Got a new TV, now disappointed with ATV

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Gregintosh, Jul 23, 2009.

  1. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Chicago
    #1
    Well, I recently got an AppleTV, was happy with it overall. Looked fine, though not perfect, on my 26" Toshiba 720p TV (from 2003).

    Now I got a 1080p TV (37" Insignia at Best Buy for $599) and I must say I am very disappointed... not necessarily with the TV but with ATV.

    The HD rentals and movies (of which I have a few) look about the same as DVDs used to look on my old 720p. Not very sharp, quite pixellated, and overall just poor quality (speaking as a techie who likes a quality experience). Definitely watchable though and not bad for casual watching, but not something I would invite friends over to see.

    Granted, it is significantly better than 480i DVDs (nostalgic moment as I remember how DVDs were considered awesome quality before), and MUCH better than my Dish Networks 480i receiver (which looks like poor quality internet video on this TV), but it is definitely not an "HD" experience.

    Network TV so far, OTA HD, looks the best (but still not 100% perfect, except maybe the 1080i stations which look good).

    I was hoping that the Apple TV would replace the need for a bluray player, I mean sure bluray is the highest quality you can get, but I figured hey, a passable 720p iTunes rental might be "good enough", guess I was wrong.

    It almost makes me wonder if I should have gotten a 720p TV (though everyone says thats like buying outdated technology).

    I guess I will be buying a Bluray player afterall, making Apple TV "a hobby" for me much like it is for Apple (and I really wanted to make it my primary content source on my TV). Maybe someday, in the not too distant future, they'll make a 1080p version and upgrade iTunes HD rentals to 1080p too.

    I also won't be upgrading my Apple TV's hard drive. I was planning on putting a 320GB in there, but I'd rather put the $90 some odd dollars toward a new Apple TV for when they do finally upgrade them to 1080p or boost their processing speed enough so that video from sources other than iTunes, in high def, doesn't have to be neutered in order to play nicely.

    Until then, for those out there doing research about replacing your home theater content needs or even HD Cable or Satellite with just an AppleTV, you can forget it.

    Any other 1080p TV owners care to share their experiences?
     
  2. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2007
    Location:
    South East Texas
    #2
    See, I don't see how 720p can look anything like a DVD resolution to anyone, even on a 1080p screen. If your set has a decent upscaler, it should be a very satisfactory experience on most films.
     
  3. macrumors 603

    gr8tfly

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2006
    Location:
    ~119W 34N
    #3
    I have a 50" 1080P plasma. The :apple:tv looks fine - not 1080P Blu-ray, but definitely hi-def. Upscaling a DVD would be good, but still not easily confused with the :apple:tv's 720 output. It looks on par with 720 DirecTV. If you have the :apple:tv set to 720, try setting it to 1080. Usually, having the source device do the scaling gives better results (yes, I know HD content is only 720, but the :apple:tv can scale it's output to 1080P).

    It's not a replacement for Blu-ray, but a good addition to it and satellite, and very convenient for rental.
     
  4. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    #4
    Yeah, I would expect AppleTV content to be kinda iffy just because it's not very powerful hardware (or is it?), and it is all downloaded.

    At this point I use my MBP for most of my movies. It sometimes struggles with high bit rate 1080p, but for the most part it is fine. Hook it up via mDP, hook up the speakers, and it is just as good as blu-ray. Just make sure your video files are high quality.

    Though Blu-ray is good quality, I will not support any disk medium. We should be beyond that, and I hope blu-ray fails to gain widestream adoption. Downloadable content FTW!
     
  5. macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #5
    you dont say the bitrate of your 720p movies.. i have heard great things of movies that are encoded properly, maybe you should try encoding differently?? (or are you using online-bought rips? because they are worse quality then DVDs?)
     
  6. macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #6
    you should be using Plex to play your movies then, even more original MBP can play 1080p movies.

    the world cannot handle download-able blu-ray content.. its TOO large. give it 15 years.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Chicago
    #7
    Okay, well I must admit I am using component cables to get the 720p output (waiting for HDMI cables to arrive in a few days). Though I am not sure how big of a difference this will make.

    I know in theory digital is better than any analog cable, but to be honest, I hardly saw a difference going from component to DVI when I was using a set top box to get HD signals on my old TV. Perhaps (and hopefully!) the difference will be more pronounced here.

