Apple TV Is Not Great (But It's The Best There Is)

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by macUser2007, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. macUser2007 macrumors 65832

    May 30, 2007
    I've had a HTPC for the last 10 years or so (WMCE, JRMC, XBMC, Plex, MediaPortal and a few others). I have also had various stand-alones, like Roku 1 and 2, Chromecast and Boxee.

    Since ATV3 I have transitioned to using Apple TVs exclusively, mostly because of AirPlay, but have been getting progressively frustrated with Apple's restrictive policies, lack of useful apps, lack of codec support (yes, MKV), etc..

    Chromecast (the HDMI dongle) is just not all that useful as a full-fledged entertainment device, since it

    So, I picked up a Roku 3, with high hope about the updated UI.

    Hooked it up and yes! the Roku does pretty much everything I need, including streaming from photo services like SmugMug, and much faster than iCloud, which is slow and just about useless for large size images.

    Roku can play MKVs, has some great channels and overall it is much more robust than Apple TV.


    Roku's UI just sucks. I thought Apple TV's UI is getting long in the tooth, but Roku's new UI looks like something from a decade ago. It's UGLY. It's INCONSISTENT. It's bad enough that my wife declared that it looks too home-made and she is not having it.

    Why a large, successful company like Roku cannot come up with a more polished UI and enforce certain UI guidelines for third-party apps, is beyond me. And this is their best effort in 2013?!

    So, I am back to Apple TV. Not happy, but for now, resigned.
  2. Robisan macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2014
    I'd rather have an ugly UI that ultimately allows me to do what I want than a beautiful UI on a neutered, closed device.
  3. macUser2007 thread starter macrumors 65832

    May 30, 2007
    Uhm, not so fast.

    Ugly UI and consumer unfriendliness is why most of these boxes fail and while ATV sells relatively well.

    I was personally totally fed up with ATV, but ROKU 3 is not the solution (for me), unfortunately.
  4. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    Here's how I use my Apple TV:

    I sit down in the living room and decide to watch a movie. I pick up my the remote control and wake up my Apple TV. I choose 'Computers' and navigate to my office machine. The Apple TV wakes up my Mac in the office which powers up its external drives, ready to serve up my movie. As I watch the movie, I get a little sleepy and move to the bedroom where I pick up my movie where I left it in the living room. The movie ends, I fall asleep. The Apple TV goes to sleep. The TV powers off. A few minutes later the office machine goes to sleep, powering off its external drives.

    I think the Apple TV and its ecosystem are beyond great. Would I trade any of this to be able to natively play an mkv? Never.

  5. torana355 macrumors 68030

    Dec 8, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    Ill stick with my HTPC running XBMC. It looks great, functions well, plays everything and has tons of customisation.
  6. macUser2007 thread starter macrumors 65832

    May 30, 2007
    Yeah, but I find it that while I am generally happy with HTPC, it is too user-unfriendly for general consumption. It always works perfectly, until I am away and my wife tries to watch a movie.... Then I get a call.

    Plus, Netflix on XBMC just sucks, which is a deal-breaker for me (better on Plex, but that has similar issues).

    Apple TV (and even the ugly UI ROKU) is much more user-friendly and simple, for the most part. But there is still A LOT of room for improvement.
  7. torana355 macrumors 68030

    Dec 8, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    I have XBMC setup so anyone can figure it out. The biggest test was letting my Mum try and figure it out as she is hopeless with technology, even she was able to operate it with ease. I have it setup so it wakes from sleep when you hit the power button on my HTPC remote, once its awake it's already in XBMC at the main menu, all you have to do is select movies or tv shows and make your selection. Once your done you just hit the power button on the remote again and it goes back to sleep. I don't use netflix so that is not an issue for me personally.
  8. LV426 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 22, 2013
    Yeah, it is pretty clever. You'll also find that if you use your laptop to play a movie and then start streaming it to the Apple TV, your Apple TV remote will then control the laptop.
  9. StinDaWg macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2012
    Use the Windows 8 Metro app (assuming you have Windows 8).

    I could never give up my HTPC for a standalone box, but I do get your point about wife/less technical people not understanding how to use it.
  10. steveh552 macrumors regular

    Jan 30, 2014
    I am new to the Apple world and ecosystem but so far I guess I do not have enough experience to NOT like my ATV. For the longest time we did not have cable/dish or internet here at home but turned the web on a month ago. I was already running an iPhone 5s which I fell in love with and then bought the rMBP and a Airport Extreme. I bought a NeoTV for the living room for netflix and the like and then decided I needed a TV in my bedroom and bought one, and went with the ATV with that. It does everything I expect it to do, I use Airplay from either my computer or phone quite often with it, but otherwise its netflix or youtube. Works well for our purpose.
  11. BuddyRich macrumors member


    Mar 21, 2012
    Ive got an ATV3 for our living room TV where my wife does most of her watching (netflix). We also occasionally rent from itunes on it. But its a small 40" with no fancy sound system. Ive been mulling adding a sound bar but have not yet. I run AirVideo server and can airplay and transcode my bluray collection on the fly to it from iphone or ipad. I do also use home sharing for ALACs but find it looses connection quite often. Then again wireless syncing is hit or miss. Big problem is bonjour support on Windows.

