Apple TV Review
I recently purchased an Apple TV – the last piece of my entertainment system (for now). Since the features of the Apple TV are well documented so I’ll just weigh with a few of my thoughts on specific subjects:
Apple TV and iTunes – Simply put, if you don’t like iTunes or aren’t willing to use it extensively then the Apple TV is not a product for you. As for me, I have been an iTunes user since iTunes was first introduced.
File Formats – If you have a lot of files that are in non-QuickTime formats (.wmv, flash, .avi) you’ll need to invest in a program such as VisualHub to convert them before they can be played on the AppleTV. One of the nice features of iTunes is that it’ll convert anything that iTunes can play into a format that the AppleTV can play. But, iTunes won’t play any of the formats I mentioned above, so you’ll need to buy something to do it. On the upside, the AppleTV does support h.264 video as well as AC3 (Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound) which makes for great quality video and sound. My biggest annoyance has been that the Apple TV will not play 720p30 video. Apple TV does support 720p video, but only at 24 frames per second. One other catch is that any podcast that is 1080p cannot be played on the Apple TV. Luckily there are programs such as MPEG Streamclip that will convert video from 30 to 24 frames per second and blend frames.
40 or 160 GB Version – Apple has two different versions of the Apple TV. A less expensive 40 GB version while for approximately $100 more you can get a 160 GB version. In my case I opted for the 40GB version. In my case I my Mac Mini is always at home and online, and since I have wired ethernet I wasn’t concerned about streaming. I load some of my content onto the Apple TV but for the most part I stream content over my network. On the other hand, if someone had a laptop that wasn’t always online then the 160 GB version might be worthwhile so more content couldn’t be stored on the Apple TV.
Movie Rentals – Since I’m a Blockbuster subscriber wasn’t particularly interested in the much-hyped movie rental feature of the Apple TV. However, for the purpose of comparison I rented the HD version of Ratatouille (since I already owned the DVD and could compare the two). My verdict is similar to what you’ll read elsewhere. The HD rentals off of iTunes are clearly superior to upconverted DVDs, but not as good as the HD DVD / Blu-Ray discs. In my case my LCD is only 37 inches so from a viewing distance of eight feet the difference in quality (HD rental vs. upconverted DVD) is noticeable but not nearly as apparent as the difference between SD and HD television broadcasts. (See my in-depth review and pictures)
Podcasts – One of the features of Apple TV that I’ve used more than I expected is the ability to watch and listen to podcasts. Even though iTunes can get to the same podcasts both my wife and I find the ability to access them directly via the Apple TV more convenient than through iTunes.
Overall I can give the Apple TV high marks. If you dream of having your iTunes on your TV then the Apple TV is the machine for you.