Apple TV. It will change the way you watch TV
Like all things Apple the Apple TV box is stylish in a minimalist sort of way. It it a tiny black box with rounded corners that fits comfortably in my hand and aside from the ports on the back and a tiny white power light on the front nothing mars its finish.
Speaking of the back all the ports just fit..there is HDMI, optical audio output, Micro-USB (for service only), and Ethernet. There’s also 802.11n Wi-Fi built in for connecting to your home wireless network. Note that HDMI is the only video connection available, so if you have an older TV, you’re out of luck.
Another thing you will notice is the absence of a power switch..the Apple TV puts itself to sleep after an hour of inactivity..clicking any button on the remote wakes it up instantly. You will also notice the Apple TV is a little heftier than the other boxes on the market..that’s because the power supply is built in so, no ugly wall wart..just a simple power cord.
The remote is as simple as it gets..it almost looks like an iPod..there is just a navigation circle at the top, a Menu button which also works as a Back button, and a Play/Pause button. That may not seem like much, but, you can control everything you need.. Skipping forward and backward with the navigation circle is intuitive. The Play/Pause button is all you need and it can also be used as a mute button. You will however still need your TV or universal remote to control things such as volume.
You can also use the Remote app on your iPad or iPhone to control the Apple TV..personally I prefer the little remote especially for onscreen navigation. If you are using the Apple TV to play music from your collection to a separate sound system, the iPhone/iPad app can be handy because you don’t have to turn on the TV.
Installation is as simple as it could be. I happen to have ethernet at my home entertainment centre so it was simply a matter of plugging in the HDMI, Ethernet and power cables and it was ready to go. Using the wireless was a tad more complicated with the extra step of authenticating on my home WiFi network.
The user interface is very attractive..looks like an iPhone or iPad. The icons are attractive and intuitive..easy to navigate around using the remote control. Selecting movies or TV shows brings up the attractive iTunes interface. There’s a menu bar along the top of the screen by which you can jump to things such as your purchased content or stuff you’ve added to your wish list. Below there’s a carousel of content iTunes is currently promoting, followed by cover art broken down by categories like new releases and genres. As far as I am concerned iTunes is the best place to find paid content..you can access your purchased movies and TV shows to watch over as many times as you’d like. Your movie and TV show purchases can also be streamed or downloaded to other devices, including the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Macs, and even Windows PCs running iTunes.
There is a fair selection of other channels available for free and paid content Starting with Netflix..the Netflix client on Apple TV by the way is the best of the bunch..there’s also staples like YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr for Sports fans there is NBA basketball, baseball via MLB.TV, and NHL hockey. WSJ Live is a good source of business news plus ,Apple just added Hulu+ in the US. I love the access to Podcasts..the big screen is a really comfortable way to watch the tech podasts I follow.
Oh yes..if you are a fan of downloaded videos you can watch them on your Apple TV by adding them to your iTunes library..granted you have to convert then to mp4..there are free apps available to do that. I play my download video from the iTunes library on my Windows PC without any difficulty..and the interface is cleaner looking and more intuitive than any other device I have used.
Did I mention quality? It blew me away..the 2012 version of Apple TV features 1080p video..now there those who tell you you won’t notice the difference..don’t believe them! The video quality out of this little device is nothing short of amazing..near Blu-ray quality and certainly better than any other streaming box I have tested.
Then there is Air Play the ability to stream video, audio and pictures from any iOS device anywhere in the house..or even mirror the screen of your iPhone or iPad on your TV..cool enough however, the addition of Air Play Mirroring to recent models of Apple computers running OS X 10.8 Mountain Line..such as my mid-2012 MacBook Air it becomes a killer app. Think about this..you can now put anything on the screen of your Mac on your TV..missed episodes of your favourite network series..games..even live events not available on TV. This could change the way we watch TV..cable cutters will love it.
After using Apple TV for a little over a month I have decided it will become my streaming box of choice..sure Roku offers more channels..500+ in the US…much fewer in Canada..but I don’t watch most of them..I would like to see Crackle on my Apple TV though. 🙂 Apple TV offers me great quality, the best choice in paid content, the ability to stream downloaded content from my Windows PC and the killer.. Air Play Mirroring from my MacBook Air..never again will I have to watch a missed TV episode on my PC..that alone is worth the price of admission. Popular wisdom says Apple TV is best for those who own other Apple devices..perhaps…but, as far as I am concerned it just as good a choice for those in a Windows environment who want a solid easy to use streaming box that delivers top quality HD video.
Apple TV is available from Apple stores and wherever Apple products are sold for $109.99 in Canada $99.99 in the US.