Tag Archives: YouTube

No, I’m Not Getting the New Apple TV—At Least, Not Yet. Here’s Why.

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Apple’s Tim Cook introducing the new Apple TV. Source: digital trends.com

When Apple recently unveiled their latest version of the Apple TV set-top box, I was thrilled to see it labeled, “Apple TV 4K.” Finally, this box, along with the iTunes video content it will stream, can support the super-high resolution of 3840 x 2160 (it’s called “4K” because “3.84K” is a little awkward, so they just rounded up). I was all set to order one to connect to my 55″ Sony 4K TV; but then I saw this video from The Verge, which made me change my mind. Take a look:

If you can’t watch the video right now; or if you have, and you want to know more of my take on the issue, please read on.

HDR is H.A.R.D.

The most obvious reason for me not to invest in a new Apple TV comes from the TV I have. It’s a 2013-era Sony BRAVIA Ultra HD TV. It is indeed capable of 4K resolution, but it came out in that brief window of time before the introduction of High Dynamic Range (HDR) on 4K TVs. My set doesn’t support HDR, and I’m pretty sure that’s not something that can be added with a software update. One of the key selling points of the Apple TV 4K is HDR, and I’d be throwing money away on a feature I won’t get to enjoy on my current TV.

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A simulation of the difference HDR can make. Source: 4k.com

Not Ready for Amazon Prime Time

As of this writing, Amazon, one of the most prominent 4K streaming content producers, does not yet have an app on the Apple TV. Now, Apple has promised that such an app is forthcoming; but until it is available, I don’t need to buy a new box. I can watch The Tick (among others) in 4K on my TV’s built-in, albeit clunky, Amazon app.

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Reason enough for an Amazon Prime membership. Source: Forbes.com

YouTube… Don’t You?

As mentioned right off the bat in that Verge video, YouTube is not yet available in 4K on Apple TV. As they explain at the very end of their video, this is due to the compression method YouTube (a division of Apple rival Google) employs. Hopefully, the two tech giants will come to an arrangement to allow 4K, HDR YouTube content via Apple TV. Until they do, if YouTube in 4K is your “must-have” feature; and if it isn’t built in to your TV like mine, then you should probably get Google’s $69 Chromecast Ultra, so you can beam that 4K content from your computer or mobile device.

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The petite, unassuming Google Chromecast Ultra dongle. Source: Google.com

Nothing But Netflix

Now, the leader of the streaming pack, Netflix, will indeed be offering 4K, HDR content on day one with the new Apple TV. I’ve always been able to count on their 4K content, even on my non-HDR (or as it’s known, SDR for “Standard Dynamic Range”) TV. True, I had to upgrade my Netflix account to their Premium plan to get Ultra HD (another term for 4K) content, but it was only $2 more a month for the enhanced picture. But here’s the thing: I already get Netflix in 4K on my TV, with its built-in app, just like how I get Amazon Prime. So, again, I have to ask: what does the purchase of the Apple TV get me that I didn’t already have?

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A small sample of Netflix’s 4K content. Source: androidpcreview.com

iTunes Movies in 4K! No, Not That One… Sorry, Not That One, Either…

iTunes was always going to be the “killer app” for Apple TV. It’s Apple’s hardware and software working together, as opposed to those earlier examples of shoehorning other services into a rival’s device. And yes, Apple did indeed announce the upgrading of their film library from HD to 4K… but not their entire film library.

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“If an HD title in your library is released in 4K HDR, it automatically updates for free.” That’s currently a pretty big “if.” Source: Apple.com

Some titles haven’t been mastered in 4K at all, so they may never get such a release. Some are in the process of remastering; so again, patience will be rewarded with more titles.

But then there’s the House that Walt Built.

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Looks good, right? Just imagine it in 4K! Source: YouTube.com

As the Verge video pointed out, Disney content is not currently available in 4K on iTunes. It’s not too big a surprise that they’re dragging their feet—they were also late to the DVD game back in the late 90’s. But frustratingly, other competing services like VUDU do indeed have Disney titles in 4K—notably, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, the first Disney/Marvel movie to get a home video release on 4K.

