After endless speculation and debate, Apple's latest event came and went with nary a mention of a Cupertino-made television set. But Apple's little set-top box did get a refresh, bringing some oft-requested upgrades and improvements to the $99 device. The 2012 Apple TV has a new interface, a new A5 SoC, the ability to (finally) stream movies you've purchased through iTunes, 1080p movie streaming through iTunes and Netflix, and more. It's also as deeply integrated with Netflix as ever, and AirPlay is getting better all the time. The Apple TV also holds a lot of clues for what Apple's trying to do in the TV space, whether or not it ever decides to build an actual television.

The new Apple TV feels more like a refresh rather than a leap ahead, but Apple's clearly pushing on with its television strategy. So will the new version nudge out the set-top competition and earn a spot in your home theater stack? Is this model differentiated enough from the last iteration to warrant another $99 from last year’s buyers? And more importantly, is this really the way forward for media consumption on your biggest screen? Read on to find out.

David Pierce contributed to this review.