Editor's Blog: Leslie's Take on the Apple TV - Not Enough Bang for My Buck

Anonymous's picture

Editor's Blog: Leslie's Take on the Apple TV - Not Enough Bang for My Buck

 

The Apple TV is a nifty device. Roman got it set up in the multipurpose room in our office in like two minutes (not counting the seven hours it took to sync all his iTunes content). A 5-year-old, or a 75-year-old for that matter, can navigate through the menus to find content to display on the connected widescreen TV. Though I was a bit disappointed by the choices of movies and TV shows in Roman's collection (sorry, dude).

 

Roman's taste in video programming aside, the Apple TV does exactly what Steve Jobs told us it would when he unveiled it in January: It connects your iTunes library to your widescreen TV so you can watch and listen to your media from the cushy comfort of your family room couch.

 

Kudos to Apple for doing it before anyone else - and creating an interface and user experience that is a tad more limiting but much easier and, as a result, more satisfying than using the Netgear EVA8000 or the video features of the Xbox 360. And, since I'm complaining about the Apple TV's price tage, I should also point out that the EVA800 costs $350 and you'll pay $399 for an Xbox 360 - although, of course, you also get a videogame console with the Xbox. But considering what the Apple TV doesn't do, I just can't see spending $300 of my own money (plus $20 for the HDMI cable).

 

Why? Three big reasons:

 

1. The Apple TV has a puny 40GB hard drive. I mean, the largest-capacity iPod comes with 80GB. What gives?

 

2. It doesn't actually offer any content in HD - except for HD content I've created and added into iTunes myself. And it has to be formatted as MPEG-4 or H.264.

 

3. You can't make purchases on the fly from the device; you have to buy (and download) all content on your Mac from the iTunes Store first, then transfer it or stream it to the Apple TV. That's too many steps.

 

Actually, I've got a fourth reason: The picture quality just wasn't that impressive. On standard-definition stuff, it's fine. I mean, standard def is standard def. For letterbox movies, though? The experience was just so-so. Shrug-worthy even. I'm not one of those people who even cares that much about being able to see an actor's pores on the screen. I just want the picture to look as good as possible. Fuzzy patches and pixelation - which makes me feel like I'm watching YouTube - aren't good enough.

 

I'm sure Apple has big plans for the Apple TV - many of which are likely to address my four beefs above. But until then, I'll be keeping my 300 bucks in the bank. How about you?

 

 

26

Comments

+ Add a Comment
avatar

Jam

I want it, but it is too expensive!

avatar

Dave

Thank you! An honest review lends a lot of credibilty to your magazine. I think the content has been a little shaky and "rah rah!" since the name change, but when I used to tell people about MacAddict, I'd tell them, "this is the only Mac-centric computer magazine I know of that does honest reviews. It will steer you away from a bad product and let you know when you're getting into a mediocre one."

I like Apple products as a rule, but I think it helps both Apple and consumers to be honest when it comes to evaulating their products.

avatar

Randy

Another annoying missing feature, Music Video Playlists. Apple TV has the limitation of only playing one video per selection.

avatar

Naebother

I bought an Apple TV in the UK costing $97 more than the $300 US price and I am more than happy. It is an excellent device, the more I use it the better the experience becomes, one or two points people are missing.

Resolution
The source of the content matters I start with a good resolution avi file and used Viddyup software to compress at H.264 it added the content to my itunes Library. The result was fantastic picture and sound quality.

These guys do a very good job explaining resolution,

http://www.twit.tv/mb
video pod-cast
The Road to 1080p (part 1), (part 2) and (part 3)

Viewing your content of your computers photos, music and movies on a large screen and cinema system is amazing. I feel computers lock media away like putting them in a box and filing them never to be seen or heard.

Watching video pod-casts and movies is very relaxing, lying down and not suck behind a computer screen.

I personally really like the way broadcasting is becoming higher production quality allowing larger compression with small file sizes resulting enhancements on all fronts even with lower resolution screens.

Hard disc size well a movie comes in at 1.4 gig roughly so that is 28 movies I can only watch one movie at a time. The syncing system is good enough for me and there is no need to store music on the Apple TV wireless streaming works really well.

