The Apple TV is a set-top box that you connect to your TV to stream video from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and more. The device connects to your home network to obtain an Internet connection, and has some interesting functionality that lets it connect to and communicate with other Apple devices in your house.
The Apple TV is a very polished, versatile device and if you are in the market for a product like this, then it will certainly get a lot of use in your home. But there are some misconceptions about the capabilities of the Apple TV, so continue reading below to learn about 5 facts that are important to know of before you decide to buy an Apple TV.
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1. There isn’t an Amazon Prime app or a Spotify app on the Apple TV, and there probably won’t be
It’s no secret that some of the largest tech companies are competing in the digital media space, as there is a lot of money to be made there as cable subscriptions dwindle and video streaming service subscriptions rise.
Two of the biggest competing companies for purchase and rental videos are Amazon and Apple, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Apple TV does not have an Amazon Prime app. If you want to rent or purchase videos on the Apple TV, then you are going to have to do so through iTunes.
On that same note, Spotify is a big competitor for Apple in the streaming music space, and Apple would prefer that you buy music from their iTunes Store, or subscribe to Apple Music.
2. Video streaming requires a very good Internet connection
While the Apple TV may not provide easy access to Amazon Prime, you can use apps to stream Netflix and Hulu videos alongside your iTunes content. And while the availability of broadband Internet access has increased, not everyone has fast Internet access. Therefore, if you intend to stream video over the Internet it is recommended that your connection meet the following criteria:
- SD (standard definition, or 480p) streaming – 3 Megabits per second
- HD (high definition, or 1080p) streaming – 5 Megabits per second
- Ultra HD (ultra high definition, or 4K, or 2160p) – 25 Megabits per second
You can check the speed of your Internet connection by visiting fast.com.
While it is theoretically possible to stream video with a slower Internet connection than that, the quality of the streamed video may be very low, choppy, or unable to play at all.
3. There is no monthly or yearly fee for the Apple TV, but you still need to pay the monthly memberships for your streaming video services
After your initial purchase of the Apple TV, there is not any additional subscriptions, memberships, or any other fee directly associated with the Apple TV.
However, if you want to watch Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, or rent any movies, you will need to pay for those. If you wish to rent or purchase movies from iTunes through the Apple TV, then you must ensure that you have set up your Apple ID on the Apple TV, and that you have a payment method associated with that Apple ID. iTunes movie rentals are good for 30 days from the time you purchase them, but they expire 24 hours after you start watching them.
4. The only devices that can use AirPlay are other Apple products (at least without some additional software)
The AirPlay capability on the Apple TV is arguably the strongest feature that sets the Apple TV apart from other streaming box options. Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac can all stream content directly from the device to the Apple TV and, in many cases, can even mirror the device’s screen on your television. It’s easy to do with a device that is on the same Wi-Fi network as the Apple TV, and opens up a level of device connectivity that truly feels futuristic.
While this is excellent news if you own an iPhone or an iPad, you’re kind of cast aside if you don’t have one. There are ways to force AirPlay functionality on other types of devices (with software like AirParrot), but they require additional software and a bit of additional work.
5. The Apple TV does not come with an HDMI cable, and is not easy to connect to a TV without HDMI
While this is not something that is unique to the Apple TV in comparison to other set-top streaming devices, it is good to know that you won’t have everything you need to use the Apple TV when you buy one. You are going to need to buy an HDMI cable, or re-purpose one that is already in use somewhere else in your home. Fortunately HDMI cables are inexpensive on Amazon, so you can get one relatively fast at a low price if you need to.
But HDMI is the only video-out option on the Apple TV, which presents a problem if you want to connect it to a TV without an HDMI input port. You can try to use an HDMI converter (view on Amazon) to switch the HDMI connection to an RCA connection, but that results in a significant loss in video quality, and is still going to require an HDMI cable and a set of RCA cables (view on Amazon) if you don’t already have them at home.
But if none of these potential issues seem like they are going to dissuade you from purchasing an Apple TV, then it is a product that you are going to love, and derive a lot of use from. The device is easy to use, there are a lot of different ways to watch the content that you want, and AirPlay provides so many fun and exciting ways to use the apps on your iPhone and iPad that you may find yourself looking for more ways to incorporate it into your everyday life.
If you are investigating streaming device options for your home and haven’t made up your mind about the Apple TV, then you can also check out the following similar articles:
- 5 things to know before you buy a Roku Premiere +
- 5 things to know before you buy an Amazon Fire TV Stick
A set-top streaming box has a place in any home with a Netflix subscription, but each of the popular set-top streaming box devices have their own lists of pros and cons. It’s definitely worthwhile to see all of the options available to you in that marketplace before you choose the right one.
Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech tutorials since 2008. His writing has appeared on dozens of different websites and been read over 50 million times.
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science he spent several years working in IT management for small businesses. However, he now works full time writing content online and creating websites.
His main writing topics include iPhones, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Android, and Photoshop, but he has also written about many other tech topics as well.
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