The concept of this is great - to basically have itunes on your TV. I've been a user of itunes for a number of years. I mostly use it to download music and also occassionally movies but the only way I could watch them back was through my iphone which wasn't ideal considering the small screen size. This was the main reason why I purchased this. It is really easy to set up and all you need is an itunes account, internet connection and an HDMI cable.
The movie download aspect works great. The menus are beautifully presented and its easy to navigate your way through. There's plenty of catergories to choose from and each movie offers further suggested titles which is perfect when you don't know what to watch. Each movie also includes a synopsis of the plot and a trailer which is free to watch.
Downloading time depends of course of the length of the movie and most take a few hours. But you can usually start watching after a few minutes. On a lot of movies (but not all) you have the choice of viewing them in standard or high definition. The picture quality is very good on both but HD is no match for blu ray.
My intention was just to rent titles and this is where this falls down slightly. Every movie is available to buy but the number of titles available to rent is somewhat limited. There's still a good selection but many of the latest releases are buy only. I also have an issue with pricing. Prices vary depending on what you watch but you can pay £3.49 to rent one movie in standard definition or £4.49 in HD (you have to watch within 30 days or 48 hours once you start watching). This is quite expensive when compared to lovefilm where I can watch two blu ray discs for £3.99 (There is also a much larger number of titles available on lovefilm). Buying movies is more reasonably priced with the latest titles typically at £9.99 (Although older movies are somewhat overpriced at £6.99). Also most of these titles do not come with any special features when compared to buying DVDs/blu rays. The itunes movie library itself is also a bit limited particularly with older less well known titles. Though it is getting bigger all the time it is still no match for it's music library
You can also download TV shows in exactly the same way though mostly only to buy. There is the option of purchasing individual episodes or the entire series. The pricing is fairly good here and compares favourably to DVD. Once again all the latest TV shows are here but somewhat limited in the availability of some of the older TV shows. Also the picture quality on some of them is fairly poor in comparison to the movies.
You can also download music just as on itunes as well as music playback. You have all the search options as you do on an ipod and the sound quality is very good. It's also great to view your photos on the big screen. I take all my photos on my iphone and once put on itunes I simply sync to Apple TV. The photos look good, you can have a slideshow and put them to music.
The other main feature I like to use is watching youtube videos. Obviously the picture quality is not great on my 40" flatscreen TV but perfectly watchable. There's plently of search options/related videos and you can log in and pick favourites as you normally would. The menus are big and bright and it's great to chill out and relax watching the videos from the comfort of my sofa rather than a poxy computer screen. The number of videos available is not quite what you'd get on the computer though it does have most of them.
The only real problem I have with the box itself is when I have to type a keyword into the search box. This is done using the remote control and an on screen keypad. It takes ages and can be a bit fiddly. Fortunately after every letter selected more suggestions come up on screen. Also there are lots of other search options you can try before you have to resort to this. It could really do with a QWERTY keyboard being supplied.
Apart from this the Apple TV is great in what it can do. It's also so easy to use and there's plenty of storage capability. It's only held back by itunes itself which is a real shame as it really could have been an absolutely brilliant device.
I've had my apple tv a while and although I've generally been happy with it, I do have a few complaints.
I'll start with the good points though. It looks great, its compact and sleek and it matches the other products in the apple range well, especially the mac mini.
The toned down version of the OS X operating system is very clear and simple to use, everything is laid out in a straightforward simple manner that makes sense. Its easy to find everything you're looking for, from trailers for the newest TV series to cult films from the eighties.
I've only ever purchased content in Standard Definition so can't comment on the HD, but the picture quality on everything I've downloaded has been satisfactory, if not perfect, on my 26" LCD TV.
The biggest issue I have is that from time to time the Apple TV completely disappears from the devices list on my itunes and nothing will bring it back except waiting patiently. Sometimes its minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes weeks! When this happens I can watch content that's already synced, or I can purchase new things directly onto it but I can't sync or stream from my itunes which is frustrating.
I've spoken to apple many times about this, I've followed every step and every hint on the support pages to try and get it sorted but I think this is something I have to live with! I don't think it happens to all of them, but I know it happens to a few so something to bear in mind.
Looking around the market for streaming devices, Apple TV has to be the easiest I've come across in terms of setup and general use.
Like all Apple products they pride themselves on being asthetically pleasing and the Apple TV is just that. It looks just like a slightly smaller version on the Mac Mini. The remote it comes with is very basic, having just a menu button and just the general media controls; play/pause, skip, rewind, volume up/down, simple yet all you need.
Apple TV is the only device that has a direct HDMI output, as crazy as that is Apple has no need for it so you won't find it on any other product. I'm glad they added this though as the connection to my TV couldn't be simpler, HDMI into the back and hey presto sound and picture all through one cable. They also give a composite connection so if you don't have HDMI or have no spare ports then just use the individual connectors. Sound wise they cover all bases which I love, HDMI if you just want it from your TV or they offer phono out (red and white) if you want to output the sound to a hi-fi and even optical out. I use optical because I use a 5.1 surround sound system so using phono won't support more than 2.1 channels. They even give you a computer lock slot so if you have a lock such as Kensington you can tie it down somewhere so unless someone has bolt cutters can't pinch it.