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If you want to stream Guardians 2 in 4K on your Apple TV, you’ll have to do it on VUDU. And if you already had it on iTunes, sorry–that’ll be another $24.99, please! Source: hd-report.com

I have Guardians 2 on iTunes, thanks to the digital copy included with my blu-ray purchase. I was hoping Apple would upgrade the HD title to 4K; because while my blu-ray did include a 4K disc, I don’t have a 4K disc player. My reasoning was, why get a disc player, when the AppleTV will give me the same movie in 4K, without my even having to get off the couch to insert a disc?

I mean, the logic seemed sound…

I consulted this list of iTunes 4K titles, posted on 9/15/17. Of those 163 titles, I only have TWO ready to upgrade:

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Source: iTunes

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Ultimate Edition). Candidly, I’m not planning on rewatching this one, in 4K or otherwise. I barely made it through the whole thing the first time, in good old fashioned HD.

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Source: inflightdigitalmovies.com

Deadpool. A personal favorite. Its availability in 4K on iTunes is one good thing about Fox, not Disney, owning Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

Author’s note: The list I linked includes The Hangover, Star Trek (2009), and X-Men: First Class. In each of these cases, the films listed were not available to me in 4K; but their sequels (The Hangover Part IIStar Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond; and X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse) were. Interestingly, Apple has apparently not deemed The Hangover Part III worthy of a 4K release.

For the record, my iTunes movie collection is relatively small. As of this writing, I have 57 digital titles; of those, 28 are Disney, including Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. Take away the two I listed above, and that leaves 27 titles not yet in iTunes’ 4K library. So until I can get more than two movies–only one of which I even want to watch— upgraded to 4K, the “iTunes in 4K” aspect isn’t a huge selling point.

Conclusion

So you see, regardless of whether my 4K TV is ready for it, this new Apple TV just isn’t ready for me. Until they get Amazon, YouTube, and a more comprehensive iTunes library (ahem, Disney) in 4K, there’s just no point in upgrading from my 2015-era, 4th-generation Apple TV. Maybe I’ll buy that 4K disc player, after all. I can think of at least one movie I bet would look Groot—I mean, great— in 4K!

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I often make that very same face when hooking up clients’ equipment. Source: giphy.com

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I Sing of Monitor Arms…

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to de-clutter my home office. My IKEA Galant desk is quite large; and yet, I never seem to have enough space to get my work done. In fact, full disclosure: I’m writing this blog post on my kitchen table. So if I wanted to get back to my office to get work done, I was going to have to move things around.

The first big change was getting rid of my behemoth Mac Pro tower. In fact, I’ve put it on eBay (auction closing this Wednesday, Jan. 11), so that’s one space hog eliminated. But there’s a compulsion that emerges when you clear off desk space: you want to clear off even more!

Arm Yourself

One of the most effective ways to free up space on your desk is to lift your computer monitor off and suspend it over your desk, or off to the side, via a monitor arm. These mount to the back of the monitor and typically clamp to the edge of the desk, leaving the rest of the surface wide open. I had a great flexible arm from Siig that I wanted to use with my 27″ Apple LED Cinema Display from 2010. The Siig arm specs said it supports monitors up to 27″; so, perfect, right?

Not quite.

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Siig’s Articulating Monitor Desk Mount – 13″ to 27″ (Source: Siig.com)

Mounting Difficulties

The first obvious issue is that Apple continues to march to its own drummer. In this case, their monitors do not support the mounting standard from the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). VESA mounts use four screws in a square or rectangular formation. For example, the Siig arm is designed to fit 75mm and 100mm square patterns. If you check the back of your flatscreen PC monitor, you may spot those four holes on the back. The Apple LED Cinema Display does not have those holes. But I wasn’t yet so desperate that I was reaching for my drill, thankfully.

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VESA mounting holes on the back of a monitor. (Source: multi-monitors.com)

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Apple’s LED Cinema Display, sans VESA holes. (Source: CNet.com, click photo for their 2010 review of this monitor.)

Anticipating users’ desires to mount their monitors to arms and other VESA mounts, Apple manufactured a VESA Mount Adapter Kit.  The first difficulty (of what would turn out to be many) came in finding this kit new at retail. After scouring the web for Apple part number MD179ZM/A, I finally found a reputable retailer who had it in stock: PCConnection.com.

So once I had the kit, I was able to remove the built-in stand from my display (no small feat, per Apple’s instructions) and attach the VESA mount. Here’s a video from YouTuber Geoff Tripoli, showing the installation:

From there, I attached my Siig arm and set it up on my desk. And that’s when the monitor—and my spirits—sank.