    I am referring to watching iTunes bought rentals/downloads. I bought a 2.99 discovery channel show in HD as well as downloaded a free HD movie they had this week (some racing documentary). Both looked kinda like crap - pixillation galore, almost like watching a small movie on the computer in full screen on high resolution (which is exactly what this is, really).

    My "looks like DVD" comment was meant to imply that I can see that the picture is being scaled noticeably, which produces some pixilation, the same way that I used to see pixilation on my 720p TV when I was using my 480p DVD player. The detail is better on the HD, yes, but it is a far cry from a "crystal clear" picture that I would see on display in a store or even on some broadcast TV.

    I just watched a free promo for Kings in HD and it actually did look decent. I guess the quality varies even on the iTunes HD store. I still think the best quality was broadcast TV.

    I just bought a few more HD shows, a free episode of Smallville Season 8 in HD (currently free for anyone as a promo I guess) and an episode of South Park. I guess it will give me a better range on which to judge.

    If the quality of these is pretty good then perhaps AppleTV will still fulfill its purpose as a movie rental and TV show purchase place that doesn't require me to leave the house.

    As far as downloaded movies, I downloaded a rip of the Matrix in HD and it was very choppy on the Apple TV. I tried re-encoding it to a different format but then the AppleTV said it couldn't play it (even though I was following the exact directions on a website that told people how to encode HD for Apple TV).

    Perhaps if someone here posted the parameters of their home made HD files for Apple TV (bit rate, exact codecs, etc.) that would be helpful in my experiments. :D

    Oregon2, I totally understand what you mean. I am on a crusade against two things: wires and physical media. I have my iMac down to just my power cable. My home theater hopefully will be down to a few power cables and 1 or 2 HDMI cables soon, at least in the back of the TV (a welcome change from nearly a dozen different plugs).

    However, if I want to entertain some guests with my TV, or even if I want to make a movie night for myself, I would definitely like to watch something in really high quality (especially a movie I really really like). If Apple TV can't deliver, and it doesn't look good so far but this may change when I get the HDMIs, bluray will have to come into play.
     
  8. macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #8
    wel, there is your first problem.

    you are watching the apple movies! they are, what.. encoded around 3,000kbps?? how anyone could class that as HD i dont know (even DVDs are higher then that!). having such low bit rates will give you much blocking etc, especially on that racing documentary you mentioned because of the faster moving pieces (as im sure you know).

    i bet that if you were to convert a DVD with handbrake, using the appropriate settings, it would look better then the apple HD rips.

    the only way you will be happy with the quality, is for you to download/acquire a *proper* Blu-Ray rip and convert that to the maximum quality (i think somewhere around 6,000kbps). apparently that looks very very amazing :)
     
  9. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    #9
    I guess you really can't have downloadable blu-ray in full quality, but I definitely get by with 1080p rips that look damn good. I don't think I've ever viewed an actual bluray on a nice tv, but I'm not sure how it could be much better. My videos are artifact free and seemingly flawless. Sure, downloading them will take a while, because they are usually 10gb minimum, but its worth it for me. Just plan a day in advance.

    I'm curious though. I know mp3 files have almost equal quality to uncompressed, or even analog recordings, yet the file size is MUCH smaller. For example, it might be 1/4 the file size, with 98 percent of the quality. Could the same thing be done with bluray? Trade off small quality decrease for a major decrease in file size?

    EDIT: now that i think about it, that must be exactly what my video files are.
     
  10. macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #10
    yes i use downloaded BR files too (have seen some fully uncompressed ones but at 45gb they are a tad large for my 25gb monthly allowance). but yes they are quite nice, the full version looks much better though.

    mp3 files are nowhere near 98% quality, i would say they are around 50% (128kbps). 320kbps might be about 70-80%, but they still sound funny to me. you cannot beat the original :)

    its alot harder with movies, compressing the video is so much harder because there is so much more and it takes time to do it yada yada yada. but looking at h.264 compared to mp4 you can really see the difference, h.264 can normally be around 2/3 the bitrate of mp4 yet maintain the same 'quality'.

    dont forget, BluRay is already considerably compressed :p
     
  11. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2009
    Location:
    Europe
    #11
    I don't know about the ATV yet, but I know from experience with other devices that you cannot, and I repeat, cannot judge the HD quality of any given device when you connect it with component. Please stop using it, you don't want to add a totally unneccesary extra Digital->Analog->Digital conversion...

