Since the late nineties, apple has been making the technically complex simple. The iMac did it for personal computing, and the iPod is a paragon of portable consumer electronics. Now Steve Jobs and company want to simplify your home entertainment experience with the $299 Apple TV. But what, exactly, is it?
The basic concept of this product is straight forward: It wirelessly streams content from the iTunes libraries of up to five computers and can also play content directly from the boxs 40GB hard drive. This means you can enjoy almost anything on your PC, including movies, photos, podcasts, and music, on your enhanced-definition and high-definition widescreen televisions. Apples slogan says, “If it’s on iTunes, it’s on Apple TV”- and this is mostly true. Those who don’t mind hooking up a few cables and thinking a little about the setup will enjoy this wireless extension of iTunes.
Setup is pretty easy. Apple TV appears as a device in iTunes when you choose to add a library on Apple TVs menu. You’ll need a computer running iTunes 7.1.1 connected to a wireless “b”, ”g”, or “n” router. Apple recommends “g” or better, but we found that even when we ran video over a “b” network it was watch able. Just keep in mind that video is 640-by-480; don’t expect HD quality.
One big drawback is that Apple TV works only with EDTV or HDTV (sorry, 4:3 set owners). Another caveat: Any video files that don’t play on the iPod wont play on Apple TV without first being converted in QuickTime to a compatible format even if they do play in iTunes. This was certainly true of video footage I took on my digital camera: It showed up (and played) in my iTunes library but didn’t even appear as a playable file in the Apple TV menu.
With setup done, you can stream iTunes content from your computer to your television. “Sync” your PC with the Apple TV, and all of the material in your iTunes library (except the aforementioned video files) will be transferred to the box’s 40GB hard drive. You can’t stream photos, but you can sync them if your computer has iPhoto or Photoshop installed. Sure, the Xbox 360 is a great media extender, but this device is the one for iPod owners. It’s a fantastic product. Even so, I won’t be buying one until iTunes movies cost less than going to a real theater.
APPLE TV: $299