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30 Year Apple Fan Girl Chooses Roku Over AppleTV

Lamarr Wilson calls me a sinner for hating on the AppleTVI’ve been a fan of the AppleTV since it came out. Steve and I rent a movie pretty much every Friday night from iTunes, and we love using Airplay to play video podcasts from my iPad to the TVs around the house. We have been powering through every single episode of Game of Thrones on HBO Go through the AppleTV (we actually watched it all in about three and a half weeks!) So what’s the problem?

Over time the AppleTV experience is getting worse and worse. Last weekend we decided to rent 12 Years a Slave. We rented it via iTunes and when we hit play it said it would be 2 hrs 58 min to start streaming. It should be noted that we have FiOS with 50+mbps download speeds. We’ve seen this problem before and it’s a HUGE pain to fix it. You have to log out of your account and then log back in using that REALLY BAD REMOTE to type in your 156 character complex password. Of course that means it takes about 3 tries to do it, right? After you do that, you’ll get a menu choice that says Check for Rentals. Click that and you’ll get to your movie. As much as that annoys the daylights out of me and I REALLY wish Apple would fix whatever causes that to intermittently happen, it was worse last week because after all that, the movie didn’t show up in check for rentals. ARGH.

We moved over to our Roku 3, which we have on an HDMI switch to our A/V receiver because we have 6 HDMI devices and only 4 HDMI ports, we went into Amazon Prime to look for 12 Years a Slave. Annoyingly Amazon Prime asks for your 5-digit authorization code, which meant logging into LastPass on my Mac to find it. We’re going to just put that one on a sticker on the Roku remote. Anyway, we found the movie, rented it and guess what? It PLAYED immediately.

Remember how I said we like to use Airplay to watch our morning tech news on the big TV? About 1 out of 3 times lately the AppleTV simply refuses to play over Airplay. I should mention this is on a DIFFERENT AppleTV. Sometimes it just shows a spinning logo, sometimes it shows an error message. Un-airplaying and reairplaying sometimes works, but sometimes I have to unplug the AppleTV and plug it back in. What ever happened to, “It just works”?

Now let’s get back to Game of Thrones. Like I said we’ve been watching it on the AppleTV and it does a good job of keeping track of what you’ve watched, but rewinding is a HUGE pain on the AppleTV. You pretty much have to pause and take a vote of the people in the room on how important it is to hear what Tyrion just said vs. how annoying it will be to rewind because it will either go WAY too far back or just barely back enough to just miss his line.

After our delightful experience watching a movie on the Roku, we decided to watch Game of Thrones on it and guess what? Rewind works really well! There’s a quick rewind you can hit once or twice just to get the last line, or a real rewind that doesn’t go flying back at light speed. We then discovered another AMAZING feature of the Roku. When you rewind just a bit, it turns on SUBTITLES! Not indefinitely, just for the part you rewound. Isn’t that awesome logic? I think probably 90% of the time I rewind it’s to hear a line, and 10% is to see a scene again, so this is perfect.

Steve and I are going to move the Roku into the front position on our A/V receiver and relegate the AppleTV to the switch that’s so annoying to access. If nothing else I think the AppleTV needs a time out. Lamarr Wilson says I just need a new AppleTV but they’ll have to come out with a new one before I let another one into my house!

10 comments to 30 Year Apple Fan Girl Chooses Roku Over AppleTV

  • barry porter

    You do know you can pair a wireless keyboard with you appleTV, making typing your NSA proof password easier to type? But you are correct, the AppleTV can be a pain sometimes.

  • And I can’t seem to airplay anything to my AppleTV. :( I get audio and no video. Not really ideal.

  • Steve Davidson

    Regarding the AppleTV remote: You don’t really need to use it. Just use your iPad and the (free) Remote app (from Apple). The iPad (and probably the iPhone, but I can’t say for sure) makes a great AppleTV remote (especially when you need to type in a password since you can simply use the standard iPad touchscreen keyboard).

  • Barry – I remembered you said this when I was doing the live show (and I think Allister said it in the chat room too). For some reason our bluetooth keyboard ALWAYS says it’s out of batteries whenever we need it. The same keyboard on my Mac lasts for months and months.

    Steve – I’m pretty sure if you’re logged out of your account, the Remote app on the iPhone does not work, and it’s when I’ve just logged out that I need to enter that long password!

    Sandy – what generation AppleTV do you have? is it a 2 or 3? Steve has had that problem from time to time, but he has to use Air Parrot from his 2011 Macbook Air, so we thought that was the root cause.

  • Carl

    So, Netflix app is not vey well designed and you are mad at Apple?

  • oops Carl – it was supposed to say HBO Go (I fixed it in some spots but not in others, and corrected myself in the audio! (I’m fixing the text now)

    Either way though the story is the same – the service doesn’t work well on the ATV but does work well on Roku – so why not blame Apple? And iTunes itself isn’t even working right any more, it’s degrading.

  • B

    I’m all for using whatever works, but it seems like blaming your ATV is premature.

    1. Use your iPhone as a remote. It’s should work even logged out if it’s been paired.
    2. How old is your AppleTV? Have you tried to restart it? Full restore?
    3. Have you rebooted your router lately? When I see streaming quality issues, many times it’s my router and not the AppleTV.

    Use what works, but why lay blame on something beforeyou have all the facts?

  • B –

    1. I just tested using the Remote App with the ATV again. The Remote app became unresponsive so I had to quit the app and restart it. Then I used it to log myself out. Immediately the AppleTV that I had been controlling disappeared in the Remote app. HOWEVER, when I used the annoying Apple remote to add a new Apple ID, it remembered my ID, and when I went to the password field, suddenly that field showed up in the Remote app. So you’re right but you can see why I was confused!

    2. I have THREE AppleTVs. The one that has been misbehaving for watching iTunes is an ATV3. Yes we’ve restarted it, no, I didn’t do a full restore. Do you consider that part of “it just works”? I did tear it out of that TV and replace it with one of my ATV 2s. Same problems streaming.

    3. I actually have rebooted my router very recently (because of an unrelated problem). Why would I need to do that though if services are streaming well to other devices in my house? Flawless video Skype, flawless streaming UP of my live show on Justin.tv and streaming well on the Roku?

    I apologized for the ATV for a long time too – but there’s too much evidence that the interaction of the ATVs and the services Apple provides are not good enough if an apologist like me thinks the Roku experience is smoother. You’re also not acknowledging the other jankiness like having to reboot the ATV to use AirPlay about 1 out of 5 times.

    That said, this past Sunday I watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones and it buffered on the Roku. So there’s that.

  • I’d like to second barry porter’s comment to use a bluetooth keyboard with Apple TV. I don’t even look for the Apple TV remote anymore. Typing searches (and passwords) is so easy now. I think it also improves the experience of backing up (rewinding) the show.

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