While Siig’s arm does indeed claim support for displays up to 27″ (measured diagonally), what I didn’t account for was its weight limit: up to 22 lbs. The LED Cinema Display weighs in at 23.5 lbs; and while that’s not a huge difference, it was certainly enough to tip the screen forward, rendering it unusable for my purposes.

I was in too deep at this point to give up; I had desk space to reclaim, dammit! So I did some digging, and I found a VESA monitor arm that specifically boasted support for the heavy Apple Cinema Displays: Ergotech’s Freedom Arm™ line.

I made sure this time to read the fine print: the basic Freedom Arm™ only supports displays weighing up to 17.8 lbs., a dealbreaker. But they have two other arms that can handle up to 30.8 lbs: the Freedom Arm™ HD, and the Freedom Arm™ iMac® 2007-2011. Knowing that the LED Cinema Display is structurally identical to the iMac from that era, I selected the latter arm and prepared to make my purchase. But then I took a second look.

Specifically, I read their instructions (always a good idea before making a tech purchase, whenever you can).  The way the Freedom Arm™ iMac® 2007-2011 is designed, the arm attaches directly to the back of the display, eliminating the need for the Apple VESA Mount Adapter Kit. While I applaud their ingenuity and generosity—saving customers the cost and hassle of buying that extra part!—I decided not to get that model, and here’s why:

  1. After a fair bit of hunting, I now owned the VESA Mount Adapter Kit; and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of returning it.
  2. If I decided to change out arms (or perhaps use a wall mount) in the future, I was going to need Apple’s VESA kit after all; and it’s only getting harder to find over time.
  3. If I were to replace the Apple LED Cinema Display with a different screen, owning an arm custom-designed for just that one model wouldn’t be very forward-thinking. I try to make my upgrades as “future-proof” as possible.

Luckily, Ergotech makes a standard VESA arm for heavier displays: The Freedom Arm™ HD. I ordered this one, and notwithstanding some frustrations with FedEx trying to deliver on New Year’s Eve, I got it in a relatively timely manner from Amazon (click the link below to order):

Ergotech Freedom Arm HD (FDM-HD-S01) 

Once again, I attached the arm to my VESA-enabled LED Cinema Display. This time, I’m happy to say, nothing drooped. The arm supports the weight like a champ.

Here’s a video review from the YouTubers at NOBA TECH:

I was very pleased with the look and feel of the arm, and thrilled with the liberated desk space. But all was not quite perfect, yet.

An Arm with an Achilles Heel

The Freedom Arm™ HD is a very tightly built mechanism. I have no worries about the joints slipping or drooping. However, this tightness has a drawback. With normal vibration on the desk (say, for example, typing or mousing), the suspended monitor now jiggles to a distracting degree. Indeed, this phenomenon comes up in an Amazon review:

They do tend to jiggle a tiny bit when I type on my desktop, but I think that’s something unavoidable with an arm as long as this.

I was experiencing more than a “tiny bit” of jiggle. I called Ergotech customer service, and spoke with a gracious, patient representative, “Meg.” She was surprised to hear about the jiggling, as my call was the first she had ever heard about that happening. Her advice was to mount the arm to a different desk. And I’m inclined to agree.

My current desk, an IKEA Galant table from about 2003, is of particleboard construction. It’s sagging in the middle, and attaching a VESA arm may just be too much for it to handle at this point. I have therefore begun the quest to replace the desk with one that can support the arm with minimal (or nonexistent) screen jiggle; sturdy, all-wood construction; and a fixed or adjustable height that can allow me to work while standing. After all, “sitting is the new smoking!”

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An IKEA Galant desk used to the utmost. (Source: Redditor dave2kdotorg, click photo for his post.)

Conclusion?

I’ll post the conclusion of this saga as soon as I’ve found the best desk to meet my needs (so it may not be as soon as next week). In the meantime, I’ve removed the Ergotech arm and VESA Mount Adapter Kit from my LED Cinema Display; I’ve restored the display to its original stand (another surprisingly arduous process); and I’m making do with the sagging Galant desk. And on the floor of my office, is a brand-new, shiny arm.

And I swear, it’s giving me the finger. ■