Hello everyone and thanks for checking out my latest review which is of the Apple TV 3. First off I would just like to apologize for this review being so late but I haven’t had the chance to sit down and truly review the product until now. I would also like to say that this is my first experience with the Apple TV ever so this will be a general review, not an upgrade review. If you’re wondering, however, if you should upgrade from a previous generation Apple TV, I’ve read some reviews already and it seems that an upgrade is unnecessary unless you are looking for 1080p video support or a faster processor. Other than that, most of the upgrades made are available through a software update.
The Apple TV arrived at my doorstep on 3/23 so I’ve been spending the last couple weeks with it, and overall, I absolutely LOVE it. I immediately unboxed it and hooked it up in less than 5 minutes, with the setup requiring only an HDMI cable from the set box to the tv, and an RCA audio cable from the tv to my stereo system. The Apple TV came with the set box, a power cable, and a sleek little elegant remote to control the box. The remote however is unnecessary if you have an iPhone or iPad, as you can download the free Apple Remote app to use with the Apple TV or your computer. But let’s get to the actual features of the end user experience, the fun stuff!
First off when you initially turn on the box, it has a basic setup of about 5 screens. It asks to set your time zone, log in to your iTunes store account (your Apple ID), and a couple other settings like resolution (1080p or 720p). Once you’re all set up, you come to the home screen. The UI appears to be a unique view consistent with how the home screen of an iPhone or iPad looks, with each app displayed on the screen and easily accessible. There are featured movies and shows at the top of the screen, and underneath are your gateways to your media of choice: videos, tv, music library, any linked computers or computers on the same wifi network as the Apple Tv, and a plethora of individual third-party apps like Netflix, Vimeo, Flickr, NHL, MLB, YouTube, and more. There is also an area you can view trailers for upcoming films or shows, and a photos app that links with your photos via your laptop or iPhone/iPad.
Perhaps the best feature which was missing from previous generations of this device, is iCloud and iTunes Match support. It is because of these features that we used my roommate’s Apple ID, as he had a larger selection of previously downloaded content which we could stream for free to the Apple TV. We started with Pineapple Express, and continued to use it as much as we could despite our busy schedules. The more time spent with this little box, the more wonders you’re able to unlock. We realized that virtually any video, photo, game, or ANY type of media you can imagine is able to be processed through the Apple TV. Not only via iCloud and iTunes match, but with AirPlay as well. Airplay is unique to the 3rd generation Apple TV but so necessary. One of the biggest annoyances with “weekend couch bumming” is having to get up and show people a video or something on my phone that I want everyone else in the room to see. With AirPlay, I can simply click the icon at the bottom controls of the video, and within seconds it is steaming in full 1080p to my television. With these key features, the possibilities of media consumption and sharing are endless. Having a party or get-together and want some good music to to play? No problem, you can control it all through Apple TV, and use the Remote app to control music, playlists, and everything else you’d expect from Apple’s awesome software.
Another feature that is very cool is screen mirroring. As an attempt to sell newer products however, Apple has made this feature exclusive to iPhone 4S and iPad 2 and newer. If you double click the home button on your iPhone 4S or iPad, scroll all the way to the left past where the screen lock and volume controls are, there is another bar with brightness controls and an icon similar to the AirPlay icon shown in videos. This control allows you to mirror your entire screen to the Apple TV, so you know what that means. All the sweet stuff like games, books, or ANYTHING on your phone/iPad will be displayed on your television in high resolution display. This feature is useful for business, conference, or classroom environments as it allows you to show a group of people anything you want them to see, exactly as you want them to see it. It’s made easy with no jumping through holes or rewiring, changing settings. It simply just works.
Amongst the other features that are in the new Apple Tv are a faster processor. I can not honestly attest to how much faster it is than previous Apple TV’s because I’ve never used one before this. I will say that the processing power on the Apple TV 3 is more than adequate to keep the family entertained, and to handle all of your media ADD. The only thing I’ve noticed is a bit of lag when it comes to using the Remote app from my iPhone. Particularly, when switching from different “primary remotes”. Any iPhone with the Remote app can control the Apple TV, so obviously my roommate and I are constantly switching between our phones as the primary remote to control the tv. I believe this is where the syncing between the Tv and the phones becomes a little laggy. I don’t believe this is an issue with the Apple TV, however, and it is certainly not debilitating to the ease of use of it. A simple close of the Remote app and reopening it will get you back to easily and conveniently controlling the box. Also note that when closing and reopening the Remote app on your phone, anything running on the Apple TV will not be interrupted.
Overall, I would say the Apple TV is an integral part of the household, especially in the living room. I now consider it the hub of all my digital media, and it’s the size of my hand. It can accomplish literally anything I need it to when it comes to listening to music, watching tv, movies, and consuming media off the Internet. Combine all this with Apple’s easy to use software and UI, and their “It just works” manifesto, you’ve got one hell of a product that I feel is only just starting to catch on to mainstream media and consumers. I think this product is a very good sign of what’s to come with the inevitable Apple television set. Thanks all for reading my review of the Apple TV 3. If you have any questions, comments, or think I’ve missed something, please contact me through Facebook or twitter (@stevetambone). Happy nerding!
So I finally bought the iPhone 4S. I switched from AT&T to Sprint because I didn’t like the idea of paying for an unlimited data plan with AT&T and having it slowed down to Edge speeds because I’m “using too much data”. Sprint offers truly unlimited everything for a cheaper monthly bill. So far it’s been the right choice. The coverage is a little spotty at times, but has been pretty reliable for most of the time I’ve owned it (about 2 months).
