Apple TV 3: Worth Buying?

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When you buy a new Apple TV 3, the initial setup is much easier. Users quickly breeze through setting up WiFi and the iTunes Store, and are presented with dozens of Apple TV channels on the home screen. While some channels do require authentication prior to use, the extra step of downloading these content channels is not required. With Apple TV 3, you hit the ground running. You won’t be fiddling with apps and options. Furthermore, some of the content channels on Apple TV 3 are not yet available on the new model. Content providers need to create entire new apps for the new model.

Overall, Apple TV 3 is easier to use. It offers a simple UI with icons arranged in a grid. All of the channels follow the same design, with little variation. Although it lacks Siri, finding content on the third generation model isn’t difficult. Users just select a content provider from the home screen and browse or search for content within each channel. The new Apple TV has more variation between apps. Some content apps are easy to use while others are confusing. Developers have much more freedom with the new model, which has led to an inconsistent user experience across content apps. A lot of users prefer Netflix on Apple TV 3 over the new model.

Apple TV 3 is also more stable than the fourth generation model. tvOS is a new operating system, and the Apple TV team is not Apple’s best product team. Their best and brightest work on the Mac and iPhone. I expect Apple TV 4 to get better over time. I also expect the tvOS team to introduce regressive bugs, which has already happened with the first update. Being a simpler device, there’s less that can go wrong with Apple TV 3. The updates won’t be ambitious, but will be adequate. If you want a pain-free experience, Apple TV 3 is a better option.

The new Apple TV ships with an amazing remote which is, unfortunately, quite fragile. The front face of the new Apple TV Siri remote is made of glass. This is essential for smooth trackpad operation, however, if you drop the remote the glass may shatter. Users have already posted pictures of shattered Apple TV remotes.

Shattered Apple TV 4 Remote

The third generation model comes with an aluminum remote that is virtually indestructible.

Apple TV 3 Remote

Having dropped it a few times, mine doesn’t even have a scratch on it. Even if you aren’t clumsy, we are conditioned to treat TV remotes with less care than a smartphone. Unfortunately, the new remote is as fragile as a smartphone. If you are concerned about breaking the remote and paying $79 to replace it, you might want to stick with Apple TV 3. At $69, the third generation Apple TV costs less than a replacement remote for the new model.

Reasons to Buy the Fourth Generation Model

If you plan on sticking with Apple TV for a long time, it makes sense to invest in the fourth generation model. Apple has already neglected the second generation model, even though it has not reached “end of life”. There is a rather serious issue with the 2nd generation model restarting itself during video playback. Although Apple continues to push content channels to this older device, they refuse to fix this issue.

It’s only a matter of time until they neglect the third generation model. If you just want to play media and don’t care about apps, this may prove problematic if Apple starts neglecting Apple TV 3. Even enjoying a TV show or movie will be a frustrating experience if they refuse to address stability issues, as they have with Apple TV 2.

I got about three years out of Apple TV 2 before they neglected the device. Even then, it was a rocky road with lots of ups and downs. Sometimes it worked well, but they managed to introduce regressive bugs with some updates. There was a period of almost a year, when iOS 5 released, where AirPlay would continually crash. (continue…)

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  1. great information.. Thank you very much..
    I’m already using android tv stick from china.. it worked for 4 years…. and still going on.. but it lags on Cast screen.
    Since i’m an Apple user.. with Mac and Iphone for almost a decade.. and my daughters watch youtube kids on this TV.. from a local store I found a guy selling in 30$.. so after reading your article I think it is worth buying it.

    My question is.. what if i’m not casting everytime or my phone and macbook are busy?.. can we cast from Android phone to Apple TV? and if not.. does Apple TV have any browser to play youtube on that? .. There is no need to play games on TV at all..

    1. You’re welcome.

      There’s a YouTube app for Apple TV, so you won’t need to cast. Apparently, you can use the AllCast app to beam content onto Apple TV from an Android device. I actually have that app on my Android device, but have yet to use it. Apple TV has all of the apps I need, so I haven’t done this yet.

      1. Thanks for your reply.
        I bought that Apple TV A1469 last night. this is great with no lags and 1080p video airplay… i really liked it in this way.

        It has a few channels already but no YouTube. I can’t cast from android phones either. How can i have YouTube in it or anyway to add more channels like kodi tv has options.

        1. It seems like you have the 2nd generation model, which no longer supports YouTube. This was due to a decision on Google’s behalf to end support.

          You can still get YouTube on this device, however, Apple TV doesn’t support “casting” which is an Android thing. Instead, they use AirPlay. Any modern iOS or iPad OS device can beam YouTube onto Apple TV using AirPlay. There are also Android apps that support AirPlay. Just search the Google Play store for AirPlay, and you’ll find something. Then you can beam YouTube and many other apps onto Apple TV.

  2. Please. I have Apple TV 3rd Generation. I have had trouble adding apps. My main interest is classic movies. Or please direct me to where there is a list that tells which apps are REALLY available. Thanks

    1. Hi John. The third generation Apple TV doesn’t allow the user to add apps. Instead, Apple curated “channels” that can appear on the device. Both tvOS and the App Store became available on the fourth generation model.

      Luckily, I have an excellent article that covers third-generation Apple TV channels. I kept this around precisely because there are people, like you, who have older Apple TVs. I still have an Apple TV 2, although it’s not hooked up. I plan on using it as an AirPlay receiver.

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