    OTOH Win8 based HTPC with XBMC all the way for the basement projector. It supports DTS-MA and Dolby TruHD lossless for the 7.1 sound system, and the win 8 netflix app does SuperHD and 1080p. I have it launch seamlessly from XBMC and go back to XBMC when closed. Its hard to beat. Nothing but Harmony One remote is needed. Its quite intuitive.
  12. utazdevl macrumors regular


    Jul 18, 2008
    I have been using an AppleTV for the better part of 8 years and for the last 5 years, it has been an every day use item in my home. I had a Roku for about 2 years, but ultimately, I ended up back to using my AppleTV almost exclusively.

    There certainly are things about my AppleTV that I don't like. It seems to "disconnect" from my computer a couple times a month (known issue) and while reconnecting it isn't an issue for my, trying to walk my wife through that process while I am at the office and one of my 2 kids is complaining they want to watch their show on the TV isn't easy. I also much prefer the Netflix interface on the Roku and even my Panasonic SMART TV to that of the AppleTV. Not sure why the auto-advance to the next episode feature isn't on the AppleTV, but I wish it was. And of course, I wish there were more channels/options on the AppleTV.

    But what the AppleTV does have that is a MASSIVE advantage over the other set top boxes is the best way to stream your own content to the TV. That is 90% of what I do. I have an encode collection of about 800 movies (100 in HD) and about 3500 TV episodes and I have yet to find any kind of box that puts those encodes on my TV screen with anywhere near the ease the AppleTV does. The only way I have seen on the Roku to do with is Plex, but it makes no sense to me to upload my content so I can download it to watch it, when it is sitting on drives 25 feet from the TV. It just doesn't make sense to use the internet bandwidth when I can just stream locally. Also, the Plex interface is more customizeable, but not so much that it makes any noticeable difference to iTunes.

    I have read a lot of people complaining about iTunes being clunky and not being able to work with lots of different file formats, but I have never felt restricted by this issue. I just encode everything into .mp4/.m4v format and have never had any issue with conversion or file quality.

    So I have to ask this, is there something I am missing with all these other streaming box options? Is there a local content option on the Roku or even a Chromecast (which I had for 2 days and promptly returned) that I have missed that makes these devices superior to the AppleTV? Are the other file formats (.avi, .flv or .mkv) I can't use because I am AppleTV locked really that much greater?

    I am open to the possibility of something greater than the AppleTV, but I just haven't seen it as existing yet.
  13. torana355 macrumors 68030

    Dec 8, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    Im almost 100% sure the Roku can stream local content but as you say it has to be though a Plex channel, im not what you mean by having to upload your content though?. If all you want to do is stream local content the WDTV or Boxee can do that perfectly and they read almost all formats. Personally i prefer the dedicated HTPC route, you can run it on an Intel NUC if you want a really small footprint.
  14. utazdevl macrumors regular


    Jul 18, 2008
    My understanding of Plex is that you are uploading your content to some kind of a private cloud system, and then streaming the content through the Plex app on your Roku (or other mobile devices). I do know that if your connection to the internet is down, you cannot use Plex, so clearly there is some kind of online stream taking place.

    I am a Mac user at home, so I have never bought in on the Windows-based HTPC concept. Contemplated using a Mac Mini, but didn't really feel like I gained that much for the extra cost. Not at all familiar with the Intel NUC. Simplicity is very important for us, since my wife is not at all tech savvy.

    I kind of think this confirms my thoughts, as well as those of TOP, the AppleTV is the place to be.
  15. torana355 macrumors 68030

    Dec 8, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    If you don't mind re-encoding your media so it can be read by the ATV then yes is may be the best option for you. However you don't really seem very open to any alternatives anyway so not much point trying to explain them any further. I can say from personal experience that my HTPC is by far the most intuitive setup i have had, ive had many friends ask how to setup something similar for them as soon as they see my setup.
  16. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    What is this "re-encode" of which you speak? I convert my DVD/Blu-Ray rips directly to Apple TV format. Or do you intend that I should keep those 4+ GB extracts on my hard drive?