    Get a decent encode and an HDMI connection and I'm sure it will look very good indeed. Not Blu-ray or HD-DVD quality of course, but good quality for sure!
     
  12. macrumors 65816

    randy98mtu

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2009
    #12
    I have a 61" Samsung DLP 1080p. I think the 720p content from iTunes looks great through the Apple TV. I did a comparison the other day between The Dark Knight Blu-ray and the "digital copy" that came with it and the difference was huge. I have Quantum of Solace from the iTunes store and Casino Royal on Bluray. I may buy Casino Royal from iTunes so I can do a direct comparison. I definitely think Quantum looks great in 720p.

    I'm not as critical in my viewing as I once was, but I definitely feel that the 720p content is significantly better than the 480p and worth the extra cost in most cases. I'm sure that the 1080p will be sharper, but 720p is more than sufficient for most purposes.

    Question on the 1080p Insignia. You say the picture otherwise is good. I have a 42" 720p Insignia plasma. I like the picture, but it is so prone to burn in it's horrible. It's just in our bedroom so I don't worry about it, but when I have the money that sucker is getting replaced. If there is something paused on the screen for 2-3 seconds and then the screen goes black, you can see the burned in image. I've actually found the best thing to clear up the burn in (it will go away, but it is visible for quite a long time) is the ATV screen saver. It will clear it all up in a few minutes to the point that you see no burned image. I've read other reports of the burn in, so I know it's not just mine. Just wondering if it's just this set or if it's Insignia. It was just such a good deal at the time I couldn't justify getting a nicer set for the bedroom.
     
  13. macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #13
    have you made any comparisons between a DVD and a 720p downloadable iTunes HD movie?? i would be interested in knowing, apparently the HD content is terrible..
     
  14. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    #14

    I`m sorry to even suggest this but could it be that the TV is just rubbish. As far as I know Insignia is Best Buy`s budget in house brand. I`ve got a 37" Samsung series 6 and ATV content looks fine. Not as good as Blu-ray but thats to be expected. I play a lot of HD content that I`ve encoded myself and it looks great.
     
  15. macrumors 65816

    randy98mtu

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2009
    #15
    No direct, 1 for 1 comparisons. I have a less-than-full res copy of Casino Royal and it was horrible compared to the 720p download. I have a few episodes of LOST from iTunes and a few from DVD and I can definitely tell the 720p copies are sharper. The 480p is good enough, but you can definitely see more detail and the 720p is considerably sharper. It's more noticeable in some scenes than others. In darker scenes I definitely felt that the DVD rip looked poor to what I remembered in similar scenes from the 720p copies.

    Again, I don't doubt that you'd notice another bump from 720p to 1080p, but to me it's less than from 480 to 720. I find that 720 is a good balance and suitable for me and my family.
     
  16. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 14, 2008
    Location:
    Bel Air, MD
    #16
    Just get a PS3 and rent Blu-Rays from NetFlix (10.99 a month unlimited rentals) . . . . . call it a day.
     
  17. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2008
    #17
    It's pretty much been proven beyond any doubt that the human eye really can't distinguish between 720p and 1080p on anything smaller than a 41in HDTV, not matter how good the TV is, unless you are basically sitting right on top of it.

    I have a 37in Vizio 1080p. I see no difference between BR or an HD movie rented on Itunes...

    now on a 50 incher, you'll see a big difference
     
  18. macrumors 68030

    uberamd

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    Location:
    Minnesota
    #18
    Especially given the bandwidth caps ISP's are forcing on customers.
     
  19. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2009
    #19
    I used to work at Best Buy in college (in the home theater department for two years) and Insignia televisions are by far the worst purchase someone can make in the realm of HDTVs. Just my opinion...

    If it came down to a 37" crap $799 or a 37" much better $999 television, the extra $200 is so worth it.

    The markup on those is so insane. I probably could have purchased Insignia and Dynex products on average with a 80% discount.
     
  20. macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #20
    Luckily the future ones were thrown out and the existing ones are being phased out.

    We will see internet speeds that will be high enough to stream Blu-ray in the very near future (5 years at most for anyone who lives in or near a city). With DOCSIS 3.0 as well has fiber optic internet being deployed, it won't be long before we can all enjoy "light speed" internet.