Well done Apple a device for the future and beyond. I highly recommend Apple TV to anyone, especially if you have a large screen.

avatar

Scott

I bought one an I love it

I dont really care about the 40GB hard drive.... I have about 150GB's of video and im completely content with streaming them.... i havent had any lag at all. Im not even streaming from the computer im streaming from my 500HD attached to my airport extreme....

what I would like to see that would make more sense to me is to be able to have appletv search out you itunes library on a remote drive so that I can take my laptop with me and my girlfriend can stay at home and view all of the content I have saved (basically the ability to stream without itunes open or with your computer gone or asleep

avatar

Mike

Thank for the honest review of the Apple TV. I have disliked the box ever since I saw it at MacWorld. Sure, Apple probably has plans for it, but to see them so blatantly innovating on the backs of their early adaptors just makes me very angry and points to hubris that so-defined Apple in the early 90s.

This device is a nonstarter. Put in a 300GB hard drive, add DVR functionality so I can replace my crappy Motorola box, let me buy from the iTunes store from the box, let me add my own drives and put it in a form factor I can actually use with my other HT components and it will be ready. But now? Waste of money.

avatar

Anonymous

>>Actually, I've got a fourth reason: The picture quality just wasn't that impressive. On standard-definition stuff, it's fine. I mean, standard def is standard def. For letterbox movies, though? The experience was just so-so.


Well, check out the downloadable demos at:


http://hdonappletv.webhop.net/


and you may change your mind.

avatar

Brian Dunning

I bought one just to check it out before outfitting the whole house - and I think it's great, really loving it. iPhotos are amazing at 1080i. I only have 802.11g and it streams TV shows and movies great, there is not really any need for a larger drive. Purchased TV shows and movies do not look as good as HD, but they certainly look at least as good as SD which is what any TV owner has to watch most of the time anyway. For what it is, I think it's a lot of fun.

avatar

Dr. Jan Itor

While I agree with a previous poster's comment that the Apple TV's small hard drive is fine if it's only used to stream iTunes content from your computer to your TV (Apple TV's stated mission, duh), I think the problem is that many people are already leaping past that, to the obvious:

We want DVR functionality on the Apple TV. That would make it MUCH more attractive, and yes, for that purpose, 40GB is too small.
Heck, even sans DVR, it'll still be too small once the iTunes store starts offering HD content (yep, even with good compression).
I do hope Apple TV gets DVR functionality sooner rather than later. It's only a matter of time before the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 offer such functionality, be a shame to see AppleTV become an also-ran over missing something obvious.

avatar

Gil

There are a series of recent articles at www.roughlydrafted.com that explains in-depth some of the reasoning of the limitations of AppleTV. It actually makes sense. Remember that video content available on the iTunes Store has been optimized for internet downloading.

avatar

Jack

Needs full HD (1920 x 1080p) even at increased price (next revision or software update).

Small HD...well it holds the "stripe OS" and virtual memory space needed for any "glitch" in streaming...so no biggy if the USB port accepts a HD (why not have a frickin' FireWire port or are we slipping farther down the court the Wintel gaming crowd?)

Price will keep the product in the upper classes and away from the "lets cut it up and paint it" community.

Truly needs software to rip your "purchased/retail" DVD's (ala Kalidescope complete movie/music/server package...I hope Apple buys the damn company now that they won the last court battle!). No not the DIVX "stolen/underground" crap but, for us movie buffs who have 100s of DVD's and for families with children (it would be the last time the munchins use a Sharpie on a disc or put them in two at a time).

With El Gato I'm getting close to a perfect and affordable "all Apple" theater room.

Beautiful product.

p.s. Is this ad filled server run with some Wintel product, cookies and geez

avatar

Anonymous

Yeah, I have to agree, the 40GB hard drive is ridiculous.

Even if Apple's using a notebook hard drive in the Apple TV (compact, but more expensive per GB than a desktop part), the minimum really was 80 or 100GB... that's the 'sweet spot' right now, and there's plenty of good laptop hard drives at those capacities at good prices that won't break Apple's piggy-bank.

