Mini Review: Apple TV

As I wrote previously, the battle for the living room, for your television, is underway.  One of the ‘bug guns’ in that battle, Apple, has finally gotten its entry into the market. Well, I should say it’s latest revision has made it to market.  The newly revamped Apple TV is a very nice little-and I do mean little-product.

CIMG0485The device is tiny. In fact, a standard sized paperback book would dwarf the Apple TV, it is that small.  It is black and has five connectors on the back: AC Power, Ethernet, HDMI, micro USB and optical audio out. It features built in Wi-Fi and comes with an equally thin and small remote control.

The remote has three buttons and a directional control.  One button is the ubiquitous Menu button which takes you one level back from where you were. There is the pause/play button, the select button and the four way directional control.

Apple TV box contentsSetting up the Apple TV was very simple: plug in the HDMI to both your television and the Apple TV, plug in the AC power cord and turn your set to the HDMI port to see Apple TV.  You are asked to select a language (English is the default) and then it detects your network. If Wi-Fi, you select your network and enter the password if necessary.  Other things to setup, but not all once, include your iTunes account, NetFlix account (if you have one) and Flickr, if you have it. That’s pretty much it.

Apple TV ScreenNavigating the device is pretty easy and straight forward.  The initial menu is horizontal. Each menu option has a vertical menu.  Selecting one of them takes you to another menu which is all vertical.  It is, dare I say, kind of Zune like.  Well, more Windows Media Center like.  If you have used Front Row, the sub menus look like that.

From the main menu, you have things like music, movies, television, internet, computer and settings.  Computer will show you all of your iTunes content provided your have Home Sharing turned on.  On my Windows 7 computer, I also had to share the directories, though I am not sure why that was the case.

Internet was interesting. It has YouTube, of course, but it also has Flickr and radio.  There was no browser, something I think it needs.  No matter, most will spend the majority of time in YouTube or watching the streaming iTunes stuff.

The video quality is pretty good, but will vary depending on the quality of the source material. Most of the iTunes videos looked great, though some of the older stuff looked terrible. I have two old episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica. Not only were the video blocky, the color was dithered.

CIMG0492Apple TV features 8gb of storage, but none of that is available for storing content. I suspect that, for now, it is used strictly for buffering the streaming content.

Apple TV is a pretty cool toy.  Unfortunately, there are a few things that will keep it in the ‘toy’ category for now.   The biggest problem is that it is still not simple enough for the average person to setup and use. While I found it extremely easy to setup and use, there is still the whole network setup (not really Apple’s problem, but a factor anyway) and setup of iTunes content for home sharing.  It is still just a tad on the geeky side for most.

Overall, I like the product and already see lots of potential. My son, after about ten minutes, said he’d like one on his TV for YouTube, mostly. He liked the TV and movie aspect as well.  It is definitely kid friendly, but may not be friendly for us older ones.

Apple TV, while not a must have, is a nice addition to your media consumption tool box, IF, though, you are mostly Apple and iTunes. I’m not, but have enough compatible content that it does not matter for me. If you are heavily invested in iTunes and all things Apple, then this is a must. Otherwise, look at the Roku and Western Digital devices as they may be more friendly to your content.

Apple TV is $99 and is available now from Apple.com or one of the Apple stores.

Note: both of my ‘good’ cameras needed their batteries charged, so I used my Pre, that’s where the glare comes from.
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