Apple TV 4K Reviews: Expensive But With Cheaper 4K Movies, Some Limitations Like 1080p YouTube

Apple TV 4K reviews are out, providing us with first impressions of one of the most expensive streaming media players on the market.


The Verge's editor-in-chief Nilay Patel said the Apple TV 4K is "by far the closest thing to being a fully realized vision for the future of TV that exists," but for now it has some limitations that hold it back.

Notably, the Apple TV 4K doesn't have Dolby Atmos sound and the YouTube app can only play videos in 1080p quality.
But the new Apple TV doesn’t support Atmos. And it doesn’t support YouTube in 4K HDR. And it doesn’t have Disney or Marvel movies in 4K HDR. And it makes some 1080p content look less than great. […]

Apple doesn't support YouTube's VP9 video format, which means YouTube on the Apple TV 4K doesn't support 4K HDR playback. Apple doesn't have any timeline as to when or if that might happen; it's a problem that affects Safari on the Mac and iOS devices as well.
Apple told Patel that the lack of Dolby Atmos sound isn't a hardware limitation, and said support is on the roadmap.


The new Apple TV automatically upscales all SDR video to either HDR or Dolby Vision, depending on which format your TV supports, but Patel and some other reviewers said the end result doesn't always look great.
…Apple's HDR video processing is hit or miss. It was great when I watched HD content from iTunes, but it fell down in other apps. I watched The Dark Knight in HD on HBO Go with our video team, and the Apple TV 4K HDR processing blew out all the contrast in the image, sharpened everything to hell, and turned the film grain into noise.
Most reviews pointed out that the Apple TV 4K, priced from $179, is considerably more expensive than its competitors. Google's Chromecast Ultra is $69, Amazon's Fire TV starts at $90, and the Roku Premiere is $70.

However, the price difference could eventually be made up for with a cheaper selection of 4K movies available to purchase or rent in iTunes. Apple is also upgrading customers' existing iTunes libraries of HD videos to 4K at no cost.

Engadget's Devindra Hardawar:
You'll find Apple's first batch of 4K HDR films in their own section on the iTunes store. So far, the selection includes some major new releases like Wonder Woman, Baby Driver and Alien Covenant. Notably, they're mostly selling for $20, with a few older titles going for $15. Walmart-owned Vudu, which has been selling and renting 4K films for years, currently has those titles for $30. Even the rental prices for 4K are lower on iTunes -- $5 versus $10 on Vudu. And, just as Apple promised, several films I previously purchased on iTunes -- Star Trek Beyond, The Lego Movie and Kingsman were automatically upgraded to 4K HDR.
CNET's David Katzmaier:
All HD and 4K titles on iTunes cost the same. On other services, 4K is typically more expensive. Take a new release like "Wonder Woman." On iTunes it costs $20 to buy and $6 to rent, regardless of whether you get the HD or 4K/Dolby Vision version. On Vudu and Google Play, the HD version costs the same but the 4K/HDR version costs $30 to buy and $10 to rent. It's a similar story with new-to-video movies "Kong: Skull Island," "Ghost in the Shell" and "Transformers: The Last Knight."

Bottom Lines


The Verge's Nilay Patel:
I am very confident Apple is going to figure this TV thing out. It's the only company that has the combination of power and care to actually do it. But the Apple TV 4K's unrealized potential just makes it obvious that the future of TV is still pretty far away, and it's simply too expensive to gamble on in the meantime.
CNET's David Katzmaier:
But let's say you're OK spending $179 to get a high-performance streamer. If you're an "Apple person" with a nice TV and a yen for improved image quality, the Apple TV 4K is definitely worth getting -- and if you already own the non-4K one and you have cash to spare, it's a good excuse to kick that box to a secondary room. The same goes for movie buffs who regularly rent or buy new releases in 4K, thanks to iTunes' price advantage and promise to upgrade to the 4K versions.
TechRadar's Garis Beavis:
If you’re already in the Apple-sphere and want a streaming box, the Apple TV 4K makes the most sense. It’s costly, yes, and there are cheaper options on the market if you just want to get high-quality images beamed into your eyeballs.

But if you also want the wider app ecosystem, and the ability to connect sensors and use it as a workout trainer, play games with kids or control your smart home, then the Apple TV 4K is an easy choice.
More Reviews: Mashable, BuzzFeed News, iMore, Financial Post, TIME

Related Roundup: Apple TV
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Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

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Apple Watch Series 3 Reviews: Freedom From iPhone Held Back by LTE and Battery Life Concerns

Apple Watch Series 3 reviews are out, and the verdict is mixed about its new built-in cellular capabilities and the impact on battery life.

