5 things you should know about the new Apple TV

So you either just purchased the latest version of the Apple TV, or you’re thinking about buying one. Here’s everything you need to know about one of the best set-top box streaming devices currently on the market.

The new Apple TV has gaming powerhouse potential

While the Apple TV’s games selection is sparse right now, the new set-top box has the potential to become a great way to game at home. No, it won’t replace your Xbox or PlayStation, but it could become a secondary gaming machine, one designed specifically with mobile game creators in mind, as well as an easy way for indie developers to get their titles on living room televisions.

If any company can make the trojan horse streaming box with gaming capabilities concept successful, it’s Apple. We’ve seen Roku attempt to do this and ultimately fail with the Roku 3 (hopefully the Roku 4 fares better), and the wide range of Android streaming boxes currently available have less than stellar game selections. There are a couple of great Android TV titles – the Final Fantasy series and Telltale’s The Walking Dead franchise for example – but most unfortunately have not been optimized for larger screens.

Current standout new Apple TV titles include Supergiant Game’s Transistor, top-down Zelda inspired Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (the game’s name is strange, but give it a try, it’s really good), Beat Sports, Badland, Crossy Road, and Alto’s Adventure, a game that has translated surprisingly well to televisions.

It’s still early days, but even during the final hours I spent pulling together my Apple TV review, games continued to pop up on the Apple TV App Store. It’ll be a few weeks (possibly months) before we know for sure, but Apple’s new set-top box is poised to be a considerable threat to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo when it comes to casual, pick-up-and-play titles.

However, it’s important to point out a significant number of games on the Apple TV are a little pricey right now, with some titles costing as much at $15.99. With this said though, the prospect of cross-buy titles that only require one purchase – basically, buy the iOS version of a game and you also get its Apple TV counterpart – could negate this issue.

The possibility of most Apple TV games supporting third-party game controllers is also exciting, although it will be interesting to see if this trend continues with game releases post launch.

If you aren’t in a hurry, wait for more apps

Apple TVWhile the Apple TV’s launch lineup is solid, the device’s library has a few glaring omissions. This means that is you aren’t in a hurry to purchase a new set-top box, it might be worth waiting a few months before getting your hands on the Apple TV.

The lack of dedicated DLNA streaming apps like Plex is an issue for me given that a significant amount of the video content I consume comes from downloaded sources. Because of this, until Plex comes to the Apple TV – and it will at some point in the near future – the set-top box can’t be my main streaming machine.

Another notable holdout is NHL GameCentre Live, the NHL’s dedicated subscription-based streaming platform. Streaming applications related to every other major sport will be present on the new Apple TV at launch, but for whatever reason, the NHL’s dedicated app isn’t ready yet. Apple says it’s coming at some point soon, but a specific release date has not been revealed.

Since tvOS is based on iOS 9, porting over apps is reportedly a painlessprocess for developers. This means more apps are likely coming and it’s just a matter of time until the Apple TV’s operating system becomes more vibrant.

Region switching works with Netflix, but gets complicated with other appsUnblock-Us

I’m a DNS region jumper. This means that I frequently switch between U.S., Canadian, Mexican and U.K. Netflix on an almost daily and sometimes even hourly basis, with the help of programs like Unblock-Us (there are a variety of DNS services out there, but Unblock-Us is the best I’ve used).

While Netflix region jumping works with the new Apple TV as long as your router is set to an American DNS address, accessing U.S. exclusive streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu and HBO Go, as well as any app that isn’t natively available in the Canadian iOS App Store, is impossible.

In order to download these apps people will need to create a U.S. Apple ID, complicating the region switching process significantly. Of course the Roku 3 and almost every other streaming device also has similar problems when it comes to region jumping.

While this issue only affects a small segment of the new Apple TV’s user base, it could poise a significant problem for some users, especially those who are unaware of how complicated region jumping can get in some situations.

Siri Remote voice searching actually works

appletv4greview-01629A significant number of set-top boxes include contextual voice search and navigation. The best streaming box released so far to implement voice recognition is the Roku 3, although the set-top box frequently fails to follow commands correctly. The Google Nexus Player’s Voice Search also suffers from similar problems.

The New Apple TV features the best voice navigation integration I’ve experienced in a set-top box so far. Simple commands such as, “Go to Netflix,” or, “Play Crossy Road,” are responded to instantly.

Furthermore, the ability to sift through movies and television shows available in every application via voice search, speeds up navigation considerably, especially when searching for specific information.

I’m typically not a fan of voice activated controls, but give the Apple TV’s commands a try; they’re intuitive and actually make sense.

The new Apple doesn’t support 4K (and this probably won’t matter to you)

The new Apple TV’s biggest detractors often cite the set-top box’s lack of 4K support as the device’s most significant issue. But in reality, at least when it comes to the average individual, the new Apple TV not supporting 4K really won’t matter, at least not yet.

While the 4K content floodgates are slowly opening – Netflix Originals are available in 4K, and Rogers plans to release a selection of movies and television shows in 4K this year – Ultra High Definition (UHD) content is still rare.

In two or three years, 4K will become more common, but as it stands right now, UHD televisions are expensive and the lack of available content doesn’t justify the additional investment.

So while it’s awesome the latest version of the Amazon Fire TV and the Roku are 4K capable, good luck finding content actually worth watching, especially in Canada.

Related reading: Apple TV review: Apple reimagines the set-top box