Call waiting, cell phones, TiVo . . . all technological conveniences that you told yourself (I definitely did) at first you didn't need; until of course, you had them, and they became indispensable.
This is now how I feel about Apple TV. Our friends at Apple sent me the mighty little movie streamer, and I've been learning to live with this new gadget.
For the uninitiated, Apple TV ($229) is a box-top digital media receiver — basically, a home theater enhancer that functions as a movie or music player. To hear my first impressions, and to whom I would recommend an Apple TV, just read more.
- First of all, set up of the Apple TV could not be easier. You plug in the HDMI cable (or component, if that's how you roll), and it's just a few minutes to be all set up. It was truly one of the most painless gadget setups I've ever been through.
- The most impressive thing about the Apple TV? Its abilities as a media hoster. That's right, hoster, not player, because player is so limiting. The first thing I did was connect my computer and iTunes account to the Apple TV, and bam, all my photos and music were available. The screensaver slideshow of photos (with several photos onscreen at a time) mesmerized my friends and me.
- The movie watching experience is great, but I didn't expect it to be difficult. With no skips for obvious reasons, it's as smooth and easy as using a PS3 for viewing Blu-ray movies.
- The 160GB of space is awesome; we watched a DVD the other night, and it skipped, so we ripped it to the Apple TV and watched it from there (effectively saving movie night and my nerves). Not only is it a better way to watch, you can rip your DVDs to the Apple TV's hard drive, and then never have to deal with those discs again.
- Watching a movie directly from Apple TV is ideal, and way better than renting or buying from your computer (whether you'd watch it straight from your PC or transfer it from there to the Apple TV). Where downloading a two-hour movie onto my computer from iTunes takes me about an hour, it takes about 20 minutes from Apple TV and we were able to watch it before it had fully downloaded.
Who is the Apple TV ideal for?
- Movie Junkies. This is the obvious one, but very true. Having the Apple TV means you can rent or buy movies and TV shows from iTunes (stay tuned for my impressions of that) anytime — no having to get out of your PJs or into the rain to get a new movie.
- People who want to digitize their movie collection. You have 160GB of space to fill up, so you can divide that among quite a few movies and then sell those discs or just consider the file on the hard drive a back up.
- People who entertain a lot. My favorite part about Apple TV is not movie watching, but photo viewing and music playing. Normally we play slideshows on our TV, but we either have to burn a limited number of images to a disc, or run it from the PS3, whose slideshow isn't as cool looking. Apple TV runs my whole photo library and looks amazing doing it.
- People who are resisting Netflix, but sick of actual movie stores.
- People who want a movie streamer. There are other streaming devices, but Netflix's Roku doesn't do anything besides movie streaming, costs $99 plus a Netflix account, and you could do it with an Xbox, but you'd have to have an Xbox and an Xbox Live Pass. No subscription is necessary with Apple TV.
- People who are not ready for Blu-ray (or think it won't stick around). If you rent or buy directly from the Apple TV, movies are available in HD, and they look pretty clear.
- Gadget junkies. Enough said.
This is just the beginning of my experiences with the Apple TV, so if you have any questions or curiosities about it, let me know in the comments below and I'll try to cover it all in the followup!