Apple Watch Series 3 via The Verge

The Verge editor Lauren Goode said her Apple Watch Series 3 largely "failed at the LTE part," particularly due to an issue where the watch would connect to an unknown Wi-Fi network instead of LTE.
You can't rest easy with the Apple Watch 3 yet, because that seamlessness, that so-called magic, isn't there. The stutters during the handoff from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to LTE shouldn't happen. The music streaming? It isn't there yet. A built-in podcast streaming option? Also not there. A reliable Siri? Nope, not in my experience.
Apple acknowledged the issue and said it is investigating a fix that will be included in a future software update.


Goode said the one aspect "worth two thumbs up" is watchOS 4, especially for its improved heart rate tracking.
But the watchOS 4 updates to heart rate tracking are really the most noteworthy. Any Apple Watch with heart rate sensors will now record your resting heart rate, your average walking heart rate, your recovery heart rate, and, if you opt in, any spikes in heart rate that occur when the Watch thinks you’re not working out.
TechCrunch editor Brian Heater said the Apple Watch Series 3's cellular capabilities are "a bit liberating," but he didn't find many scenarios where having a standalone connection was particularly useful.
All nice functionality to have on the go, but in the days I’ve been wearing the watch, I’ve been straining to come up with many scenarios in my own life outside of running where untethering myself from my phone is necessary — or even particularly useful.
The Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern said her Apple Watch Series 3's cellular connection was "unreliable" and "intermittent."
Most worryingly, my colleague Geoffrey Fowler and I experienced cellular connectivity issues on three separate pre-production models, in two different states, on two different 4G LTE carriers.

On the AT&T-connected models, the cellular connection dropped, calls were often choppy and Siri sometimes failed to connect. On the one that ran on T-Mobile, I experienced several dropped connections.
Stern added that "you're lucky if the battery allows you to roam on cellular for longer than half a day—especially if you're making calls."

The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Wells didn't share that viewpoint, calling battery life on the Apple Watch Series 3 "excellent."
Battery life on the Series 3 is excellent. The Watch cleverly defaults to the most efficient connection available; when nearby your phone it'll use bluetooth, move away from the phone and it'll switch to any available known Wi-Fi networks, disconnect from those and LTE will take over. In my usual day, that meant by the time my Watch was back on a charger at night, it still had around 70 per cent battery left.
Daring Fireball's John Gruber was impressed with the Apple Watch's phone call audio quality and didn't mention any connectivity issues.
Audio quality for phone calls on the watch is very good. People I called via the watch said I sounded great, and I could hear them loud and clear. And all of my testing of phone calls on the watch took place mid-day on busy city streets — full of traffic and pedestrians — here in Philadelphia. People won’t know you're calling them from your watch if you don’t tell them.
The New York Times reporter Brian X. Chen said the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smartwatch he can recommend people buy.
Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy. While I don’t personally find it attractive enough to replace my wristwatch, the new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health (R.I.P., Fitbit).
Wired writer David Pierce said the Apple Watch 3's performance "feels dramatically better than any previous Watch."

More Reviews: The Loop, CNET, Financial Post, 9to5Mac, Mashable, The Independent, and USA Today

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
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Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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iPhone 8 and 8 Plus Review Roundup: Powerful Devices With Great Cameras Set Stage for iPhone X

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus reviews are out, providing us with a closer look at two of Apple's latest smartphones ahead of their Friday launch.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus via The Verge

The devices represent Apple's first glass-backed iPhones since the iPhone 4s in 2011. Most reviews complimented the glossier design, although there were naturally some concerns about glass being more prone to shattering.

And not everyone was sold on the new look.

The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey A. Fowler:
The glass might remind you of the iPhone 4, one of the most iconic Apple designs. But I’m not sold. The iPhone 7's glossy black finish gives it a contiguous surface, like a pebble smoothed by the ocean. The iPhone 8 shows seams where the glass touches the aluminum band, making it feel a little like a knockoff. And there's no denying it looks dated compared with the curved glass on rival Samsung’s Galaxy S8, which takes the screen all the way to the edge.
Apple stressed that the glass on iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus has a strengthening layer that is 50 percent deeper, but we'll have to wait for drop tests to see how the devices hold up from both ordinary and extreme heights.


The switch away from aluminum was necessary to facilitate wireless charging, an overdue feature many Android smartphones have had for years.