Now, let’s get to the phone. I’ll start with the personal assistant feature, Siri. Siri has been an awesome feature that I find I’m using more and more often as time goes by. You can activate it a couple different ways (press and hold the home button, or raise the phone right to your ear). You can ask Siri questions about weather, amongst other things, or set reminders, jot down notes, send/read messages, and use the voice dictation feature on the keyboard to speak text. Impressively, the feature is quite accurate and usually renders the desired result of whatever task you are trying to handle. Siri, however is only available with an active Internet connection and is directly linked to Apple’s servers, so if you are in a no service area, or Apple’s servers are down, you will not be able to use Siri. Overall, 4 out of 5 stars on this feature.
Next is the chip upgrade. Apple has upgraded the iPhone chip to a dual core custom designed A5 chip (the iPhone 4 has an A4). I can honestly say I’ve noticed only a slight upgrade in speeds involving data (which is most likely due to my 3G network connection more than the chip in the phone). As far as any operations or tasks, however, there is definitely a significant and noticeable difference from the iPhone 4 to the 4S. Launching apps is much faster, multitasking/app switching is literally as fast as you can move your fingers, typing, processor-intensive apps like GarageBand or any online, graphic-heavy games run extremely smooth and look beautiful on the retina display. Less time waiting in between tasks, more time accomplishing those tasks and having a speedy and pleasant user experience. Overall, 4.5 out of 5 on the A5 processor upgrade.
Next feature is the iSight camera upgrade. All I can say (and I’m not a photographer by any means) is wow. I thought the iPhone 4 camera was great when I first got it and didn’t really think the 4S would be that significant of an upgrade. Well I was proven wrong by Apple once again. The camera on the 4S, along with the countless features included for shooting/basic editing is mind blowing. The camera is 8 megapixels, and uses 5 different precision lenses with larger aperture to let in more light. Sure I can give you all the technical mumbo-gumbo about the camera, but Apple lists all the features in detail on their website. The purpose of this blog is to give you a real-life perspective on how well the features perform day to day. And the camera, along with Siri, is definitely a significantly positive upgrade to the iPhone. They’ve included image stability control (so when you’re moving while shooting a picture or video there is less shakiness and more accuracy), single/multi-facial recognition (so if you are taking a picture of multiple people at once, it recognizes where the faces are and auto focuses them for clear shots every time), IR filter for better color uniformity and flow, and much better light/dark balance so you have almost no limits in very light or dark environments. There is also an option to shoot a HDR (High Dynamic Range) version of the picture which is pretty much just a higher quality photo. The video portion of the camera now shoots 1080p high definition video, also with image stability control. Combine all these features and you get one hell of a photo/video shooting experience. To some, it may not seem like an important upgrade, but you’ll find yourself being impressed more and more each time you use the camera and discover a new feature to make the user experience a lot more enjoyable. 5 out of 5 on the iSight camera upgrade.
Of course every iNerd and their mother remembers the iPhone 4 antenna issue where if you happen to be a lefty (like myself) and held it comfortably, your palm would be directly over the antenna and significantly block the phone from receiving a strong service signal, in some cases even blocking the signal completely. Well Apple seems to have worked that issue out with the iPhone 4S by putting a new type of antenna system in it. It has added a second antenna that intelligently switches back and forth to allow the phone to achieve the best possible signal strength, on or off of calls. This means that no matter where you are, no matter how you hold your phone, you can rest assured that it will be getting the best signal it can receive, as well as achieving improved call quality. I can attest to this as being noticeable since I had AT&T previously and had pretty poor service very often. I heard nothing but poor things about Sprint’s service prior to switching. So it was definitely a tough decision but I figured what the heck, I’ll deal with bad service and not get penalized for how much data I use even though I pay for unlimited. I notice nearly identical signal strength with Sprint as I had with AT&T. I do notice that if I sometimes go into a bad service area, in a matter of seconds my signal bar will shoot up again, indicating the antenna switch. So regardless of whether or not you have an amazing service provider with great coverage like Verizon, or have the notoriously shoddy 3G coverage of AT&T and Sprint, the improved antenna system is definitely a big help.
Another aspect to the antenna upgrade is the World Phone aspect of the iPhone 4S. When the iPhone 4 eventually came out on Verizon, there were 2 different models (GSM for AT&T, and CDMA for Verizon). Well the iPhone 4S is a World Phone which means that both carrier types are supported in one single device. So if you’re a big traveler, you aren’t limited to a single CDMA network to roam elsewhere, as you will have GSM support. Personally I’m not a big world traveler so this feature is almost meaningless to me. Nonetheless, it is a very convenient feature for many others who find themselves constantly changing locations.
These are most of the significant upgrades of the iPhone 4S. Of course you can always go to Apple’s website to find out all the specifics of the features and tech specs. I hope this review has been helpful to some who are apprehensive to make the upgrade. Overall, I’d say if you are an average consumer who wants an excellent, reliable smart phone, with a great operating system (iOS 5 on all new iPhones and a free upgrade on most older iPhones), that’s packed with features and goodies, I would recommend going with the iPhone 4. It can handle most of the tasks you’d be looking to achieve, has many of the same iOS features, and is identical in shape to the 4S. With a new plan agreeing it would cost you $100 for an 8 GB model. However if you use your phone for more than just phone, text, email, and web, and are heavily into utilizing gaming and productivity-oriented apps, or a photographer, I would highly recommend the iPhone 4S. A 16 GB model with new plan agreement is $200. Once you use the phone at its full potential and capacity, you will know where that extra $100 went. Thanks for reading!