Apple TV Review

I recently got an Apple TV and after about 2 weeks using it, I thought I would share my thoughts about it. First of all, since so many asked when I told them, it is not an actual TV but a little device you connect to your TV so that you can stream content. The device is actually really really small (3.9″ by 3.9″) as you can see here:

The device comes with Wifi and ethernet connectivity, HDMI connector, optical audio connector, and a micro USB connector for servicing (not sure what needs to be serviced though). One problem I had is that when I opened the box, it didn’t come with an HDMI cable. I had to go and buy one. Now that not too much trouble since I had a couple I could borrow from other players I have but still meant an extra trip to the store. I guess they wanted to keep costs down and wanted to leave the decision to the owner to what type of quality they want since HDMI cables start from $5 and go up to around $300. Mind you, someone buying a $300 cable wouldn’t think twice about throwing away the $5 one. Also the power cable feels really cheap so they could have gone the same route here. Anyway once you have it hooked up and all setup (a real breeze), what can you do with it? Well you can stream content from the following:

  1. Rented movies from iTunes Store
  2. Any content from iTunes on your PC/Mac using Home sharing
  3. Movies from Netflix
  4. YouTube content
  5. Pictures from iPhoto or Flickr
  6. Music from a good selection of radio stations

Now since I have recently joined Netflix (and have finally decided to keep it for now), I decided to give it a go and watch an episode or two of Heroes on it. The Netflix app is really well done (although I think the Wii app takes the cake) and it was easy to continue my show where I had left off. Picture quality was great even for standard definition. There was no streaming glitches of any kind (going over Wifi).
Once I had that done, I decided to play some music while watching a slide show with pictures from iPhoto. My wife specially likes that. Again easy to browse and work with it.
I then wanted to watch an HD movie I had created using iMovie and stored in iTunes. Well that wasn’t so great. It took about 2-4 minutes to start (sorry I didn’t time it) for a movie that’s 4 minutes long. Now that being said, I am using a middle of the line Linksys Router and not the one that is “optimized” for HD streaming so perhaps that’s the problem but you would think that with a Wireless N router, it shouldn’t be that long. I will do a test on Ethernet later on to confirm.

Next thing is that my wife wanted to try an episode of Nurse Jackie since she had heard good things about it. We try to find it on iTunes and couldn’t. Then she asked about Despicable Me since my daughter wanted to see that. And no. Hmm sounds a lot like the Netflix story from earlier. Well turns out that even though Steve Jobs said that you shouldn’t buy movies anymore, a lot of the movies on iTunes are still only up for purchase. For example, Nurse Jackie and Despicable Me are available for purchase but not for rentals so Apple TV hides them. Now recall the list I had from before which I ran against Netflix with very poor results? Let’s run the same list (well with a few new titles) and see how it compares.

Movies they have for rentals:

  1. Night at the museum 2
  2. The American
  3. Inception
  4. The Town
  5. City Island
  6. Garden State
  7. Letters from Iwo Jima
  8. The Illusionist
  9. The Matador
  10. The Interpreter
  11. The Flight of the Phoenix
  12. Lord of War
  13. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Movies they have for purchase:

  1. Edge of Darkness
  2. Brooklyn Finest
  3. Terminator Salvation
  4. Getsmart
  5. Burn After Reading
  6. WALL-E
  7. The bucket List
  8. Vantage Point (only $4.99 likely lousy movie)
  9. Knock Around Guys
  10. Pineapple Express
  11. Blades of Glory
  12. Wild Hogs
  13. The Prestige
  14. The Weatherman
  15. Mean Girls
  16. Lost (TV)
  17. Entourage (TV)
  18. Nurse Jackie

Movies they don’t have

  1. The Recruit
  2. Dexter

So as you can see, a better percentage than with Netflix but still not quite there yet. It seems that the newer movies are up for rentals already but older movies/shows not quite yet. Actually I haven’t seen a TV show for rentals yet. I am hoping that with times, things will improve. I guess the good thing with Apple TV is that I don’t have to pay anything even if I don’t watch anything. Not like Netflix. Another small nit pick with it is that it is hard to read the titles of the movies. Now I do need glasses but on a 32″ TV (yes I know why so small), it shouldn’t be necessary. I sit pretty close to it. I can see them fine on the Netflix app for example.

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Affordable. No monthly fees.
  • Very Small.
  • Well designed/built.
  • Easy to connect to Apple iFamily.
  • Great Netflix app.
    Cons:

  • No HDMI cable.
  • Expected greater selection of shows to rent.
  • Cheap power cable.
  • Poor HD streaming (maybe network though).
  • Hard to see titles when browsing movies.

Overall I am pretty happy with the device and really most of the cons can easily be rectified over time. I suspect Apple is working hard with the movie studios to expand their list of titles much like what they have done for music on iTunes so within another year, I suspect the list of non rentals to be much smaller. If that’s the case, then I can safely skip the entire Blue Ray experience. Perhaps that’s what Sony and some of the studios are balking at since they invested so much in the medium.

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