The Apple TV is almost the forgotten child of the Apple family, having last seen a major refresh back in March 2012. That's not to say the hardware is showing its age – it's still as sleek and powerful as anything else on the market, with full 1080p output, optical audio output and an ethernet port for those who don't want to use the 802.11n wireless.
You do have to live within the confines of Apple's walled garden, though. There's no USB port for playback of your own media, such as there is on the Roku 3 or WD TV. Videos and music can be shared across the home network only from Windows PCs and Macs running Apple's opinion-dividing iTunes software. But once it's switched on everything works seamlessly.
Apple is notoriously picky about video formats, but you can use software such as Freemake Video Converter to convert videos into Apple TV's preferred H.264/AAC format and suitable resolution. The Apple TV supports 1080p streams of up to 30 fps and we managed to stream films flawlessly across our 802.11n home network at that maximum quality.
The Apple TV interface is as polished as you would expect, and easy to navigate with the slender stick of solid MacBook-like aluminium that forms its remote control. There's a downloadable remote-control app for iPhone/iPad that extends control flexibility, especially when entering text to search for films or enter login details. (See also: Chromecast review.)
What can you watch on Apple TV?
The selection of Apple TV apps is thin for British audiences, however. The only UK broadcaster to have an Apple TV app is Sky's Now TV – there's no BBC iPlayer nor other terrestrial channels. Netflix and YouTube are included, but beyond that it's largely obscure foreign content. (See also: Now TV review.)
That said, iPad or iPhone owners can still push iPlayer and 4oD streams through their Apple TV using the wireless AirPlay technology, and once the stream has started you can carry on using the tablet/phone for other apps, unlike devices such as the WD TV and EZCast which use the Miracast system.
Apple TV streaming is flawless. Whether renting films from the iTunes Store or watching TV series via Netflix, we've never once see the video and audio track slip out of sync. And while the Roku 3 will initially start playing Netflix streams at a lower resolution, snapping into full-res after a few seconds, Apple TV will wait until its buffered enough content at full resolution before starting the stream – the kind of attention to detail for which Apple is famed. Read: Apple TV vs Chromecast comparison review: Should i buy Apple TV or Chromecast?