The original AppleTV didn’t excite me much. While the HDD space seemed huge at the time, I knew that if I really committed to it, I would eventually fill it up. Since the new AppleTV streams all your media digitally, you are only limited by the size of your own HDDs.
One stop shop for all your digital video needs (and traditional media – see tips below). Affordable instant streaming rentals, a great interface for NetFlix, and browsing your own digital library couldn’t be simpler.
One of the greatest features is that the iPad and iPod Touch can function as a remote, media browser and keyboard. Need to search for a movie on YouTube or within Netflix? The iPad onscreen keyboard pops up and your keystrokes are transferred to the AppleTV. Want to decide what to watch next? Easily flip through all your media on the iPad and send it to the AppleTV for display – never interrupting the currently playing selection. Great for sharing podcasts, music and short clips.
No iPad or iPad Touch? I was able to easily set up the AppleTV to work with my Logitech Harmony H-659 for easy control over volume and navigation.
My number one complaint is that there is no true server mode for iTunes. I don’t want to invest in another computer, and I don’t like the fact that iTunes needs to be running on my laptop anytime I want to use media from my library. The AppleTV has a USB port in the back for ‘service and support’ but it would be great if we could use this to hook up an external HDD with an iTunes library on it, or if Apple wrote a ‘server’ mode for iTunes that could run in the background. Really, I don’t even mind that iTunes is running, I just wish it wouldn’t show up when I alt-tabbed around and flip through applications – I’m not concerned with the hit on processing.
While I appreciate how small and portable the device is, I would have liked to see a few other video out features. I thought the AppleTV in combination with my laptop would be a great way to bring and share all my movies when visiting friends or traveling. Despite the prevalence of HD TVs, I’ve still found plenty of friends, hotels and lodges that do not have them.
Tips and Tricks:
I converted my entire DVD library to digital using RipIt and HandBrake. During the day I’d swap one DVD after another, and then add it to a compression queue that I run in the evening. This took about 2 weeks to do because I have over 300 movies… The results were well worth it though!
A handful of my DVDs wouldn’t rip, and I have a decent size collection of Blue-Ray discs which are impossible to convert to digital. I wanted this to be a one-stop-shop for picking a movie, so I actually created a short 10 second clip in iMovie that says “This title only available on disc” and added in all my Blue-Ray titles as well.
Titles that are only available on Blue-Ray get a “Blue-Ray disc border.” If I have both the digital version, and Blue-Ray disc (either because the BR came with the digital copy, or I have the DVD to rip as well), I put the little icon in the bottom right corner. This way I never need to pull out the giant flip books of discs unless I know I want to watch one. No one gets left behind!
Over all, I’m quite happy with the AppleTV. For $100, you can’t really go wrong. If you already own a PS3 or X-Box 360, there isn’t a lot here that you can’t do with one of those already. I’ve never rented a movie on my PS3 or 360, but I can’t imagine its much more difficult or costly. It was really the full access to my entire media collection that appealed to me most. If I ran a Windows based computer, or installed a media server somewhere, I’m sure I could get the PS3 and 360 to do this just as easily, although I’m not sure if browsing and navigation would be as slick.