Apple TV makes finding good shows a breeze
WATCHING television used to be pretty simple. One screen, one remote and a handful of free-to-air stations to choose from.
Sure you might have had a video player and perhaps some external speakers hooked up.
But that was about it.
Nowadays, I can have six remote controls sitting on my lounge room table and cables everywhere.
One for the TV, one for Telstra TV, one for Apple TV, another for the sound bar, another for the Xbox One, another for the Blu-ray player.
In recent months, I've given Telstra TV a good whirl, but more recently I've been using Apple TV.
As someone who predominantly uses an iPhone, the interface is a breeze.
And the controller, which features Siri voice commands, is so much easier to use than having to type in searches.
The remote's controls feature a menu button, home button, microphone button, up and down for the volume, and a play/pause button. It's pretty simple.
The beauty of Apple TV is that the interface is standardised whether you are watching Netflix programs or searching for a movie to watch with the kids on the weekend.
Throw into the mix games which have been designed for use with the controller, as well as fitness, lifestyle and education apps, and it's a pretty decent package.
In recent months, there's also been a stack of classic kids' book released with read-aloud narration and beautiful illustrations.
The pages flip automatically as you go, or if you want to read them to your child, you can go at your own pace.
The Siri Remote swipe controls are a natural way to flip through the pages.
Titles include Dora's Big Buddy Race (free) and the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which is under $5).
One of the my favourite features of Apple TV is the incredible screen saver. Amazing pictures from the world are featured as your 'art' in the lounge room.
Better still, you can bring in some of your favourite family pictures to show off on the big screen.
The Touch surface on the new remote responds well most of the time, though scrolling fast up and down through multiple items on Netflix, for example, can be a little hit and miss.
Playing games proved something of a mixed bag with the controller.
Some like Alto's Adventure, one of my favourites, works beautifully on Apple TV. It is probably one of the most relaxing games you can play on the big screen.
Others didn't fare so well with the controller not quick enough to keep up with the action. It might be put down to controller settings or the game itself.
As well as the swipe controls, you have a menu button which takes you back one step while the home button takes you back to the main screen.
The Siri Remote operates by Bluetooth so you don't have to point it at the screen while it needs charging only a few times a year, via a Lightning connector.
Setting up the Apple TV is very simple. All you need is power, a HDMI connection and a Wi-Fi connection.
You can even use your phone, if it is running i0S9.1, to set it up. You just bring it close to Apple TV when prompted and it will inherit your Wi-Fi settings and password, along with the Apple ID.
WATCHING A MOVIE OR TELEVISON
When you're watching a movie or TV show, it's really easy to move around its timeline.
You can press the Touch surface or the Play/Pause button. Then use the Touch surface to
slide forward or back in time.
You can swipe quickly to fast-forward and rewind across large amounts of time. Or swipe with smaller, more precise movements to go almost frame by frame.
There are also other controls.
Pressing on the left side skips back 10 seconds. You can also press and hold on the left or right side to rewind or fast-forward through time.
You can also skip chapters in a movie. Turn on or change subtitles and switch the language
of a movie (if available).
You can also redirect the sound to compatible speakers or Bluetooth headphones.
USING THE SIRI REMOTE TO FIND STUFF
The Siri remote has two microphones, one to listen to your voice and one to cancel out background noises.
You don't have to search for a specific movie or TV title.
You can ask to see best comedies of the 1980s, or James Bond movies with Sean Connery and it will populate the screen with options.
You could ask to see action movies from the 2016 and then ask to see 'only the good ones' and Siri will narrow the choice based on those critically acclaimed.
Searching for movies in iTunes is particularly good. You get a description, cast, rating, and reviews.
When you order the movie, if you're internet is not speedy, you could see a message which says: 'Movie ready in two hours'.
But most of the time, it was actually only a few minutes, depending on how many kids in the house were streaming YouTube or Netflix at the same time.
One of the coolest features in Siri is you can ask to skip ahead 10 minutes, play from the beginning or if you didn't hear what was just said, ask "What did she say?' and Siri will skip back.
It's pretty clever TV.
Apple TV prices range from $239 for the 32GB version to $299 for the 64GB version.
For the money, it's a good way to upgrade your TV to a 'smart' TV.