March 22, 2012
Consumer Reports doesn't seem to like Apple. I don't know if it's because Cupertino engineers consistently fall to the laws of physics, or simply because the ratings agency needs better... ratings. Either way, though, you can always count on a front-page shocker whenever those Consumer Reports "testers" get their hands on a new Apple device. But forget about heatgate for a minute: This time, Consumer Reports is getting snippy with the Apple TV! 9to5Mac directed us towards the new review, which has, for some reason, been released "ahead of its full comprehensive testing." (If you stopped reading right there, I can't blame you). Penned (or panned, I suppose) by James K. Willcox, the review is reasonably informative in some parts, and clueless in others. It's as if Willcox has little idea what to expect from an Apple product. In bold below are some of his (mostly bizarre) complaints: There are no legacy video connections for use with older TVs without an HDMI input. Why should there be? Last year's model didn't have any, either. Did you think Apple was going to go backwards? The Apple TV is explicitly marketed to the modern HDTV owner. Unfortunately, you can't reorder the [menu] choices to bring favorites closer to the top of the screen, and you can't remove seldom- or never-used icons from the interface. Remember, this is an Apple product. The company's famous for its "my way or the highway" approach. They're never going to sacrifice general usability for specific customization. I was a bit surprised that Siri voice control still hasn't made its way to Apple TV. You were? Really? Not even the new iPad offers Siri. Plus, you know, it's supposed to be one of the biggest selling-points of Apple's upcoming actual TV. I found the Apple remote a bit too small for my larger fingers when I had to enter text on the virtual keypad... There's an app for that. There are no SD card ports or USB slots for adding memory... This nonsense again? Adding memory? It's never gonna happen. But the biggest issue we have with new Apple TV is the same one we had with the previous version—that compared with its competitors, it still has less content from third-party services. Finally, a valid(ish) complaint. But, while the Apple TV might feature fewer pay-wall providers than other solutions (Roku, Boxee, etc.) do, it's still got plenty to offer. And Apple's already in negotiations to shore up the gap. It's only a matter of time before Apple TV users get HBO Go and Hulu Plus subscriptions added to the mix. And blame for most such absences should certainly go both ways. Okay, yes, Willcox had a fair amount of praise for the new Apple TV, too. He calls it a "no-brainer" for those already embedded in the iOS ecosystem, and he praises its 1080p picture, easy-to-navigate menu, and tight iCloud/iTunes integration. I just find it endlessly frustrating when folks review Apple kit without appreciating the history and design (both physical and philosophical) behind the company's products. I can't take Consumer Reports seriously anymore. But that's been a long time coming, and it isn't just because of the brand's unreasonable double standard attitude when comparing Apple to every other company in tech. Like Willcox' review shows, Consumer Reports just isn't specialized enough in any one area to provide truly good advice. But I guess that's what we're here for.