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Old Apr 4, 2007, 01:29 PM   #1
princealfie
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Let's boycott AP news!

Review: Apple appalls where Xbox excels

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer2 hours, 24 minutes ago

Apple Inc. has graced the public with another smooth, white, exquisitely designed gadget, this time aiming at making it easier to play iTunes movies and songs on the living-room TV set.

Too bad, then, that where looks really matter in the quality of the video on the TV screen the $299 Apple TV comes up very short. It's as if Apple had launched an iPod that sounded like a cassette player.

When I tell people about the Apple TV, they usually judge it by its name and assume that it's an actual TV set. So to clear up any confusion, let me say right now that it's not. It's a square device the size of a hardback book that goes in your entertainment center. You connect it to your TV set via cables (not included). It also connects to your Mac or Windows computer, wirelessly or via cable.

Once set up, the Apple TV can play the contents of the computer's iTunes library on the TV set, whether it's music, podcasts, videos, TV shows or movies. It can also show your photos. XP is the only Windows flavor officially supported by Apple, but I connected the unit to a PC running Vista, and had no problems.

There's a 40-gigabyte hard drive in the Apple TV. It will automatically copy over as much as it can from the iTunes library, so you can access your media when the computer is off. The hard drive doesn't make the Apple TV a TiVo: it doesn't record live TV.

The unit is controlled by a teensy infrared remote that looks a lot like a baby iPod. If hunting for the remote is a frequent activity in your couch, this one will be a nightmare. At least it's so small that you could tape it to one of your other remotes.

On the TV screen, the Apple TV projects a very iPod-like interface, commendably clear and easy to use. It also looks great, especially on a high-definition TV. It uses your own pictures as an animated screensaver.

Speaking of HDTV, you more or less need one of those sets for the Apple TV. It's not designed to connect via the older single-lead RCA video cable. You need a TV that takes either the three-lead component cable (the jacks are usually colored red, green and blue) or the all-digital HDMI cable. Newer standard-definition sets may have component inputs, but most TVs out there don't.

It's surprising, then, that videos from Apple's online iTunes store look horrible on an HDTV set. The movies and TV shows have the same nominal resolution as DVDs, but look much blurrier, approaching the look of standard-definition broadcast TV.

To make it worse, these barely watchable movies aren't cheap. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" costs $15 on iTunes, almost as much as the DVD. TV episodes are more reasonably priced, at $2 each.

It's possible to convert home footage shot with high-definition video cameras to play on the Apple TV, but not in their native resolution, known as 1080i, so some quality is lost even there.

I compared the Apple TV to Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 game console, which can more or less do the same things, acting like a bridge between a Windows computer and an HDTV set.

After having my eyes gently caressed by the Apple TV's menus, the Xbox interface is like a slap in the face. It's garish and confusing, and you have to press more buttons to get where you want to go.

But the Xbox does your HDTV justice. Microsoft's Xbox Live marketplace has some movies in HD, and these look absolutely stunning better than most broadcast HD, and almost indistinguishable from HD DVD or Blu-ray discs, which provide the best video quality available to consumers right now.

Even the standard-definition fare on Xbox Live looks much better than iTunes movies, despite nominally being the same resolution. They look almost as good as DVDs.

Xbox Live has two other advantages: the movies are downloaded straight to your Xbox hard drive, with no need to go through the computer, and you rent the movies for around $3, which is a lot cheaper than buying.

This is not to say that you should rush out and buy a $400 Xbox for use as a movie player. It doesn't connect wirelessly to your computer, nor does it include a video-style remote. Both these omissions can be remedied with some extra purchases, but they'll push the cost closer to $500.

The Xbox hard drive is half as large as the Apple TV's, though that's less of an issue when you rent movies than buying them. (There's a $480 Xbox on the way with a 120-gig drive.) The movies can be watched only on the Xbox, while Apple's movies can be viewed on a computer or iPod screen as well. You only get 24 hours to watch an Xbox movie, which seems unnecessarily harsh.

The Xbox is also a bit of a brute compared to the Apple TV. It's noisy, and its power adapter really deserves being called a "brick" it's as large as the whole Apple TV, which doesn't have a brick of its own.

So neither solution is perfect, but I far preferred the Xbox. I didn't spend thousands of dollars on an HDTV to play substandard video on it, and I'm sure any new HDTV owner will sympathize.

Of course, Apple will at some point start selling HD video through iTunes. It has to. Will that play on the current Apple TV? Probably, but I'm wary of the result.

According to the company's specifications, the Apple TV can play HD video with a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels, but it doesn't actually seem that well suited to it. The hard drive is small, and the low power consumption speaks of weak processors inside. And since Apple's standard-definition video looks so bad, I'm not confident the HD video will look good either.

My advice: if you don't want the Xbox 360, wait for upgrades to both iTunes and Apple TV that take HD seriously.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 01:49 PM   #2
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The Xbox 360 isn't an AppleTV..1) It doesn't some with Wi-Fi...pretty key for a syncing device. 2)You buy media on the Xbox 360, AppleTV is a bridge for iTunes to get to your TV. 3) Xbox 360 plays GAMES...its a game system first, then a media center
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 01:54 PM   #3
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This guy doesn't have a clue...