You can use this device in several ways; I'll break these down individually:
Streaming - once connected to your home network you can stream media from a computer. Very easy to do I found, go to settings, then computers, and then add a device and it will search for computers on the network then just follow the simple on screen commands. Recently I tried this with some photos I got emailed, downloaded them into a folder then just streamed them across and had my own slideshow.
Hard drive - Apple TV comes with its own storage 40 or 160GB, since I'm reviewing the 160GB I'll talk about that. This is great if you want to copy some albums, photos or films across and store for quick use, there is nothing worse than having to wait for the item to buffer as it ruins the moment. Also renting titles allows you to store them directly on the Apple TV rather than having to go through the computer.
Renting - Like many manufactures now a days being able to rent titles without having to leave the comfort of your own home makes nights in so much fun, you can browse from a list of hundreds of films, new and old, watch them in standard or high definition and don't have to worry about remembering to take the film back. I absolutely love this feature! I can be pricey and is cheaper to go out but when you take fuel prices into account and the time it takes to get there and back I'd rather pay the extra and sit at home in the warm.
Itunes store - similar to renting films you can also purchase content to keep, whether it is music or films. You do need an Itunes account to do this though.
Air-tunes - So if your like me and have several thousand songs sitting on your desktop the other side of the house and you don't want to burst your parents ear drums playing it from speakers in your room so people can hear in the living room listen up. Create a playlist or play whatever you want, and then simply click where it says speakers and there will be an option for Apple TV. Put simply it streams from your computer and plays through the Apple TV, so simple but brilliant.
Put simply I love this piece of kit, since the last update there is also a standby option now. It looks professional but is so easy to operate, like all of Apple's products. If you're after a streaming device I highly recommend this one, ranging from £219-£270 John Lewis being one of the cheapest I've seen at £219
I have had my apple TV for over 2 years now and I can honestly say there is not a day goes by where I don't use it. I adore the simple and clean interface when browsing my music, movies or TV shows and the fact that they are available at a click of a button without having to change a CD or DVD. It is nice to have your content all in one central hub.
It works seamlessly with iTunes and syncing (storing media on the built in hard drive) is as simple as clicking a tick box. Also streaming media from your PC is efficient even over a 'g' standard network but I wouldn't recommend streaming high definition content over such a network due to the higher bit rate.
I would like to see Apple offer more support for different codecs on the Apple TV but can't see this happening anytime soon.
Another short coming is the tiny white remote that it comes with, it maybe stylish but it is a pain when entering text for searching or passwords.
I was a bit dubious about this product when I heard about it, but it is a real godsend. For years, we have wanted to be able to watch content from the computer on the TV. We've had a range of 'solutions', none of which has been user-friendly or worked.
The Apple TV just solves this problem, perfectly. You put your video content into iTunes, then synch it with the Apple TV. The Apple TV interface is beautiful and simple (as you'd expect from Apple). The remote control is tiny and very straightforward. (I think you can also use an iTouch or iPhone as a remote.)
It lets you listen to your iTunes music on your main stereo system, too.
Unfortunately, sometimes it runs slowly, so the menus hang, and you spend a lot of time zooming up and down past the item you actually want.
Also, it doesn't support video playlists, which is a bit frustrating.
Still, despite these minor problems, it's a great little piece of kit, one we use every day.
It seems as though the Apple TV never really caught the attention of massive amounts of people in the UK, but listen up, this tiny device has seen some great improvements in the way of content.
Apple always seem to do things with style. I own a lot of Mac equipment and one of these sits underneath mt TV. It stands about 4 CD cases high (28mm) and 197x197mm in width and depth. The sleek lines show just the infrared receiver lens on the front. Around the back you have connections for USB, ethernet (to connect to your computer network for internet connectivity), HDMI, component and composite video and an optical audio (toslink) connection.
The idea behind the AppleTV is threefold and each work very very well. Firstly, you can synchronise the device to your main computer, to either pull across media files (music, TV programmes, movies, photos) to then play from the AppleTV onto the display of your TV, or to leave the files on your computer and stream them across your computer network. This works very very well. I have around 80GB of media files on my iMac and they stream without a problem (this also works with a PC).
Secondly, you can buy content from the Apple iTunes Store. This again includes music, some great TV shows and full length standard definition movies. The user interface for both buying and playing back the content is very easy to use. It is the ease of use that makes using the AppleTV such an awesome experience.
Finally, you can rent high definition movies (HD). You then start watching the film and you get 24 hours to watch it as many times as you like. The other nice feature is when you are downloading content, you can start watching whilst it is still downloading, this makes the waiting time as short as one minute if you have a fast broadband connection. In my experience the wait is quite a bit longer for renting HD content, I have sat around for almost an hour on one occasion, but I must admit it was worth the wait.
So, is it worth the money. Well, if you are into movie watching, then a definite yes. If you have a lot of music, video, photos and other content on your PC and want to make that watchable on your main TV, then yes. The AppleTV delivers a great quality picture and really good sound, what makes it a winner in my books is the ease in which it does this. Well done Apple!