The Apple TV is going on two years without a refresh, possibly hinting that Apple is close to giving up on the streaming set-top box, but the bigger questions perhaps is whether or not the Apple TV is still worth buying.
With so many new streaming boxes released over the last couple of years since the launch of the third-generation Apple TV, many users question if the Apple TV is still as useful when it first released back in 2012. Since that time, we’ve been introduced to a ton of new streaming options, including newer Roku hardware, the Chromecast, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, the new Nexus Player, and more.
Many of the features of the Apple TV can easily be found on other streaming boxes, especially if you just need access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, or most other streaming apps, as pretty much all streaming boxes come with the major streaming services included.
However, the Apple TV still has its many unique features that users find extremely useful, and only the Apple TV can provide them.
If you’re wondering if you should spend the $99 (or $75 for a refurbished model) on an Apple TV, here are some factors that you should keep in mind to see if Apple’s streaming box is the best one for you, or if you could get away with a cheaper solution.
Apple TV Features
The Apple TV can do a lot of the stuff that other streaming boxes can do, like play Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc., but where the Apple TV actually signs is with its iTunes Home Sharing features and AirPlay.
AirPlay allows you to beam supportable content from your Apple device (like an iPhone, iPad or Mac) to your television using the Apple TV as the delivery man of sorts, allowing you to show photos on the big screen, as well as play videos on your device, but have them show up on your living room television though AirPlay.
While AirPlay is one of the Apple TV’s unique features, you actually don’t need an Apple TV to use AirPlay for the most part. Apps like AirServer and AirParrot for Mac and Windows allow you to beam content to a nearby computer to its display. Granted, it’s not the same as your 50-inch television, but it’s a quick and dirty solution if you want to view iPhone or iPad content on a larger screen.
As for Home Sharing, it’s really only a feature that’s useful if you’re deeply embedded into Apple’s iTunes ecosystem.
Simply put, Home Sharing allows you to easily share your iTunes media library with multiple devices in your home, including other computers and even an Apple TV. It’s essentially an incredibly easy method to have all of your music and other media files sync across all computers in your household, and you can even access all your media on the Apple TV and play it on your television.
Of course, Home Sharing is only useful if you use iTunes for your music, movies, TV shows, etc. Otherwise, it’s pretty useless. This is where other streaming boxes may be more useful for you.
Apple TV Price vs Competitors
The Apple TV costs $99 from the Apple Store, or you can pick up a refurbished model for $75. This price has never changed since the third-generation Apple TV launched in 2012, which makes it quite more expensive than other newer streaming boxes that have launched since then.
For instance, the new Fire TV Stick is priced at just $40, making it one of the cheapest standalone streaming solutions available, and the Chromecast is just $35, although it relies on a second device for streaming content, whereas the Fire TV Stick is completely standalone and acts as a normal streaming box.
Both the Nexus Player and Amazon’s Fire TV streaming boxes are $99 (the same price as the Apple TV), but they come with a really neat feature called voice search that allows you to shout out the name of a movie or TV show and it’ll automatically pop up without you actually having to type anything in. That alone is a huge feature that benefits users greatly since entering in text using a small remote just isn’t ideal.
The Bottom Line
If you’re debating about whether or not to buy an Apple TV, it really comes down to how hardcore of an Apple user you are. If you don’t think you’ll ever use AirPlay or Home Sharing, then it’s probably a safe bet that you really don’t need an Apple TV and can buy another streaming box option instead.
Personally, I’ve been playing around with the Fire TV Stick for a few days, and it’s an absolutely steal for just $40 if you really just want access to the basics like Netflix and Hulu Plus.