It's like saying "My Bose DVD Entertainment sytem is better than your 80Gig iPod" - totally different platforms for totally different customers...
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 02:05 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by gkarris View Post
This guy doesn't have a clue...

It's like saying "My Bose DVD Entertainment sytem is better than your 80Gig iPod" - totally different platforms for totally different customers...
While you guys may not agree, the guy has a point. The title of the story is "Apple appalls where X-Box excels". Meaning that the AppleTV sucks in a specific feature where the 360 is great. This specific feature is video content from an online service.

He's absolutely right. The iTS movies are a joke when viewed on an aTV with an HDTV. The resolution is attrocious. I can't comment on the 360's HD movies, but I've read several accounts that it's pretty close to HD-DVD/Blu-Ray. (it's interesting that he notes that the xbox SD videos look better than iTS SD videos ...)

Now, is the aTV capable of much more? YES! I've seen 720p material on an aTV and it looked great.

I won't comment on the buy vs. rent model of the online stores ...

When iTS offers HD movies and TV shows, then, as the author points out, the comparision will be moot.

ft
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 02:17 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ftaok View Post
While you guys may not agree, the guy has a point. The title of the story is "Apple appalls where X-Box excels". Meaning that the AppleTV sucks in a specific feature where the 360 is great. This specific feature is video content from an online service.

He's absolutely right. The iTS movies are a joke when viewed on an aTV with an HDTV. The resolution is attrocious. I can't comment on the 360's HD movies, but I've read several accounts that it's pretty close to HD-DVD/Blu-Ray. (it's interesting that he notes that the xbox SD videos look better than iTS SD videos ...)

Now, is the aTV capable of much more? YES! I've seen 720p material on an aTV and it looked great.

I won't comment on the buy vs. rent model of the online stores ...

When iTS offers HD movies and TV shows, then, as the author points out, the comparision will be moot.

ft
I don't have an TV, but I can comment that the XB360 (which I do have, and the HD DVD drive and purchased 720p content) is more for gaming, and the TV for watching iTunes content. Two totally different platforms with mainly different audiences.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 02:25 PM   #6
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I just read this and was about to post about it, but looks like someone already has.

While I'm sure the guy isn't a tech head, it sounds like he has a point. If AppleTV is a bridge to play your media through your TV and only accepts HD technology, I would expect it to play HD content, or at least have a clear picture. Mind you I don't have either Apple TV or Xbox 360 so I can't say much, but from what I read here it sounds rather disappointing.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 03:47 PM   #7
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I can't boycott AP for a article has no bias nor false info. You found any facts he listed untrue? let me know those. It looks pretty fair to me, he bashed Xbox360 alot too, didn't he?
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 03:54 PM   #8
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Um, I just want to know, exactly how does one boycott AP?
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 03:55 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by clevin View Post
I can't boycott AP for a article has no bias nor false info. You found any facts he listed untrue? let me know those. It looks pretty fair to me, he bashed Xbox360 alot too, didn't he?
Nothing is untrue - it's just that he took two different things and compared them.

It's like taking a Wii and PS3 and saying the PS3 is better as it truely does HD and the Wii is just some cheap machine with 480p. As far as gaming - two separate audiences...
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 03:55 PM   #10
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Um, I just want to know, exactly how does one boycott AP?
By not paying them
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 03:58 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by princealfie View Post
By not paying them
The question was rhetorical, pointing out the nonsensical "call to arms." WE (as consumers) do not pay AP. Unless you have a paid subscription to them directly, you cannot boycott them, unless you count refusing to read a story datelined by the AP, in which case I don't believe they'd give a tinker's damn.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 04:43 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by gkarris View Post
Nothing is untrue - it's just that he took two different things and compared them.

It's like taking a Wii and PS3 and saying the PS3 is better as it truely does HD and the Wii is just some cheap machine with 480p. As far as gaming - two separate audiences...
errrrrr.... every game mag i read compares wii and ps3, as well as xbox360.....

and forget the comparison, most problems he listed are just problems stand alone, even w/o comparison to xbox360.

Last edited by clevin; Apr 4, 2007 at 05:30 PM.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 05:17 PM   #13
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That's a nice, fair arguement/review. There should be more of them.
I don't quite agree with what gkarris said ("Two totally different platforms with mainly different audiences.") I believe that Apple wishes the AppleTV was the same as the 360 in respects to amount, quality & resolution of online movies. I could be wrong though. Both are acting as media hubs so therefore, *should* all be aiming for the same things(amount, quality & resolution..etc) while adding extra features that make them stand out from the competition.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 06:16 PM   #14
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The writer has some valid points:

iTunes Store does not currently offer HD content.
iTunes Store does not offer rentals.
Purchased movies and TV shows resolution is low.

However, his point about the hard drive is somewhat misleading. The TV and XBOX 360 were not designed to hold all of your media. They were designed to stream your media from your computer.

