Apple TV

Apple TV

The Apple TV can't access Internet videos - and it's not a DVR like TiVo - but it works well as a way to send your iTunes content to a big screen.


At its core, the Apple TV is a conduit between your iTunes library and your widescreen TV. That may not sound like much, but if you spend a lot of time "consuming" media in iTunes, it could be what you've been waiting for. Your songs, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and even your photos are no longer restricted to your Mac and iPod. The Apple TV could very well change the way you use your television - is that your cable box we hear trembling in the background?


To connect your TV to the Apple TV, you use an HDMI, HDMI-to-DVI, or component-video connection, which you must buy separately. You can get a good-quality 6- or 8-foot cable for $20. Apple says that a widescreen TV is required, but you can use the Apple TV with standard TVs with component video connectors - you'll just have to live with the Apple TV menus crammed onto a 4:3 screen.


Apple brings its knack for quick, easy setup to its home-entertainment device. After you make all the connections and power up the Apple TV, the onscreen prompts walk you through setting up the network connection to iTunes, either through Wi-Fi or Ethernet. It can take several hours for the Apple TV to sync the contents of your iTunes library, but once a show or movie is synced, you can access it immediately. The Apple TV has a smallish 40GB hard drive, so if your iTunes library is larger than that, you need to specify what gets synced and what will stream. If you have other iTunes libraries on your network, the Apple TV can access those too, but it streams the content over the network instead of copying the files. We had a hard time telling the difference between streamed content and video stored on the device - the image quality was the same, but we noticed some performance lag when streaming video over an 802.11b wireless connection.


The Apple TV's interface is much like Apple's Front Row, scoring it another point for ease of use. You control everything using the Apple Remote, which has basic controls for up, down, play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, volume, and menu. Fast-forwarding or rewinding a streaming video or song reminds us of performing the same functions on streaming Internet content - it lacks precision and accuracy. Navigating through stored content works much more smoothly.


Apple TV has HD support, but there's a catch - iTunes doesn't sell HD movies (yet). You can play your own HD video, but it must be in either MPEG-4 (720 by 432 pixels) or H.264 (1,280 by 720 pixels at 24 frames per second or 960 by 540 pixels at 30 fps). Since iTunes doesn't have these playback resolution restrictions, it's possible that you could have HD content in iTunes that won't play on the Apple TV. In that case, you'd need to use QuickTime Pro or another video encoder to adjust the resolution.


We watched episodes of Desperate Housewives and Psych, two standard-definition TV shows from the iTunes Store, and they looked just as good as they do on cable TV. However, we noticed jaggy, noiselike visual artifacts when watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, a movie purchased from iTunes. Audio quality was excellent, but we should point out that the Apple TV does not have 5.1 surround-sound support.


The bottom line. The Apple TV frees your iTunes movies, TV shows, podcasts, and music, as well as your photos, from confinement within your Mac. If you've longed for a way to connect your iTunes media collection to your home theater, the Apple TV is the missing link.


PRICE: $299
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, iTunes 7 or later, widescreen TV, Wi-Fi or Ethernet network, broadband Internet connection, video cable (HDMI, HDMI to DVI, or component video)
Simple setup. Breezy to use. Only way to link iTunes-purchased media to the home theater.
Small hard drive. No HD content on the iTunes Store. Restricted video formats. Can't access iTunes Internet radio.





+ Add a Comment


I have an 80gb iPod.. my iTunes Library is just over 140gb..

Should I be complaining that the hard drive in my iPod is too small like people complain that the Apple TV HD is too small?

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