Apple TV

Apple TV 2

For our first (well second) post I want to talk about the Apple TV. There are two reasons for this. The first, it’s the only way to watch video over AirPlay on a TV (that we know of). And the second, I have one so I can tell you all about it’s performance, what I love about it, what sucks and how it can be made into a better product.

NOTE: I aim to write for the average consumer so no jail breaking or hacking is involved with this post. I like to keep it simple.

A Brief History

The Apple TV was first introduced in January of 2007. It featured a 40GB hard drive, eventually moving up to a 120GB hard drive. Users could watch video, view photos and listen to music on the device. It was recently replaced by the Apple TV 2  in October of 2010.

Apple TV 2

Apple RemoteThe second generation Apple TV is much smaller than the original and is a streaming only device, meaning you cannot store content on it. Although, it does have 8GB of flash storage to aid in streaming.

It can access content from limited internet services like Netflix, YouTube, Flickr, MobileMe and the iTunes Store as well as your iTunes library. Control is via the included Apple remote.

The device accesses content over Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable.

Below are some brief specs:

  • HD 720p with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound
  • 802.11 Wi-Fi (a/b/g compatible)
  • Ethernet
  • HDMI
  • Optical audio
  • IR receiver and remote

Setup

Setup is incredibly easy, plus it’s tiny so it barely takes up any space. All you need to do is connect the power to an AC outlet and the HDMI cable to your TV and Apple TV. Once connected setup takes a few minutes while you enter your network and account details using the remote and an on-screen keyboard.

Performance

The Apple TV’s performance, for the most part, is pretty good. Streaming content over my local network works without a hiccup. Movies, music and photos play immediately and the quality is great. Streaming from internet services is pretty good with the exception of Netflix. With Netflix sometimes it takes 30sec-1min to start streaming (or not at all), while sources like YouTube stream right away. I think this is due to some issue with the Netflix service over Apple TV because I can stream from my iPhone no problem at the same time my Apple TV is not streaming.

What I Love About Apple TV

First is it’s simplicity. It does what it claims to do and it does it easily. Setup is a cinch. The user interface is easy to navigate.

It’s size is great. Nice and tiny so you can pretty much put it anywhere (as long as the IR receiver is visible).

AirPlay is awesome on the Apple TV. I can select a video on my iPhone 4 and stream it directly to my Apple TV.

Another plus is it’s price, $99US. That’s hard to beat.

What Sucks About Apple TV

It doesn’t play AVI files. Seriously. According to Apple’s Specs on the device it should, however it does not. Maybe this is because iTunes doesn’t play them. QuickTime plays AVI files so why can’t iTunes and Apple TV? Perhaps someone with a little more technical knowledge can shed some light on this? One of those Apple annoyances for sure.

There’s no internet browser. You can only visit the sites Apple allows into it’s restricted network like YouTube and Flickr.

You can’t stream any file. It has to go through iTunes, so it must be in an iTunes compatible file format.

How To Make Apple TV Better

To turn the Apple TV into a better product it should stream any type of video file regardless of where it’s located. Whether it’s a link to an online video or a file on your computer.

It should support apps so you can watch and listen to more content that interests you, like music services and other streaming video services. I see a huge market here. I know you can simply use AirPlay to stream from an iOS device like an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch but it would be nice to have app functionality built right in.

Lastly, I would like to see an internet browser so you can visit the sites you like.

In Conclusion

The Apple TV is a great product at the right price. It’s tiny footprint, small price, ease of use and streaming options certainly make it an excellent addition to any television.

Minor streaming hiccups and the lack of AVI file playback are annoying but overall it gets the job done.

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