October 2010 Archives

The new AppleTV

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Yesterday Fedex dropped off the new AppleTV after its long trip from China.  The timing was not perfect since my iMac decided that its boot partition should drop dead...  luckily the drive was OK and I restored it from Time Machine, but it slowed things down a bit.

While I have no experience with the original AppleTV, I do have a Roku XR and a PS3 which I use to watch/stream content to my TV.  On both, the Netflix experience is somewhat lacking although the Roku is a little nicer.  First, for the PS3 you have to load in a DVD which is a pain. Second I think the interface is slightly nicer on the Roku.  But neither interface is great...  I found myself adding items to my instant queues using a laptop instead of onscreen.

The Roku also streams from other source like MLB and some other odd places which I rarely used other than a few TWiT.tv podcasts.  The PS3 is more useful since I can transfer content from my iMac, like AVIs, via Nullriver's Medialink which works quite well.  

But on to the AppleTV.

First off, it is small.  No, I mean small.  Like a hockey puck.  I've used larger DEC workstation mice.  Second, no power brick..  just a power cord.  Third, aluminum remote..  which feels more solid than any other remote I've had.

Hooking it up was a breeze.  Insert power cord and HDMI cord (replacing the Roku) and that's it.  Once the TV was on and using that HDMI port, the AppleTV turned on into its setup mode.  Setting everything up was simple other than the oddity of using the remote to 'type' in text.  I like that Apple has both upper and lower case text on the 'keyboard'. I also set up my Netflix account...  again pretty easy.  It will go into screen saver mode and/or power itself off after a certain amount of time.

I like the overall interface better than the Roku or the PS3...  its pretty clean.  And the Netflix interface is much better...  the Roku has a tendency to cut off title names in its search results which makes finding specific seasons of TV shows more difficult.

As to streaming Netflix, I took a look at a couple shows like Top Gear which is my 'standard' for fast, complicated video.  The AppleTV did as well or better on streaming, including video quality and buffering.

As for iTunes, I also looked at a preview of the 'new' series of TG which can be rented for $.99 an episode.  It looked quite good, especially since BBC America is not available in HD in State College yet.

There are also other streaming options for podcasts, including TWiT.tv, for Youtube, Mobile Me, etc.

Once my iMac was restored, I linked the AppleTV to iTunes...  this is the major reason I bought it.  I have a pretty large chunk of content in iTunes... which can't be streamed to the Roku or PS3.  Navigation was good, but it helps that I'm pretty careful categorizing my content into difference series with titles, season numbers, and episode numbers.  Streaming was again quite nice with a good amount of buffering and quick response - the Roku has a slightly odd pause and fast forward function.

One thing I did notice...  I have a digital download copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that comes with the DVD.  This did not play through the AppleTV because of the goofy restrictions placed on this kind of content.  It also won't play directly on my iMac, only on my iPhone...

So would I recommend it?  Well, if you have a large iTunes library that you want to stream, definitely yes, even if you have other devices.  Especially since you really don't have another choice.  If you already have a Roku, PS3, or other device???  Well, maybe.  If you want to rent movies or TV from iTunes, it will do an excellent job.  If you want to just stream Netflix and are happy with the other devices, you may be fine staying with what you've got.

The really big question is where all these devices are headed.  No one really has a clue.  Add in GoogleTV and it gets really messy.  I'm really hoping that the AppleTV will get apps like the iPhone and iPad - that will really set it apart from the others.




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This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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