Could the AppleTV unit be the problem?
October 6, 2018 3:41 PM   Subscribe

We have a dual-band wifi router in our condo, and we watch everything through either the AppleTV (Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, etc.) or through AirPlay (some, uh, found footage of GBBO, for example). Sometimes Hulu and Netflix play perfectly; other times, it's nothing but buffer and stutter. The thing is, we're not sure Hulu or Netflix is the problem - my AppleTV unit is an old model. Could that be the problem?

Hulu and Netflix play on my iPad and my Macbook Pro with almost no stutters or stalls ever, but when we watch on the TV through AppleTV, it's a crap shoot. We've also used AirPlay from different laptops to the AppleTV to watch .avi or .mkv files on the living room TV, and while they play perfectly on the laptop, they sometimes stutter or even freeze on the TV (while continuing on the laptop). I'm not sure how it works, but when I'm sitting in the living room using AirPlay from my laptop to the TV, is it broadcasting from the laptop to the AppleTV, or is it broadcasting from the laptop to the router, and then from the router to the AppleTV?

The bigger question is this: could the fact that my AppleTV is an old model be a problem? Do the newer ones have better wireless reception? Are they faster? Should I buy the newest model, or is it unlikely that the AppleTV itself is to blame?

Any advice appreciated.
posted by tzikeh to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
Hard to say without knowing what generation it is, but it's entirely possible the device can't decode the stream reliably and thus is struggling, could be a variety of other factors as well.
posted by iamabot at 4:33 PM on October 6, 2018


Response by poster: How do I find out which model it is? (I feel really stupid.)
posted by tzikeh at 5:08 PM on October 6, 2018


Response by poster: Ok - looked in the settings / general menu

Year 2013

Model A1469

Software 7.2.2 (8015)

TV Resolution 1080p HD - 60Hz
posted by tzikeh at 5:38 PM on October 6, 2018


How does it behave if you change the video playback to 720?
posted by aramaic at 7:01 PM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: How does it behave if you change the video playback to 720?

I don't know - but I also found out that the max Hz this AppleTV will support is 60Hz, and my television is 120Hz.

I'll try the 720p HD 60Hz and report back....
posted by tzikeh at 7:07 PM on October 6, 2018


Our Apple TV is 2nd gen, and running the latest version of software it can (6.2.1, max resolution 720p HD 60 Hz), which is even older than yours; based on Wikipedia I think your Apple TV is 3rd gen.

We encounter the same problem of "fuzzy tweaked robot awful cell phone connection static" all the time; it happens reliably about every 2-3 hours of watching, and the only solution is to reboot the Apple TV. I can only say this reliably for Netflix-on-Apple-TV, though, as that's pretty much the only media stream we watch for that length of time, and we don't have Hulu.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:32 AM on October 7, 2018


Response by poster: aramaic - I tried the 720 - same stuttering.
posted by tzikeh at 8:29 AM on October 7, 2018


My setup is similar to yours, 3rd generation Apple TV (your is 3rd-gen, rev. A) in the living room, Mac Mini upstairs with the 'found footage.' Same OS version as yours, streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime. Instead of AirPlay, I import videos into my iTunes library then use the Home Sharing feature to watch them on the Apple TV. (I use HandBrake to convert .mkv videos to .mp4's so iTunes will accept them.)

Where's your wireless router in relation to your Apple TV? Mine's in the kitchen by the phone plug (I have DSL) and the Apple TV is about 20 feet (6 m) away with no intervening walls or floors. Do you have an Ethernet cable you can string between the two? Here's a 50-footer for 11 bucks, always a good thing to have around. If that clears it up you'll probably not want to leave the cable connection in place, and may want to look at a wireless repeater to improve your networking. (I don't have one, so other folks can chime in on how to get these working properly.)

Try testing the network speed in the room with the Apple TV vs. right next to the wireless router by running the test at e.g. speedtest.net on your laptop at both locations. At my brother's 1940s-era apartment we found a massive difference in reception between rooms - 25 Mbit/sec in his office/den by the router vs. 2 Mbit/sec out in the living room, with three walls in between.

I'm not sure how it works, but when I'm sitting in the living room using AirPlay from my laptop to the TV, is it broadcasting from the laptop to the AppleTV, or is it broadcasting from the laptop to the router, and then from the router to the AppleTV?

Laptop to router to Apple TV, and back the same way.

The bigger question is this: could the fact that my AppleTV is an old model be a problem? Do the newer ones have better wireless reception? Are they faster?

The data transfer rate on your Apple TV is up to 600 Mbit/s (the IEEE 802.11n networking standard) so it should be plenty fast with an unimpeded wireless connection. What's your download speed from your IP provider? Mine is 25 Mbits/sec so the wireless router speed isn't the bottleneck.

(Usual caveats: I'm not that tech-savvy, I just have a user environment similar to yours.)
posted by hangashore at 9:02 AM on October 7, 2018


Response by poster: The modem and router are in the middle bedroom - halfway between the south end of the condo and the north end of the condo. There is no way we could run a Cat-5 cable from there to the AppleTV, which is in the living room at the north end. Unfortunately, there is nowhere else to place the modem and router in order to make sure everyone can use the network.

We do have a wireless repeater in between the middle bedroom and the living room. The AppleTV is connected to the _EXT network that runs through that repeater.

I ran Speed Test on my laptop from right by the router on DEREK and got 52Mbps down and 8.3Mbps up. Same test on DEREK_EXT garnered about 19Mbps down. Switching to MAXIMUM DEREK brought it up to about 25Mpbs down. So no matter which band we choose (or the extender), we're not getting anything like the speed we get if we're closer to the router.

I'll try switching the AppleTV to MAXIMUM DEREK and see what happens.
posted by tzikeh at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2018


Response by poster: No change. Ugh. This is incredibly frustrating.
posted by tzikeh at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2018


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