New Apple TV

Apple has released a new version of the Apple TV and it retails at $99 in America and £99 in the UK. Mine arrived today.

Within about 8 minutes of unpacking it, it was plugged into my television and operational. The first thing you need to configure is your wireless network settings (if you are on WiFi) and then your iTunes Store account.

The device uses iOS whereas the first generation was based on Mac OS X Tiger. Also the chip inside is an Apple A4, so the device is more like a modern iPhone or iPad than a Mac. This box is HDMI only and the audio out is Optical. It’s network capability is wired Ethernet or Wi-fi.

The first main difference one notices from the first generation is the change of menus. Now there is only main menus for Movies, Internet, Computers and Settings. The Settings menu is very much like the old Settings menu except three notable differences so far – one being the possibility to sleep the Apple TV after a specific time period, another to name the Apple TV with common labels such as “Living Room” and the last being the lack of any way to change the output from 720p. 720p it is then – not even 1080i is available.

This generation of Apple TV does not appear as a device in iTunes in the same way that the first generation does. The Computers menu allows you to stream content from your iTunes libraries which have Home Sharing setup. Due to the rethink of the Apple TV, there is no syncing of libraries and no content stored on the Apple TV other than cached content. The Movies menu is iTunes Store specific and frustratingly (for me at least) the My Movies option has gone. The Shared Movies option has also gone. If you want to watch a movie from your iTunes library, you need to browse your computer.

Also annoyingly the nice video organisation in Movies by “Programme” has gone.

In the future it will be possible to use an extension of Airtunes called Airplay to send videos to the device from another one (e.g. iPad, iPhone, iTunes, etc), but this isn’t available yet.

The Flickr, MobileMe and YouTube facilities are there but are unchanged. It’s still not possible to log in to Flickr and MobileMe – so you can only get your public content on the AppleTV. You can log into YouTube as you could before but one still cannot get a list of ones own videos – another missing feature which the iPhone and iPad has had for some time.

On the good side, the device is more performant than the original. So far no video stuttering. The annoying first video playback stutter has gone on this model and so has the stuttering problem caused by firing up an iTunes which is shared with the Apple TV during playback of a movie. It is a better device overall in terms of build and is cooler than the original.

The overall package has the feeling of being rushed out. The hardware is good, but features are missing on the software. What they need to do:

  • Finish the AirPlay capability
  • Better organisation of movies and files on the Computers section
  • Rapidly tell content providers how to get their content onto the box
  • Application support like the rivals have and are planning

If you consider that the concept behind this is the rental model then it is a good device. If you have bundles of movies on your computer, then its probably a good idea to wait and see what the Google TV or the Boxee box is like.

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