Product Type: Apple receivers
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Pros and Cons of Apple TV 2 for UK users
Apple TV MC572B/A
Member Name: widgetuk
Apple TV MC572B/A
Advantages: Simple to set up, simple to use, small and silent in operation, HD content.
Disadvantages: Typical limitations for Apple - forces you down the iTunes route and is bias toward US market.
This review doesn't cover the spec or features of the Apple TV 2, as you can get those from Apple's website simply enough. I'm going to talk about my experience with the Apple TV 2 and offer up some things to think about if you're thinking of getting one in the UK.
I've had the Apple TV 2 for about a month now and since owning it have used it every day. This alone should tell you that for those who who's TV is the center piece of their evening entertainment - the Apple TV 2 is certainly not going to be one of those devices that sits there in stand-by mode collecting dust and consuming power for months on end with little use.
So what does it do? Basically, it's a device that connects your TV to the network - both your home network and the Internet (via your broadband connection) in a stylish and simple way.
Why would you want to do that? A few reasons really, but mainly because whilst your computer is a great place to store, download, manipulate and share your treasured video, photograph and music collection - it's not necessarily going to give you the best experience in terms of comfort and quality. Computer / Laptop speakers aren't often great and the screen is relatively small. Your living room sofa and your large screen tv with decent speakers connected are a far better place to enjoy your videos, music and photos however! Also, if your home is internet connected, you suddenly get access to thousands of movies on your TV which can be rented and watched immediately without requiring anything more than a few clicks on the slick Apple TV 2 remote control. Apple has also included some other nice little internet features such as the ability to watch YouTube and Vimeo clips on your TV, and view your favourite photos from Flickr for example.
If you own other Apple devices, like an iPod, iPad, iPhone for example, then you can share content from these devices on to the big screen (a feature called Air Play) - again very simply. This is incredibly useful if a friend pops round and wants to show their holiday snaps with you for example.
So you get the idea of why this little box, which is silent in operation and consumes hardly any shelf space on your tv cabinet and very little electricity, is quite a neat little device for bringing new HD media content direct to your TV and away from your laptop / home PC. And at around £90, it's a fairly small price to pay to spark some life in to your TV.
BUT! There's always a but... and in this case it's the usual gripes for most things 'Apple' unfortunately. Apple tend to limit their devices to only doing certain things. Sometimes you wish you could just do a little more. For example, to get your video, photo and music from your computer onto your TV, you have to do it through iTunes. If you're not a fan of iTunes and you just prefer to have your content stored in various folders on your computer - your Apple TV won't see them and they can't then be shared. :-(
Secondly, some of the Internet related features on Apple TV 2 are bias toward the US market. As such, you'll find MLB, NLB, Netflix on there - but you won't find iPlayer, 4oD and LoveFilm for example. Adding these wouldn't be too difficult for Apple to do I'm certain - but it would make the Apple TV 2 a very powerful box considering how much content these UK providers have available these days.
However, before you give up on Apple TV 2 for these limitations, there are a couple things you can do to work around them. If you've heard the term 'Jailbreaking' before then you'll be pleased just know just like the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, Apple TV 2 can be jailbroken to expand the devices features. If it's the first time you've heard the word, then basically, it's a way of 'breaking' into the code of your device to allow software modifications to be made to it. A simple search for the term with give you lots of info on Jailbreaking.
Jailbreaking your Apple TV 2 essentially allows you to share media content from any of your network connected devices in your home without the need for iTunes. I for example store all my music, photos and video on hard drive which is connected to my network (NAS drive). This means I can watch my movies on my Apple TV 2 without having any computers switched on at all, never mind iTunes running!
Jailbreaking brings various other benefits including getting iPlayer and other British content services on your Apple TV 2 (via Plex), installing the Xbox Media Centre software, and even surfing the internet. Many more add-ons are available for a jailbroken Apple TV 2, search online for 'jailbreak apple tv 2' for a better idea.
Jailbreaking isn't really that risky either, as if you mess everything up, you can simply factory reset your Apple TV 2 and get back to the standard system without losing anything - your content isn't stored on your Apple TV box, so it's safe to factory reset it whenever you need.
For what it's worth, I'd say if you're already an Apple user and love your iTunes collection, then Apple TV 2 is a no-brainer. If you don't use other Apple products or iTunes, but you're happy to consider Jailbreaking then it's still definitely worth it. You could argue it's also worth it just for the ability to stream content from the Internet such as paid-for on-demand movies, tv shows, or free YouTube content.
Finally, as with all Apple devices, the Apple TV 2 is extremely simple to set up. A single HDMI cable connected to your TV deals with the picture and sound, then connect to the power socket and your done. In-built wi-fi avoids the need for a network cable, although you can connect one if you prefer to avoid wireless.
Summary: Great little device for getting your TV connected to the network for less than £100.
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