Apple TV sometimes feels like the black sheep of Cupertino, but it got some love last week when Apple dropped the price to $69.
That's $30 cheaper than the original price, making Apple TV just a little more competitive with media streamers from Roku, Amazon, and Google. If you need a streaming set-top box and have Apple TV back on your radar, allow me to help break it down.
Reasons for buying an Apple TV
You're deeply invested in iTunes: If you already own a large library of iTunes music and videos, Apple TV is a no-brainer. Any movies, TV shows, or music you've purchased through iTunes are instantly available on Apple TV, and you can also stream anything in your iTunes library from networked computers over Wi-Fi.
With other set-top boxes, such as Roku and Fire TV, your only options are to strip the digital rights management (DRM) from your videos, and migrate your songs to iTunes alternatives such as Google Play Music or Amazon Music. It's not worth the hassle.
You're an all-Apple home: iTunes isn't the only Apple service that hooks into Apple TV. You can also view any photos you've uploaded to iCloud, listen to your subscriptions from Apple's Podcasts app, and watch your edited home movies through iMovie. You can also use AirPlay, which lets you beam music and videos from virtually any iOS app, and mirror the display from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
Other media streamers have their own podcast apps, screen casting features, and media sharing capabilities, too. But if you use Apple's services and are comfortable with them, why switch? Apple TV provides the easiest path.
You don't want to mess around: Unlike other media streamers, Apple TV doesn't have a proper app store. Instead, every app for Apple TV is laid out in front of you from the moment you set up the device. Apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube are installed out of the box, along with individual apps from TV networks and websites.
There's something to be said for this curated approach. While it's not as flexible as a full-blown app store, you'll spend less time plumbing the depths of digital store fronts, and you might be more encouraged to try some channels you'd otherwise overlook. (And yes, you can customize the layout.)
You can't wait to watch Game of Thrones: One of the big announcements at Apple's press event last week was HBO Now, a standalone service that streams all of the channel's past and current shows. Apple is the exclusive "non-paid television provider" for three months, which means you can't get HBO Now any other way unless your Internet provider cuts its own deal. In other words, Apple TV will be your safest route if you want HBO in time for the start of Game of Thrones' fifth season on April 12.
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