Review roundup: Apple TV shows future promise

Some early reviews of the new Apple TV are out, and the general response to Apple's latest spin on the set-top box appears positive. We took a gander at some of the reviews and summarized them for your pleasure. The zeitgeist seems to be that the Apple TV isn't perfect right now, but it appears to have a ton of future potential.

At first blush, the Apple TV impresses. The reviewers we surveyed found the initial setup process quick and painless, and the touchpad-enabled remote received universal praise. The user interface (and implicitly, the underlying hardware) was equally well-liked. Reviewers describe tvOS as fast, smooth, and simple to navigate with the touchpad's help.

The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler did point out that navigation isn't always simple, though. He says "each app is its own world," and third-party UIs are sometimes inconsistent with the base operating system. Still, he and others say they still prefer the Apple TV over the competition in this regard.

Apple made a lot of noise about Siri's role on the new device, and perhaps with good reason. Reviewers praise Siri's context-aware search functionality, as well as the ability to ask the assistant questions like "what did he say?", which will roll back a video a few seconds and enable subtitles. However, Siri didn't get straight As. Cult of Mac's Leander Kahney found the assistant very inconsistent in its results. Siri apparently understood him just fine, but ran into problems when acting on the given instructions. Walt Mossberg notes that Siri doesn't  work in the App Store, either. He thinks Siri needs to work everywhere to be truly effective.

The Apple TV's content and app selection mostly satisfied reviewers. Whether the Apple TV can replace your cable box is less clear. Almost all reviewers say the best option for that  purpose would be the Roku 4, but it's also expected that the Apple TV's content selection and software will evolve quickly to fill any gaps. For the moment, many sports events and live shows are still MIA. On balance, the WSJ's Fowler says the Apple TV currently serves as a jumping-off point for people dipping their toes into streaming services.

One complaint was universal: Amazon content is missing. That may not be surprising, given the e-tailer's recent spat over some third-party TV devices. Although the usual suspects like Netflix and Hulu are in the lineup, Amazon Prime will likely remain absent from the list of Apple TV apps. Last but not least, some reviewers chided Apple for the lack of 4K support. Although the number of folks with 4K TV sets and sources of 4K content to play on those sets is limited, this still seems like a relevant omission on a device that's being billed as the future of TV.

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