Review: Apple TV (2010)

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The Apple TV is an extremely small device which aims to bring HD content to your TV set. It’s interface is simply amazing, it’s features are ahead of others but there are some small problems with it.

It’s based on the Apple A4 1GHz processor which is found in iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4 and iPad, it has HDMI and Optical Sound with 10/100 Ethernet and Wireless N.

Check out the review after the break.

  • Score:

    7.5 / 10

  • The Good:

    Small, light, great interface, easy to use

  • The Bad:

    No RCA/Component, HDMI only, Needs to buffer video on slow internet connections.

  • Bottom Line:

    Fantastic to watch movies on the big screen at home.

Hardware

The first thing you will notice, especially when purchasing it, the device is extremely small! The device is 3.9cm by 3.9cm in size and comes just under 0.3 kg’s in size. It will fit almost anywhere in your home theater setting – making it an easy choice to purchase. It’s a shiny black in colour and looks simply stunning with your home theater setting – so you won’t mind it hanging around.

It’s extremely simple to plug in. Simply plug in the supplied power cable, HDMI cable and your done. Alternatively you can plug in an ethernet cable or Optical Audio. This is one thing I dislike about the Apple TV. It has no component for the older TV’s. Many early TV’s that support HD video don’t have HDMI – you could buy a converter but it’s not that same. It appears Apple are trying to market this to newer TV’s only but it would be nice if you could hook this up to older TV’s or even a RCA stereo system to take advantage of the AirPlay feature.

The remote is extremely simple and features a click wheel sort of circle and three buttons. Select, Menu and Play/Pause. The remote is the only way you can turn the device on and off too as there are no buttons on the actual unit. I don’t have much else to say about the remote, it’s simple and I like it.

Interface

The interface is stunning and simple. But before we talk about that, i’ll talk about the setup of the device. When you firstly turn it on, you will be asked to connect to a network either by Ethernet or WiFi – also prompted for a WiFi password if required. You will then be asked to enter your Apple ID user details in. Entering of these details was via the remote and a long list of letters was displayed. It appears Apple decided this would be “easier” than providing a on screen QWERTY keyboard – this was a bit of a downfall and required extra time to type in things. Once setup you where greeted by the above screen. Top Movies watched showed on the top line of the screen and options on what to do displayed below. As this was reviewed in Australia, the options for “TV Shows” is missing because for some reason we don’t get them. When searching for movies to watch it was displayed in a huge long list of the movie covers as displayed above and you could click on one of them and rent it or see more information.

It was also possible to stream content from YouTube and Flickr by the “Internet” section. Searching was easy (considering the flaw with the keyboard) and the videos played as 720p in most cases (if available). You could also stream content from your iTunes Library by the “Computers” section – any computers in your home sharing iTunes account where listed and it was a Front Row sort of experience. This worked well and could be used for movies/music/tv shows you’ve downloaded on your computer and you wish to watch them on your TV.

AirPlay was easy to use and I simply tested it on my Mac and my PC. The Apple TV appeared as a speaker in the bottom right corner of iTunes and the music would simply start playing from the Apple TV through your TV. I didn’t have an iPad or iPhone 4 to play with to test AirPlay.

Quality/Speed

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the actual quality of films playing on the Apple TV – however, the quality is quite good especially for 720p. Although, it’s not as good as that 1080p Blu-Ray movie you buy/rent from the DVD Shop – so don’t expect anything spectacular. I was watching the movies on a 47″ Plasma via HDMI and they looked fine and was very high quality compared to watching a normal DVD.

However, there was an issue with starting to watch a movie. I’m in a regional area of Australia (hardly however, 1 hour from Sydney) and don’t get the best connection to the internet due to being 3km away from my exchange. The movie had to preload (or buffer) before it would begin playing this would take atleast 1 to 2 hours at best and it would continue to load while you watched the first half of the movie. My colleague, James Wilson tried the same at his house (he is only a few hundred meters away from the same exchange) and the movie played instantly. So obviously this device is made for use in high speed internet areas. I was quite disappointed at this as it didn’t allow me to watch a movie when I wanted – I had to plan ahead and wait for the movie to buffer.

Last Thoughts

The Apple TV is a great device which allows you to watch movies when ever you want (location/internet speed permitting) and it also allows you to stream movies and music from YouTube and your home shared iTunes computer. Adding Component video to the connectivity types would be a good thing to see in a revised version or the Apple TV 3 however TV’s with HDMI are starting to be a normal thing so I don’t think it will be an issue in the future.