The Apple TV Has the Best Streaming Remote

The Apple TV Has the Best Streaming Remote
Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

Folks, I have heard enough of the bad remote discourse. Let’s settle this debate.

Over the past 48 or so hours, my cherished colleagues here at Gizmodo dot com — all of whom I admire despite their frequently bad and wrong opinions on technology — have dedicated a not-insignificant amount of time lamenting their frustrations with the Apple TV remote despite multiple of these colleagues no longer being in possession of an actual Apple TV. Its touchpad is too fast, they say. It’s not an adequate solution for gaming, they say. It has no headphone jack, they say! To these complaints, I say: Bullshit! I have used virtually every major streaming device remote currently on the market, and I can say with absolute certainty that the Apple TV’s is by far and away the best there is.

Now, I want to be clear that we are not arguing about the performance of tvOS, which has plenty of problems that I will not get into here because, frankly, it’s beside the point. We are talking specifically about the associate remote, the wand that makes the magic happen. I would also like to clarify that, while it is an element of how the remote performs, we are also not talking about the performance of Siri, which is universally understood to be useless for a number of practical applications that would call for a voice assistant. Again, specifically, we are discussing the remote.

With that said, let’s discuss. The biggest pain point here seems to be the touchpad, which I’ll concede facilitates an absolutely infuriating experience when left on its speedier settings. But you do not, in fact, have to use the Apple TV remote as if it were the app equivalent of spin the wheel. You can instead merely adjust the touch sensitivity on the remote as you would the touchpad on a MacBook. When set to “slow,” the trackpad performs perfectly well, as my colleague Victoria Song, a reformed Apple TV remote naysayer, confirmed to me after adjusting her own settings. I will say that the trackpad also allows me to scroll through content — something I do compulsively — with ease. The more standard D-pad on other remotes makes this tricky.

Another point that was brought up during this literally days-long slander of a perfectly good remote is that the Apple TV wand does not have a headphone jack as some other remotes do. I say some because not all remotes have this feature, which I’ll admit is a very good design. But I cannot believe that this single feature would sway an otherwise on-the-fence consumer to other devices on its own. Moreover, you can get an absolutely stellar pair of Bluetooth headphones for $70 — or less. And guess what? You don’t even have to plug them into your remote! Wire-free navigation, baby, it’s the future!

As for gaming? I am not confident that whatever issues arose while playing games with the remote wouldn’t be fixed with the aforementioned touch sensitivity settings adjusted. But may I also suggest a refurbished controller, which you can snag from Back Market on the cheap?

A legitimate criticism of the remote is that it, by way of being part of the total Apple TV package, is extremely expensive — and that is absolutely true. In many ways, every streaming device remote essentially performs the same function, which is controlling your content. But I’d argue that the experience you get with a remote is absolutely worth considering if you spend any significant chunk of time in front of your TV. Presumably — and especially right now — the TV in your home is working overtime as an entertainment source for the kids, a place to spend time with your significant other or family, and a way to relax after a long day of work (even if that work is also at home). This is a device that you likely use every single day, possibly for hours a day. Everyone invests differently, but for me, I typically veer away from dumping loads of money on things I use infrequently so that I can invest in excellent devices that I know I’ll use often.

The bottom line is that many of the criticisms I’ve heard about the Apple remote simply do not stand on their own, and many of them I suspect are issues that might be resolved with adjusted settings. Perhaps Apple is not the ecosystem for you, and I absolutely understand the various reasons for taking your money elsewhere. All I’m saying is that the remote itself is, in fact, very good. It’s time to put the bad remote discourse to bed already.