Here we are. Years after Apple's last attempt at a setup box and a lot has changed. However, at the same time, not much really has.

It is still a black hockey puck of a box, with no more than a few I/O ports on the back (notably dropping optical audio). It has an integrated power supply which means no brick laying around like an older Xbox.

Internally though, it is now boasting a dual core A8 chip instead of the previous Apple made A5 which gives it a lot more power. That is definitely noticeable as the system as a whole is unarguably faster. The wireless is now graduating from 802.11n to ac with MIMO which, is actually faster than the outdated 10/100 ethernet port along the back.

The remote is another big upgrade. Still aluminum along the back, it now has an integrated battery, and a glass front. Complete with a clickable touchpad along the top. Apple has also added a new Home button, a volume rocker, and a dedicated Siri button. You can talk to Siri thanks to 2 microphones placed alongside the top of the remote. The whole device is charged with a lightning cable, however you shouldn't have to charge it more than once every month or two.

As far as actually using the system, it is now built on top of iOS, which powers Apple's line of mobile devices. You will see a lot of transparencies and motion effects integrated to a familiar design that looks similar to the last generation device.

Siri is a new addition as well, allowing all sorts of different commands. You can use it for small one off controls like "What is the weather like?", sports scores, and stocks. The biggest use case would be for searching for media. Siri now has a universal search that ties into all the major providers. By major providers, I mean Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and iTunes. Apple says they will open this API up in the future, but for now it is limited to these few.

Siri can be quite smart as well. She is context aware, so you can say show me comedy movies, then say "just the good ones", then "just the new ones" to keep filtering down. There are also some handy commands while watching media. Like asking who stars in this show, or "what did she say?" which will take you back 15 seconds and turn on closed captions.

Apps are something that we need to wait and see on. It is unfortunate that you cannot use Siri to dictate. So you can't search for YouTube videos by voice. Or search the app store. The app store, like on iPhone, can be very unwieldy to navigate. They are limited to only 200mb upon initial download, however they can pull an additional 2gb from Apple's servers once installed.

Overall, it seems Apple has put out a great set top box, probably the best available. Yet it seems to be missing the main ingredient that really makes this the future of TV. Perhaps it is the yet unannounced streaming service that Apple has had difficultly pulling together. Or maybe it is the just the 1.0 version of TVOS that will undoubtedly get beefed up in the future.

Pros

  • Siri control
  • Faster
  • Aerial screensavers
  • App store
  • Remote
  • UI
  • Universal apps

Cons

  • App sizes
  • 4K
  • Siri limitations
  • App limitations