24.99/$29.99 a year). If you're a Match subscriber then you'll be able to access your entire iTunes music collection from here, although you're likely to have your computer in the house as well and it's easy to connect to it from the Apple TV anyway, which brings us onto the next icon: Computers.

itunese match on apple tv

By tapping on Computers your Apple TV will automatically find any computer on your Wi-Fi network that has the same Apple ID login on iTunes. The fact that your computer just appears here without you having to interact with a single dialog box or window is to Apple's credit.

Here you can access your music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes U and photos from your local machine. The streaming over Wi-Fi is flawless, as you'd expect.

The next icon is Settings, which has all the technical options you'll need, but also your screen saver settings. It's worth mentioning these because some gorgeous new National Geographic pictures have been added as a screen saver option.

apple tv photostream

Our favourite setting though is Photo Stream, but more of that later. Whichever screen saver you go for you'll find a wide choice of different themes – all of which make the photos look gorgeous.

Netflix, which has been a feature of the US Apple TV for a while now, has expanded globally and is now available in the interface. The amount and selection of new films on Netflix outside the US is disappointing when compared to that library, but parents will appreciate the endless amount of kids' cartoon programs at their fingers.

apple tv vimeo

Also on the Apple TV interface are options for browsing YouTube, Vimeo, Wall Street Journal and MLB (that's Major League Baseball – subscription required) – none of these have changed in this update, so they're not worth mentioning in detail.

Photo Stream is new though – it's an iCloud-related feature that owners of iPhones will love. Once you've turned Photo Stream on any picture that you've taken on your iPhone (or iPad and iPod touch) will automatically get added to your Photo Stream once you are connected to a Wi-Fi connection.

So, you take a few pictures with your iPhone while out and about, then once you walk through the door of your house you can turn to your Apple TV and view them via the Photo Stream icon. The speed and convenience of Photo Stream can't be denied.

apple tv movie trailers

Another new option in the interface is Trailers – this isn't really anything new, just a quicker way of getting to movie trailers, which include trailers for theatrical releases, which are great to have.