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No HomeKit Integration (Yet)
My jaw dropped when the Apple TV 4 keynote presentation ended, without a single mention of HomeKit. In fact, they show a list of APIs for tvOS, and HomeKit is not included. After some research, I found that HomeKit is not yet supported on tvOS. Perhaps instead of the gimmicky parallax graphics, they could have added HomeKit support. There’s no UI face to it, and tvOS is based on iOS and runs on the same A8 processor. It would not take a tremendous amount of effort to include HomeKit in tvOS. It’s surprising and one of the major reasons why Apple TV 4 is underwhelming. Keep in mind, Apple TV 4 is the first refresh of Apple TV in over 3 years.
It would be amazing if Apple TV could turn off the lights and close the shades when you start a movie. I expect HomeKit to come to tvOS soon, but I am shocked at its absence. A lot of developers are astonished.
Apple TV 4 Audio Quality; Digital Audio Port Removed
No mention was made of improvements in audio quality. Existing Apple TV units offer average audio quality. Like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and stock Apple headphones, Apple TV is not an audiophile product. Audio for music is acceptable, but not audiophile quality. None of the tech specs seem to indicate any improvement in audio quality. If anything, Apple TV 4 offers fewer audio options. Audio for TV shows and movies is much better, and can sound as good as a movie theater with the right setup.
Apple TV 4 doesn’t offer an optical audio output. A S/PDIF optical audio output provides a direct digital connection to home theater systems (Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound) and wireless headphones. Apple TV 4 owners will have to connect to their television using HDMI and then connect their TV to a home theater system. This is actually the most common configuration. You will still be able to enjoy surround sound. Both Apple TV 2 and Apple TV 3 featured optical audio ports. I’m disappointed that they removed this feature, but there is a reason.
Apple TV 4 supports a new and improved version of Dolby Digital surround sound — 7.1. Apple TV 3 only supports 5.1. This doesn’t necessarily mean the overall sound quality is better for music and stereo audio. Surround sound for TV shows and movies will be better, if you have the right setup — speakers and amplifier. Dolby Digital 7.1 is an 8-channel system, so you need 8 speakers to experience it.
This is also why there is no optical audio output. Dolby Digital 7.1 cannot be transmitted over optical audio cables. Only HDMI can be used for Dolby Digital 7.1. The lack of an optical audio output makes sense, but if you have invested in an audio setup that uses this connector, you may want to stick with Apple TV 3.
If you really want to hear music in hi-fidelity, connect a high-end 24-bit/96 kHz audio transmitter between your computer and stereo. I have one. When I listen to the same iTunes track with both setups on the same stereo, the audio transmitter is better. The low end isn’t mushy and the high end isn’t “swirly” and “swishy”. The difference isn’t overwhelming, and I often just play music on my Apple TV because it is convenient. It’s good enough. A true audiophile would listen to vinyl on a different type of McIntosh anyway.
Apple TV 4 Does Not Offer 4K Video
Those of you hoping for 4K video may be disappointed. I am amazed that anyone has the bandwidth to support this resolution. I can barely get 720p video streaming on my current Apple TV, due to my Internet service provider.
You will never know how bad your ISP is until you cut the cord. Once you rely solely on Apple TV, your data usage goes up. You will start to notice your ISP has a lot of outages. It’s not a coincidence. Most Internet service is provided by cable (Comcast Xfinity) or telecom companies (AT&T U-verse). They don’t want you to stream video or cut the cord. They see streaming video as a supplement to cable. Once you cut the cord and your data usage goes up, you start to hit the wall. These “unlimited” plans always have limits. They will throttle your bandwidth. You still have Internet access, so it is legally “unlimited”, but it will be dial-up speed. You can’t stream video or even music at these speeds. You are reduced to a 1990s CompuServe or AOL user!
After cutting the cord, I switched ISPs four times in a year. I finally found one that didn’t throttle users only because they were sued and lost. They never had the proper legal agreement to allow throttling. After being purchased by Sprint, they announced termination of services. (continue…)