  17. VideoBeagle macrumors 6502a

    Aug 17, 2010
    App Q&A testing by request.
    I say it in many threads.. Look into BEAMER

    It's basically VNC for Apple TV...I have not found a format it can't play, including .ts, wmv and rmvb. It is dirt cheap ($15), and usually works better than iTunes for sending.
  18. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I'll just say I have multiple devices that do multiple things and some do it better than others.

    My Oppo Blu Ray player has a mediocre DLNA screen but I can select movies and play HD quality files with HD audio streams. ATV3 cannot do this, nor Roku etc. I also have an XBMC dedicated Mac Mini running Linux. I opted for non-OSX so I could get full HD audio which OSX (Apple) refused to support.

    My Oppo, my TiVo and my TV offer some of the streaming services as well. I would never consider ATV in my home as it is beyond limiting and is nothing more than a well designed vehicle for Apple to sell their wares from iTunes store. This is akin to Kodak's instamatic cameras of long ago which were only designed to get consumers to buy Kodak film.

    It really doesn't matter which direction someone goes to get their needs filled as long as the end result is what they want. People who love iTunes and its ease have their needs met and people like me, well it is not an option as there are plenty of other good choices that offer superior results.

    Since I am not a fanboy so to speak for any company it makes things both easier and harder as there are so many options out there.

    Marantz AVR
    XBMC/Linux on Mac Mini quad 2.0
    Oppo 103 blu ray player (offers various streaming services)
    Panasonic Plasma (offers various streaming services)
    TiVo Roamio (offers various streaming services)
    iPhone 5s, iPad Mini Retina (various remote apps)
    Mac Mini 2.6 standard set up with OSX, 16 gig RAM, 512 Samsung 840 Pro, external blu ray r/w, etc.
  19. utazdevl macrumors regular


    Jul 18, 2008
    Well, now I am curious. How do you import your content? I rip from discs, so basically I make an MKV file of a Blu-ray and then transcode to MP4. DVD's go straight to MP4 when they are ripped. Blu-rays take about 4 total hours (1 for the MKV and 3 for the MP4) and DVD's take about 45 minutes.

    Is there some gain to other file formats? Are they better quality for less file size? It might be nice to save 3 hours per Blu-Ray title.
  20. thehustleman macrumors 65816

    Jan 3, 2013

    But roku's UI isn't bad though.

    It's a better product (more options, more channels, it does everything).

    Although I'll take a PS4 over all of them
  21. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    The convert part is a re-encode, or more correctly, a transcode.

    It is analogous to ripping a CD from native Redbook to MP3.

    Now the part where the contention comes in, is if that transcode creates any noticeable differences. There is definitely a loss of information, but the question is does it matter other then to just say it does.

    The only way to get around that is to use a "container" format that allows different kinds of video and audio codecs to be packed inside the container. The two biggest universal containers being MKV and AVI. So you can just transfer the raw data and audio from the Blu-Ray or DVD and put into the MKV/AVI container. The disadvantage to this is you have to have a high level of compatibly for all kinds of codecs instead of requiring a more strict set of codecs like Apple does.
  22. matrix07 macrumors 601


    Jun 24, 2010
    I don't believe this is possible. Especially all this "The TV powers off. A few minutes later the office machine goes to sleep, powering off its external drives."
  23. Altemose macrumors G3


    Mar 26, 2013
    Elkton, Maryland
    I read somewhere that Apple may introduce an Apple TV SDK. I am not sure about the legitimacy of that statement but it would certainly fix what you want. Apple gives us some great features like AirPlay with great quality of the hardware and beautiful and easy to use software. They do not have the support that some other brands do though. Kind of a trade off... However, since Apple is seeing better sales on the Apple TV I am sure it will no longer be their pet product.
  24. nebo1ss macrumors 68030

    Jun 2, 2010
    Your understanding of Plex is totally wrong. Plex is client server app I run the server part on an apple Mac Mini with a mixture of Video types MP4. AVI. MKV.

    I run multiple clients. One on the Macmini with an HDMI connector to a sony TV another on a Smart Samsung TV, one on an Ipad and another on the Iphone.

    All of my devices share the media on the Plex server. I do not need a connection to the internet to access my media unless I am away from home.

    The big advantage of Plex is that it can play any type of media and as far as I am concerned the interface is much better than apple TV.
  25. utazdevl macrumors regular


    Jul 18, 2008
    OK, that makes a lot more sense about people's love for Plex. I know people who swear by it, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why, but that is my lack of understanding, it would seem.

    What are the advantages of being able to play AVIs and MKV, as opposed to just converting everything to the iTunes friendly .m4v format?

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