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Why I No Longer Recommend the Apple TV Streaming Player

By Brian Shim | Updated 
10/27/2021

The Apple TV streaming player is a small box that connects to your TV via its HDMI port. It gives you the ability to watch streaming services from the Internet on your TV, and it allows you to “mirror” the screen from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to your TV.

Apple TV
My Gen 3 Apple TV

To use Apple TV, you need to have Internet access, and you’ll have to connect your Apple TV to your home Wi-Fi network or router via Ethernet cable.  Connection to Wi-Fi is pretty easy as long as you know your Wi-Fi password.

Why I Now Recommend Roku Instead

For a long time, I used my Apple TV for two exclusive features: the ability to play iTunes-purchased movies, and for AirPlay, the ability to mirror an iOS device's screen to the TV.

Well, with the Apple TV Roku App for the Roku and Amazon Fire TV, you can watch your iTunes content on those devices (which have many more apps than Apple TV does).

And now, with Roku's 2020 software release, select 4K Roku devices like the Roku Ultra have AirPlay capability! I've tested it and it works great! Many new smart TVs also have AirPlay built-in.

With these two features available elsewhere, I don't really see a reason to purchase an Apple TV when you can get more apps with a Roku.

If you're still interested in Apple TV, see my original article below.

The Original Article

I’ve owned an Apple TV for some time now. My conclusion is that it doesn’t replace cable TV, but it does have good content. It’s the only streaming device that natively plays video from the iTunes store (2020 UPDATE: not anymore; Roku and Amazon Fire TV can do that also).  It has apps for many other services like Netflix, Hulu, and so on. If you want to rent videos, especially video on iTunes, and you have other Apple devices and iTunes content, Apple TV might be right for you. If you don’t have iTunes content, then check out the Roku or Amazon Fire TV.

The Apps

The first question you might have is, “what programming can I watch right out of the box without paying for anything?” Well, there is some stuff.  My favorite free video service on there is YouTube. There’s another service called Vimeo that is similar to YouTube. You can also watch movie trailers for free and there is a Wall Street Week app with videos as well. Apple TV launched with just a handful of channels, but now they have almost four pages filled with apps for you to explore:

Apple TV apps screen 1
Apple TV apps screen 1
Apple TV apps screen 2
Apple TV apps screen 2
Apple TV apps screen 3
Apple TV apps screen 3
Apple TV apps screen 4
Apple TV apps screen 4

If you want a selection of top movies and TV to watch, you’ll have to either subscribe to Netflix or purchase shows and movies from the iTunes store (top-release moves are around $4.99, compared to $3.99 on Amazon). If you don’t already have purchased movies on iTunes, then Amazon with Roku is a better choice, since the movies are cheaper.

The new Apple TV also offers Sling TV, a $20-per-month service that offers ESPN, AMC, and other cable channels. This is not available on older Apple TV’s though.

Apple AirPlay – Mirror Your Device to Your TV

Through the use of a wireless technology called Airplay, Apple TV can display whatever is on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac screen onto your TV.  So basically, you have the ability to view any iPad app on your TV!

Mirroring my iPad screen to my TV using Apple TV
Mirroring my iPad screen to my TV using Apple TV Airplay

Above is my 42″ flatscreen TV mirroring my iPad screen while using the NBC iPad App. Note that I had to use my TV’s zoom feature to make the picture fill the whole screen, but the picture quality was still good.

So, while the Apple TV itself doesn’t have the hundreds of channels that Roku does, it basically allows you to view any app that will run on your iPad, which kind of makes up for the lack of native Apple TV channels.

Note that really old iPhones, iPads first-gen, and Macs made before 2011 don’t support Airplay. But all recent Apple devices do.

Overall, Airplay is a killer feature, and it’s the one reason that I still use my Apple TV, even though I usually use a Roku.

The Verdict

I recommend Apple TV if you have lots of video content on iTunes that you want to watch, or if you would like to mirror your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to your TV screen using AirPlay (a killer feature for iPhone users!) Apple TV is available on Amazon.

Otherwise, Roku has more apps and is cheaper!  Amazon Fire TV Stick is a good option as well. 

A lot of folks (including me) have an Apple TV for Airplay and a Roku (or Amazon Fire TV) for the apps.

I hope this has been helpful. What do you think of Apple TV? Please comment below. – Brian

Did You Like This Article?

Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
If you did, please share it and sign up for my email updates. I'll send you my new articles, no more than once a month.

Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

When you comment, you'll automatically receive replies by email. Your email address will not be displayed.

I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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Diahann
Diahann
1 year ago

Great article! Question, I have Spectrum cable, Hulu, Netflix, 2 Amazon fire sticks and I just ordered Apple TV. What can I get rid of or what is a duplication? I need to lower my bills. Thanks, if you can help!

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Diahann

Hi Diahann,

Do you have Spectrum cable TV or just Spectrum cable Internet? You might be able to save money if you just have Internet.