I really don't know what they were thinking here... maybe they wanted something that would be nearly-instantly obsoleted once High-Def content becomes available on iTunes? Because once you can start dowloading hi-def movies, you'll sure want to chuck a 40GB Apple TV.

No thanks Steve, I think I'll wait on this one. :\

avatar

Ben

I don't understand Apple's descision to not include gigabit ethernet in this product. All Macs ship with it today and it's been standard in every PowerMac for years. Could this be an attempt to sell people [who want speed] over on their new 802.11N router?

avatar

loafer

You sound like the audiophiles who complained about 128k AAC about 2 billion iTunes ago. I would classify the iTunes movie content as better than DVD but not fully HD. (Ever watched a DVD on an HDTV - its not pretty.) You also have to remember most macs end up quite a bit more capable as time goes along rather than becoming obsolete. (adding FW/USB to Beige G3, improving wireless on laptops, iMacs booting Windows etc.) Have some faith!

avatar

Anonymous

I THINK THE APPLE TV IS A BIG WASTE OF MONEY RIGHT NOW.
HOPEFULLY INSTED OF RENTING A MOVIE, U CAN STREAM A MOVIE IN GOOD QUALITY FOR A BUCK AND IT EXPRIRES THE NEXT DAY.

I WOULD BUY THE APPLE TV IF U COULD DO THAT...OTHER THEN THAT... ILL POP IN A DVD I GOT FOR 3 BUCKS WATCH IT AND RETURN IT WITH NO LATE FEE'S...

ALSO, LISTENING TO MUSIC ON UR TV IS A WASTE OF TIME.
NOBODY DOES THAT UNLESS ITS A MUSIC VIDEO... AND IF I WANNA WATCH A MUSIC VIDEO ILL TURN ON MTV.

the future is getting expensive... i hope u all have good jobs.

avatar

Anonymous

You are silly, and don't know where the caps lock key is.

avatar

Anonymous

Sorry, the above post was intended for the guy several posts up who posted in all caps.

avatar

nightshrill

yeah, visual content aside, particularly since I have a standard def tv that supports widescreens imulation and has component video/audio cables, I will be keeping my 300 dollars. My biggest issue with it is the fact that it only supports MPEG-4/H.264 and of course the "appletv" format that was just added in quicktime. I have a lot of video files and just about NONE of them are in either formate but encoded with xvid mostly, divx and some more obscure codecs like matroska (mkv). Not only that but the last thing I really want to do is add all my videos to the iTunes library, I use VLC for my videos, not iTunes, not even quicktime. So until apple opens up its product enough to support other codecs/formats like the iPod with mp3's (as opposed to just AAC and apple lossless encoder, which they never did but would be dumb), i'm keeping my money.

avatar

tuecki

I have to agree with Leslie. I got an Apple TV demo at the Apple store in Palo Alto. Installation and user experience are great, no surprise because it's a product developed by Apple, but the TV and movie picture quality was not what I expected. Slideshows looked good but I think I will wait for the Apple TV HD before I spend my money. Hopefully iTunes content will go HD soon too. I know it's a lot more data and downloading will take longer but it's worth the wait once you see the quality on the big screen.

avatar

Frank

I agree with all four of your points. The hard drive is the most ridiculous though. I find it incredibly hard to believe that Apple sells iPods with 30 and 80GB 1.8" drives and yet could only muster up a 40GB 2.5" drive for the AppleTV. Very weak to say the least. I understand that it is capable of streaming but you put the hard drive there for a reason (syncing) so it should be able to sync the majority of your content. And if they want to sell movies and TV shows, they take up a lot of space.

I also think it is absolutely bizarre that it requires and HD TV but the content from iTunes is not in HD. So the content is formatted for my basic television but I can't connect the Apple TV to my basic television?????

Frank

avatar

thriftytechie

Saving my $300 for now.

Here's what I'm waiting for from iTV:
- 100 gb disk
- automatic wireless backup via Leopard's TimeMachine

avatar

Frank

Backup via Time Machine would be silly since the Apple TV only contains content that is already on your computer. So, it is a backup for what is already on your computer. Since you can't buy anything directly from the Apple TV interface then there isn't anything to backup.

Log in to Mac|Life directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.