Wired senior writer David Pierce:
Wireless charging makes the iPhone feel less like a Tamagotchi needing constant feeding, and more like a digital sidekick that’s always ready to go. Pick it up when you need it, put it down when you don’t; whenever you’re not using your phone, it’s charging. Android users have known this feeling for years, but a lot of iPhone users are going to love it now.
TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino focused on the new cameras, which he said are "killer" and the best reason to upgrade this year yet again. He was particularly impressed with Apple's new Portrait Lighting effects, which he described as the marquee feature of the iPhone 8 Plus.
The studio and contour options are going to be flooding social networks and phones internet-wide as soon as people get their hands on their iPhone 8 Pluses. The stage lighting takes a bit more effort, but when you nail it and the software is able to do its job by accurately detecting hair and head shapes, it really stuns. It can produce images that feel professional and would take dozens of lights and pieces of equipment to pull off.
One of the new Portrait Lighting effects is called Stage Light, which spotlights the subject's face against a deep black background.

Original photo on left with Stage Light on right via TechCrunch

CNET photographer James Martin tested the iPhone 8 Plus camera by shooting more than 2,000 photos in San Francisco, and he was thoroughly impressed with everything from detailed textures to low-light performance.
With the new sensor, HDR delivered better details in highlights and shadows. HDR is always on, signaling Apple's deeper commitment to computational photography with the iPhone 8 Plus. That's different than the iPhone 7 Plus, which gave you the option to set HDR to auto, off or on.
Martin added that even his high-end DSLR can't achieve the kind of exposure he achieved with the iPhone 8 Plus.


Mashable editor-at-large Lance Ulanoff ran Geekbench 4 on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and Apple's new A11 Bionic chip delivered. The smaller iPhone 8 in particular more than doubles the single-core performance, and more than triples the multi-core score, of the A10 Fusion chip in iPhone 7.


The Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel, however, said the increased performance "feels like headroom for the future," and not something you immediately notice compared to the iPhone 7 in particular.
I didn't notice a huge performance boost over the iPhone 7 while doing basic things like browsing the web, watching videos, and taking photos. I played a few games and everything seemed fast and fluid, of course. Apple sells iPhones for years after they're released — the iPhone 6S is still in the lineup! — so a lot of this extra power just feels like headroom for the future, not something you immediately sense when upgrading from a previous model.

Should You Upgrade?


It depends on who you ask.

While most reviews recommend waiting for the iPhone X, particularly if you currently own an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are still respectable and more affordable updates with faster A11 Bionic chips, True Tone displays, improved cameras, wireless charging, and more.

Daring Fireball's John Gruber said the devices are "excellent year-over-year upgrades" compared to their iPhone 7 counterparts.
These are solid year-over-year updates — at least as impressive as the iPhone 7 was over the iPhone 6S. If they hadn’t debuted alongside the iPhone X we’d be arguing about whether these are the most impressive new iPhone models since the iPhone 6.
The Verge's Nilay Patel was much less impressed, noting that he "can't think of a single compelling reason to upgrade from an iPhone 7."
After spending a week with the 8, I can’t think of a single compelling reason to upgrade from an iPhone 7. The 7 is still extremely fast, offers virtually the same design in a lighter package with a bigger battery, and will get almost every feature of the 8 with iOS 11. If you really want Qi wireless charging, you can get a slim $15 case that supports it. And if you’re dying for Portrait Lighting, there are tons of photo apps in the App Store that offer similar effects. Of course, if you're upgrading from anything older than an iPhone 7, the improvements in the camera and the overall speed of the phone are going to really impress you.
Engadget's Chris Velazco:
The iPhone X will continue to suck the air out of the room for the foreseeable future, but one thing has become clear after my week of testing: They might not have the X's style, but the 8 and 8 Plus are truly excellent phones that won't let Apple die-hards and new customers down.
Business Insider's Steve Kovach:
My advice is to ask yourself how much you're willing to pay. If you don't mind giving up some of the futuristic features in the iPhone X, then the iPhone 8 models will give you the same power and performance and most of the same features of iOS 11 for hundreds of dollars less.
The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey A. Fowler:
That is what is frustrating about the iPhone 8: In the past, Apple rarely raised prices when it made a better phone with more storage. This time, it releases an incremental update and charges $50 more. It’s the first time the most basic new iPhone costs $700.

The virtues I see in the iPhone 8 are niche: I’m glad you don’t have to spend $1,000 to get an improved camera and processor and even wireless charging, if that matters to you. But Apple’s confusing iPhone family now includes three pairs of practically identical phones: the regular and Plus versions of the iPhone 8, 7 and 6s. Don’t buy the spendiest one.
More Reviews: The Loop, iNews, Financial Post, The Independent, The Washington Post, 9to5Mac, Associated Press, and BuzzFeed News

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
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Buyer's Guide: iPhone (Buy Now)

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Galaxy S8 Reviews: Full-Front Display Receives Top Marks, But Rear Fingerprint Scanner is Awkwardly Positioned

Reviews of Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ hit the web today, and given each smartphone's potential similarities to Apple's rumored iPhone with an OLED display, we have rounded up some of the impressions below.