Regarding Hulu and Netflix, it depends on what your viewing requirements are. I personally only subscribe to those services for one or two months at a time. I watch all of the good stuff, then cancel. Maybe six months or a year later, I renew for another month or so.

I assume you're talking about the Apple TV+ service? Same with that; just subscribe in temporary bursts. If you're talking about an Apple TV box, then you don't really need that if you have the Fire Sticks.

Best,
Brian

Radar1941
Radar1941
1 year ago

Roku / Mediacom 52722 / Our grandkids are using Apple TV 4K device together with Hulu, 68007 & 98005 and just internet subscription. They feel it gives them everything they want!
In IA we have Mediacom and would like to eliminate cable from their services: (3) Tivo set top boxes, another smaller TV with just ethernet connection which give us all we want when we're eating.
It sure sounds like the Roku Ultra would do the job for the (3) TVs with Mediacom boxes. If we unsubscribe from their cable services will we still get the few channels coming in directly from the ethernet connection? I would also unsubscribe to their phone service which we do not use (came "standard" the last time I discussed the whole package. With the elimination of cable and phone, it would be much easier to go on "vacation hold" or just cancel until we come back from FL and much cheaper monthly???? I use their internet every day along with news and movies at night on cable.
Does this change make a lot of sense, say using Roku Ultra and Hulu or other? Already subscribe to Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Thank you very much. Bettendorf, IA

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Radar1941

Hi Radar1941,

It depends on exactly which shows you want to watch, but for me and many other folks it definitely makes sense to replace cable with Roku along with streaming services. And yes, the good thing about these services is that they are easy to cancel and re-start, which I do very often. Note that you would need a separate Roku unit for each TV. Ultra is great but a Roku Streaming Stick + also works well if you're on a budget.

Best,
Brian

‘Em Dub
‘Em Dub
1 year ago

I just bought a Sony OLED TV and paid for Apple TV separately. AirPlay is the feature I’m after. I figure I’d stream direct from from the Oregon Ducks website. But, it is this most cost effective way to do it. I can still return it

Also, I want to stream the highest quality picture for sports and movies. I’m cutting the cord. Thanks for the advice.

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  ‘Em Dub

I use my Apple TV and Air Play all of the time to watch content from websites. It should work fine, however, I can't say if it will be the _highest_ picture quality. Sometimes when I stream through Airplay the picture doesn't fill the whole screen. It depends on the streaming service. But, it's still a really useful feature.

Best,
Brian

Lauren
Lauren
2 years ago

Will the Apple TV still work to mirror iPhone/iPad without internet connection? We live in an area without internet, so we use unlimited data from our phones, and a hotspot to stream Hulu+ Live.. Wondering if the Apple TV would be a better alternative than directly plugging the phone/ipad in to an hdmi adapter?

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Lauren

Hi Lauren,

Apple TV has a feature called "Peer-to-Peer Airplay" that gives you the ability to mirror your phone to your Apple TV with some limitations:
https://appletoolbox.com/connect-appletv-without-wifi-how-to/

Note that it should work fine for video stored on your phone, but it may not work with videos from services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, etc. See the article for a more complete list.

So, it may not be suitable for what you want to use it for.

Best,
Brian

Christian Bengel
Christian Bengel
2 years ago

Thanks for the info! I was contemplating getting the Apple TV, but this confirms it's not for us! Thanks again!

Brian
2 years ago

Hi Christian,

Glad this article was helpful to you! Thanks for sharing!

Best,
Brian

Sandra Keyser
Sandra Keyser
2 years ago

I am 72 and trying to reduce my cable bill. I have 2 TV's I want to use. Each has a cable Box. My computer and Wi-Fi has another cable box (or modem). If I buy a roku for each TV can I eliminate the rental of 2 TV cable boxes? Will the Wi-Fi Box work to run the TV's.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Sandra Keyser

Hi Sandra,

Maybe. You'll have to check with your cable TV provider to see if they have a Roku app available, and whether you have to pay extra to stream through that service.

For example, the cable provider in my area is Spectrum TV. They have a Roku app that lets you watch your cable channels as long as you are a subscriber.
https://channelstore.roku.com/details/23048/spectrum-tv

If you have WiFi in your home, your Roku should work with it.

Best,
Brian

R K
R K
3 years ago

Hi Brian, I currently have xfinity cable (w/box) that is connected to an hdmi port on my receiver, along with (1) hdmi cable going to the back of the TV HDMI (ARC PORT). This works great as I get the great sound for movies & sports.. I would like to connect a 4k apple TV box the same way (back of receiver), but will this work and how do I switch from cable TV box to Apple TV? Thanks in advance.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  R K

Hi RK,

The answer depends on the features of your receiver, i.e., whether it has multiple video inputs.

If it does not, then you can get an external HDMI switcher like one of these:
https://amzn.to/2PQBXCe

To switch sources, you'd have to press a button on the switch box.

Thanks,
Brian

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