Both Apple and Microsoft designed the syncing feature in their respective products as an alternative to offering units with large hard drives (therefore, avoiding increasing the price considerably).

True, the 360 added the ability to rent movies and purchase TV shows. However, the writer failed to mention that generally only one MarketPlace rental can fit on the 360's hard drive at a time. Therefore, the TV actually has an advantage.

Afterall, how many movies are you going to watch in one sitting?
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 06:56 PM   #15
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Both Apple and Microsoft designed the syncing feature in their respective products as an alternative to offering units with large hard drives (therefore, avoiding increasing the price considerably).
Then why does the Apple page for the TV show:

1) Download
2) Sync
3) Watch

Also, syncing is listed first in the manual. It sounds to me like they expect syncing to be the default and streaming to be the alternative.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 07:25 PM   #16
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I don't have an TV, but I can comment that the XB360 (which I do have, and the HD DVD drive and purchased 720p content) is more for gaming, and the TV for watching iTunes content. Two totally different platforms with mainly different audiences.
No one is disputing the fact that the 360 and the aTV aren't necessarily the same type of device. The 360 is primarily a game machine and the aTV is primarily a media extender.

However, they do have features that cross over. The feature that both of these devices share is downloadable media from an online store to display on an HDTV. In this one particular feature, the Xbox has it all over the aTV.

That was the main focus of the article, and the author was 100% correct.

ft
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 07:36 PM   #17
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I love my Apple TV. But let's not confuse that with being in love with it.
Sure a bit of the novelty has worn off. I also haven't ripped many DVD's since there is a little lack of consensus on settings and the next version of Handbrake/Mediafork should help with anamorphic movies. I don't care too much about the HDD size, it fits my photos, my video podcasts, my home movies, and most of my audio library. Everything else I can stream, even feature films on my g network.

I am hoping to see some revisions to the software for Video Playlists/ or some sort of Genre folders. I would also like to see thumbnail scrolling of the photo library or rolls or something other than just slideshows.

We'll see what happens with the whole 5.1 issue. But really I can't complain. I might not have bought one right away if Leopard was out and either new iMacs or the mythical midrange tower. I wanted something new so I got it. I don't expect there to be any hardware revision/HDD bump real soon, so I figured I wouldn't get screwed there.

Oh yeah, and it looks awesome on my 42" DLP. Depending on the source content. Ripped DVDs, home movies, photos and trailers are awesome. Video podcasts a little less, but then they don't have fantastic res.
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Old Apr 4, 2007, 08:11 PM   #18
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One cannot boycott AP news considering that the majority of what you read and see everyday comes from the AP.

AppleTV and the XBOX360 are good in their own right. We should just leave it at that.
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Old Apr 8, 2007, 11:18 AM   #19
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AP NEws "Review"

Greetings: as shown here on MacHumors, the article has an author - PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer. When I saw it on a newswire there was no by-line. I sent a complaint letter to the distribution source, AP and Schwab. I feel strongly that such a personal opinion should not be transmitted to buisness wire services and provided to stock traders without proper attribution. I am working on an article titled "Porche's SUV appalls where Ford's Focus excels - Milage!"
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Old Apr 8, 2007, 07:09 PM   #20
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There are 2 things I wish my Apple TV had..

1. The ability to combine synced content with downloaded content. I have more than 40 GB of media on my computer, and it is a pain to have to switch sources everytime I want to play something that wasn't able to fit on my Apple TV.

2. The ability to connect an external hard drive. I know this will probably come in the form of a hack pretty soon, but I don't want to have to rip open my Apple TV to do it. I would love to just be able to plug it in and give myself all the storage I want, similar to what the Airport Express can do now.
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Old Apr 9, 2007, 12:16 AM   #21
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We can't really boycott them but we can write hate mail.

But what in the world was he talking about.
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Old Apr 9, 2007, 12:40 AM   #22
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But what in the world was he talking about.

The way he was rambleing on, I dont think he even knows.
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Old Apr 9, 2007, 07:56 AM   #23
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I don't understand what he's so down on Apple TV about. I have an HDTV, with Apple TV, and I've purchased several movies from iTunes and watched them. It looked similar to DVD quality to me. Yes, it wasn't HD, but I wasn't expecting HD. But I think this writer was expecting that, and thus this article. It did NOT look like standard def television, sorry to tell the writer, but it does look similar to a DVD. I also have downloaded a movie trailer in HD from the Apple website, and then watched that over the Apple TV, and that did look like HD. I don't think the trailers that you stream directly through the Apple TV are HD, but if you download one as a file through iTunes, and then sync and watch it, it's the HD version. And it does look stunning, with no hiccups. So I'm expecting in the future HD movies might look like this on this device.
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Old Apr 9, 2007, 03:09 PM   #24
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TV works great for me, though some dvds that I have ripped are kind of rough!
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Old Apr 9, 2007, 03:48 PM   #25
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I don't understand what he's so down on Apple TV about. I have an HDTV, with Apple TV, and I've purchased several movies from iTunes and watched them. It looked similar to DVD quality to me.
video quality is a very subjective thing, there is no a right way or wrong way.
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