Apple TV is a digital media player, one of the most popular of its kind. It has the ability to receive digital data from a range of sources, and then stream it to a capable television.

And although the device does not get the same press as other Apple products like the Mac, iPhone, or even the iPad, it is famous among home theater enthusiasts, many of which who see this as the best streaming media player on the market.

There is competition on this front from the likes of Google, Amazon, and Roku, but none come close to offering the streamlined operating system experience that you get with the Apple TV.

Below is a quick overview of all that you can expect when you bring this affordably impressive device into your home theater system.

How Apple TV works

Apple TV may be making headlines now, but the device has been on the market since 2007. The first models of this streaming box were not only complicated, but also quite a bit bulky, as they came with a hard drive to download the content. They also faced intense competition from cable companies that were doing everything to make sure that channels like ESPN and HBO stayed where they had for ages.

It was only when consumers began gravitating towards media devices like the Apple TV, Roku, and services like Netflix popped up, did these cable companies took note and changed.

The idea behind Apple TV has been simple — Apple wanted to offer streaming that made sense. Instead of forcing users to pay for bundled packages, it began offering the pay as you go, individual option.  The Apple TV became the first device to offer the monthly HBO Go streaming service, and what started as a hobby for Apple has now turned into a powerhouse of a product.

Apple is also the first company that content providers now come to. Products like Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast may offer more channels, but many of these are full of content that you may not actually watch. If you want the best quality content, and channels like ESPN, Apple TV is the way to go.

Apple TV

TV made simple

Apple is a company that likes to keep things simple, and this design philosophy extends to both the hardware and software of Apple TV. One look at the device and it becomes clear — it does not even have a power button!

In terms of hardware, you get a boxy plastic design, with glossy sides and a matte top. The back features an HDMI port, along with a gigabit Ethernet jack, and power connection. The delicately designed remote features touchpad controls, which come in handy when navigating the interface and playing games. Yes, the Apple TV supports apps and games, although Apple has made it clear that this is a device designed primarily with video in mind.

All this is bought together with the tvOS operating system, which also offers a version of Siri that is more focused on TV and movie results rather than her personality.

Apple TV

The world in 4K

Appel TV 4K, the newest generation of the device, is the company’s entry into the 4K world. It brings together the excellent interface of the 2015 model, and finally provides users with the ability to watch movies and TV shows in 4K and HDR.

Competitors like Roku and Amazon Fire TV have had these capabilities for years now, but what makes these formats more accessible to customers is the pricing model Apple has in place. This aggressive pricing has made the device a solid step up beyond HD for users that have hopped onto this bandwagon.

And this is where thing get complicated.

Apple TV does not support 4K and HDR YouTube content, and neither does it plays modern surround sound standards like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X that place sound effects in 3D space around you. All these omissions are surprising for a box that costs $179 — more so when devices half this price offer support for these standards.

Ultimately, the choice of whether you should buy an Apple TV 4K comes down to how invested you are in the Apple ecosystem. If you have a huge iTunes movie library, and buy a lot of movies, then the cheaper prices Apple offers make a lot of sense. But if all you do is watch Netflix, and are fine with renting movies and TV shows from other services like Vudu and Amazon, then the apps that are available on your smart TV will suffice.

Or even an inexpensive streaming stick, a Roku, for example.

Apple TV is alluring in some aspects and ambitious in all, but at the end of the day, the device is not without its flaws. Good enough for Apple users, though.