What Is Apple TV?

Learn More About This Set-top Box for Streaming TV Content

4th Generation Apple TV Media Streamer Set-top Box
4th Generation Apple TV Media Streamer Set-top Box. Image © Apple, Inc.

It's an honest mistake. When people hear about Apple TV, Google TV, or Android TV, they picture a big screen television with special features. While a Google TV needs its own explanation, an Apple TV is a small network media player that can stream both from your home computers and from online.

Apple TV Basics 

Apple TV is a small device (similar in size and appearance to the Roku Box or Amazon FireTV) that uses an HDMI cable to connect to your television.

It also uses Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) to connect to your home network and the internet.

The purpose Apple TV is to provide users with the ability to stream media, such as photos, movies and music from iPhones, the iTunes store, or from other partners like Netflix, HuluPlus, PandoraHBOGO or HBONow, to enjoy on your TV and home theater audio system.

The early Apple TV models had a hard drive that would sync with your computers' iTunes libraries. You could also buy movies from the iTunes store, download and save them to the Apple TV's hard drive. Since the second generation, Apple TV does not have a hard drive so it can only stream media, including media from your iTunes library on a connected device, such as your computer or iPhone.

The Apple TV can stream music or movies stored in a computer's iTunes library, as well as content from  iTunes radio. It does not see videos or other music stored in folders on your computers.

The good news is that Apple TV works seamlessly with Mac computers and PCs running iTunes.

The bad news is that you cannot access movies that have been downloaded and saved outside of an iTunes library. If you are an iTunes or iPhone user, Apple TV might be right for you. If you have a number of computers in your home network or a network attached storage (NAS) device and desire access to digital media file saved on those devices, you may want to choose another type of network media player that is DLNA compatible or certified.

On the other hand, you can stream photos and videos from your iPhone wirelessly using AirPlay, and you can also access content stored on Apple's iCloud.

Apple TV 4th Generation Adds App Store and Siri Remote

The 4th Generation Apple TV debuted in 2015 with an app focus and a new operating system, tvOS. This new version can access the App Store and provides growing number of third-party apps, with developers welcome to create more. Not only is video available, so are more than 1000 game apps.

Navigation is provided with a touchpad-enabled Siri remote that has a built-in microphone for voice interaction and an accelerometer for swipe-to-select motion. Disappointingly, there is no support for 4K UHD video or for live TV. More;  4th Generation Apple TV Media Streamer With Added Capabilities

Apple TV Options

Available through Best Buy - Updated as needed

For additional non-Apple TV options, check out my periodically updated list of Network Media Players and Media Streamers.

Apple TV Through the Years