Sunday, October 3, 2010

Apple TV First Look

photo-2010-10-3-16-54-2010-10-3-16-54.jpegFriday was the big day, after nearly a month of waiting the new Apple TV arrived at our doors. The first thing I noticed is that is was smaller than I thought it would be. The box the HDMI cable came in was bigger than the Apple TV box. The entire unit is just a little bigger than an Airport Express. On plugging it into the TV it took a few moments to boot and ask what language did I prefer and start walking me though connecting to the wifi. 

As soon as it was on wifi I could use my iPad or iPhone as a remote control. Making searches far easier by providing a full keyboard. The Apple Remote software also provides gesture support for controlling the Apple TV making me think their have to be more applications coming for the device in the future. 

TV viewing is a pleasant experience despite the fact it only supports 720p and there is no option to upscale to 1080p watching Netflix and streaming movies from my computer looked good. In fact it was hard to tell the difference between what was on my DirecTV DVR and the Apple TV. 

According to ifitxit.com and their tear down of an Apple TV the new unit has 256 MB of RAM and 8 gigs of storage with a slot to add more storage. Perhaps Apple will offer higher capacity Apple TV’s in the future? For now you can setup your Apple TV to display your photos as a screen saver through iTunes and the photos are uploaded and stored on the AppleTV and not streamed. 

Fast forwarding and rewinding is a little slow but certainly useable while streaming content. It seems to buffer quickly and resume playing when you skip around within content. Netflix displays fast forwards and rewinds as a thumbnail in the center of the screen. Streaming from iTunes you can jump to chapters just like a DVD. 

Airplay at the moment seems to only work with audio. Apple advertised video streaming via Airplay but not until this November. I am betting an Apple TV software update will be required to make it work. 

I also ran into two odd router freezes my first day of heavy movie and TV viewing with the AppleTV causing me to reboot the Airport Express in the living room. It has never done that before, however the Airport Express extends the network to the office and constant streaming of movies plus traffic from the iPad and a laptop may have been too much. I tired switching to the 2.4 Ghz network connecting directly to the Airport Extreme in the office and haven’t had an issue since. 

It seems as though the Apple TV isn’t finished yet as it is lacking a few features that would make the device a must have for the digital living room. Hulu Plus support, ability to buy movie tickets online, Ping support, ability to send content to your TV from Quicktime X via Airplay, as well as TV and movie studio applications allowing us to access their content. This last item would prompt me to get rid of satellite and watch all of my shows on demand direct from the content creators and would make the Apple TV as hugely successful as the iPhone. The final major update that will make Apple TV the killer application would be a USB camera and microphone to connect to the miniUSB port for FaceTime calls on the TV. Allow Grandma to sit in her living room and talk to the grand kids on their iPhones and iPod Touches. 

Apple still obviously thinks of the Apple TV as a hobby and the studios are not yet sure they want to go the on demand route. I think customers are ready for it and the technology is there and only requires some tweaks to software to make it a reality. At $99 for the device that just sips power, makes no noise and takes up as much space as an iPhone makes it a worth while investment. I think Apple sales on these will be far above the previous Apple TV’s and it just may be the start of a revolution in television. The question is can Apple get the studios to come along? 

My recommendation is if you love renting movies and TV shows, have a Netflix account, and content on your computer you want to move to a TV this is a great device to add to your home and at $99 you can’t go wrong.