    In reality, what we are waiting on is the ISPs themselves who don't have equipment to handle the massive bandwidths required for all of the customers with high speed connections. The equipment is quite expensive (believe me, I work at a company that supplies hardware to ISPs), so those that do offer it make you pay through the nose. This will change as technology gets cheaper and all ISPs will gain access to it.

    What we should instead be worrying about is the 700-900 Mb/s Super Hi-Vision. Now, if only we could go ahead and move to IPv6 before the internet can't take any more websites.
     
  21. macrumors 65816

    randy98mtu

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2009
    #21
    The picture from it is fine, but the burn in is the issue. At any rate, I'm sticking to name brands from now on. I've had great luck with Toshiba and Samsung in the past. I just looked and I could get a 1080p LCD Toshiba 40" for what I paid for my Insignia about 15 months ago ($700) At the time though, other flat panel 42"ers were going for 1100, so I took the chance on the Insignia.
     
  22. macrumors G3

    rhett7660

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Sunny, Southern California
    #22
    Well, I don't think it is going to fail. You might want to take a look at the blu-ray numbers and players that have been sold and are selling. Is it picking up like DVD did. No, but it is picking up. Sorry, but there are not alot of people out there that want to wait hours to download a movie. There is still a percentage of people who are on dial up!
     
  23. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #23
    I've bought two HD TV series from iTunes, BBC's 'South Pacific' and 'Planet Earth', both natural history shows. Whilst Planet Earth is good, I don't think it looks a lot better than DVD quality. South Pacific on the other hand is fantastic, the wife reckons it looks like 3D! I can't see how anything could look better on my 40" Toshiba.
    I guess the conversion done by Apple and also the quality of the original must play a big part in final quality, South Pacific is a couple of years newer than Blue Planet.
     
  24. macrumors G3

    rhett7660

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Sunny, Southern California
    #24

    I think just because we see doesn't mean the people the will use it. We have fios in my area. I am the only one on my block that has it. Everyone else is on cable or dsl. Yes I talk to my neighbors a lot. LOL... Downloadable movies are not on there agenda, yet they all have a dvd player or blu-ray. I don't think downloadable content is quite there yet. It is coming. But I still think a lot of people want the physical media in there hands.
     
  25. thread starter macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Chicago
    #25
    I am also a former Best Buy employee (spent 5 years in that building 3 for bby and 2 as a vendor rep), and I am quite familiar with the budget brands and the discounts on them (like the $89 Geek Squad HDMI cable that is $9 for employees though TVs that aren't over $1,000 usually have significantly less markup).

    In reality, they are made in the same factories as the major brands, with a few different parts and a different name. The panels, though, are made by major brands (there are only a few that manufacture LCDs for most the world, pretty much). I think the Insignia panels are made by LG, at least that is what I heard. When thy debuted initially, they were made with eclectic collections of cheap parts, to keep costs down and were quite laughable.

    Now, however, the quality rivals the bigger brands (a combination of bigger brands saving money by cheapening their products and Best Buy improving quality of their own), and even home theater employees no longer snicker in private when someone asks about them.

    In the store, side by side with larger brands I did not see a difference between this TV and the others (it was standing next to an LG and a Toshiba, in the middle of a row of TVs), which is why I am pretty sure it is the signal and not the TV itself. And it's not that I didn't look closely. There were clear differences between these TVs and Proscans and RCA's which washed out at various angles and overall looked kind of dull (and were even cheaper).

    I think it is probably the source that matters as well. Like I said, broadcast TV looks fine on this TV. Last night I watched Jimmy Kimmel and Conan on it in HD and it was sharp and crisp, pretty much what you would expect from HD on a show like that. The iTunes stuff I saw so far was noticeably less sharp and crisp, at least two of the things, with the Kings season preview being almost the same as broadcast TV.

    I guess if Apple is going to offer just 720p HD for iTunes they should at least make it the best possible quality in the transfer stage that they can.

    Overall, I still think I will end up getting a Bluray player. Hopefully in the next 5 years the downloading technology will be so good that it will no longer be necessary to skimp on quality. I guess once they roll out the 100mbps services in the US as standard broadband, 1080p will even be possible and it won't choke up the country (if they build a more robust fiber optic network).

    Until then, physical media has at least those few years left. I do agree, however, that it is quite numbered and it is a dying medium.
     

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