Apple TV (2014) review

The ideal streaming partner for Apple users, but not much choice for anybody else Tested at £80

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The ideal streaming partner for Apple users, but not much choice for anybody else


  • +

    Smooth operation

  • +

    Excellent integration (for Apple devices)


  • -

    Limited app options

  • -

    Too closed for non-Apple users

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Apple will always do its own thing. Take media streamers, for example. This sector has changed a great deal in the last year alone, but the folks at Cupertino have done little to the Apple TV.

The company simply calls this the Apple TV. Its real name is the Apple TV (3rd generation) Rev A. That is to say, this is a slightly tweaked version of the Apple TV released in 2012. Its chipset has been redesigned to use less power. It costs less to produce, and the retail price has come down a little.

Essentially, this is a device launched about three years ago. Is it a fossil, or a timeless design?


First, some ground rules. This is Apple, so things inevitably fall a certain way. The priority is iTunes and Apple devices. If you don’t have an account, or a Mac computer, or an iOS device, you will not get the most out of the Apple TV.

This is Apple’s way, which contrasts with the Google Chromecast’s welcoming approach to iOS and Android devices alike. It’s frustrating, but not surprising. If you’ve joined the club, you’re in for VIP treatment.

The Apple TV can play anything and everything you’ve bought through iTunes. You can also mirror the screen of your Mac or iOS device using Apple AirPlay over your home’s network.

The latest firmware allows direct AirPlay between the Apple TV and devices running either iOS8 or OSX Yosemite – with no need for a network. If that’s not enough for you, you can buy or rent films, shows and music right there on the Apple TV.

The shop front is right at the top of the screen, in a carousel. You have access to Apple’s entire library right there, so you can watch until you dry out your eyes (or bank account). Video quality is good, going up to 1080p.

You also get Dolby Digital 5.1 passthrough, where applicable.

Tired of iTunes? There is… not much else. The app offering is meagre compared with others here. The only stars are Netflix, Now TV and YouTube. We are well familiar with Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach, but it’s hard not to be frustrated in this age of choice.

And it’s not like you can bring your own bottle to the party, either: you can’t stream from your networked computer or NAS drive, nor add a USB stick.

MORE: Best streaming video services

Design and build

The device has the following ports: power, HDMI out, microUSB (for service only), optical out, and ethernet. There’s wi-fi too. Naturally build quality is faultless, and it gets better still when we caress the remote control, a minimalist wand of aluminium.

Operation is typical of Apple: super-slick (although set-up and firmware updates are fiddly).


The Apple TV is a gorgeous piece of kit, and for those who have bought into Apple’s way everything is lovely.

But we don’t think that’s enough anymore, especially when similar money buys more versatile options, such as the Roku 3. Loosen up, eh, Apple?

See all our media streamer reviews

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test