Galaxy S8's Infinity Display (Image: The Verge)

The vast majority of reviews praised Samsung's so-called Infinity Display, which takes up over 80 percent of the front of the smartphones. The design results in smartphones with large 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch screens that are still easy to hold in one hand or put in your pocket, according to reviews.

Dan Seifert, reporting for The Verge:
… I’m a fan of the new shape and the fact that it lets me have a much larger display without making the Galaxy S8 too unwieldy to use. On top of that, the Quad HD Super AMOLED panel is wonderfully vibrant and sharp, and it’s very bright, even outdoors under direct sunlight. It’s no exaggeration to say this is the best smartphone display I’ve ever seen.
Brian Heater, reporting for TechCrunch:
I’ve been carrying the Galaxy S8+ around for a few days now, and it fits in my pocket every bit as comfortably as the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus. And you’re able to operate that phone with a single hand, so this device will be no problem.
Steve Kovach, reporting for Business Insider:
It’s an impressive feat of engineering. At 5.8 inches, the Galaxy S8’s screen is larger than the iPhone 7 Plus screen, but packed on a slimmer and more attractive body. The iPhone looks chunky and outdated by comparison. We’re getting closer and closer to the dream of having a phone that’s all display on the front.
Lance Ulanoff, reporting for Mashable:
A 6.2-inch smartphone sounds comically large. However, the Galaxy S8+ is unusually narrow, with a screen aspect ratio of 18.5:9. Plus, the edges are tapered — front and back — much in the same way the Galaxy S7’s back edge was. The result is a phone that looks a bit long but is comfortable to hold and, at least to my hands, doesn’t feel large at all.
Walt Mossberg, reporting for Recode:
Samsung has drastically altered the rule that big screens mean huge phones. Even this smaller of the new Galaxy S models has a larger screen than the biggest iPhone, but it’s much narrower and easier to hold and to slip into a pocket.
In order to achieve the larger display without significantly increasing the physical size of the smartphone, Samsung removed the home button from the front of the Galaxy S8. Samsung then relocated the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone, positioning it next to the camera.

Galaxy S8's rear fingerprint sensor (Image: The Verge)

Unfortunately, many reviews found that placement of the fingerprint scanner to be awkwardly positioned next to the camera.

Nicole Nguyen, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
The fingerprint unlock feature has traditionally been programmed into the device’s home button. Seeing as the S8 ditched the button, it’s now on the back of the phone. The S8’s fingerprint sensor and the camera feel basically the same, which means I kept smudging the camera lens and unlocking the phone at the same time.
Dan Seifert, reporting for The Verge:
The high placement of the scanner makes it difficult and awkward to reach with my index finger, even on the smaller Galaxy S8. I have to practically perform finger stretches before I can reach it with any sort of regularity on the Galaxy S8+. Second, because it is right next to the camera and has a similar shape and feel to the camera module, I frequently touch the camera lens instead of the fingerprint scanner, smearing the lens with all of my lovely finger oils.
Apple is rumored to be working on a completely overhauled iPhone, and a display taking up nearly the entire front of the smartphone is a widely expected feature. Apple is also expected to remove the Home button, so it may too relocate Touch ID to the rear if it can't integrate it under the display.


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Samsung latest Gear smartwatch is like a smartphone on your wrist

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The Samsung Gear S3 is an excellent smartwatch just a few ticks short of perfection. With built-in LTE and GPS it’s more connected than rivals, but noticeably thicker as well.

The device gets off on the right foot by looking and feeling like a watch. Whatever you think of wearables, the more they look like the familiar and the less like technology, the better. Apple splits the difference with its Apple Watch Series 2; it has hints of classic watch design (see the digital crown) but also telegraphs “I’m wearing the future.”

More about Mashable Choice, Reviews, Review, Smartwatch, and Wearable

Google Wifi review: The easiest, cheapest way to fix bad Wi-Fi

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I think we can all agree that Wi-Fi routers aren’t sexy devices. Nobody really gets excited over a router, unless maybe if you work in IT. 

And yet, Wi-Fi routers are kind of the rage right now. You see, we all want fast and reliable Wi-Fi in every corner of our home. But networking gear is mostly “meh,” with ugly and cumbersome hardware and sub-par software, often using dated web-based interfaces that might as well require a computer science degree to figure out. 

Google’s OnHub router, which debuted last year, was a good step towards improving Wi-Fi at home, but at $200 it was still too pricey and didn’t really fix bad Wi-Fi in large, multi-room homes. Read more…

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