MacRumors Review: Apple TV

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Mar 24, 2007.

  1. macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    Apr 12, 2001
    #1
    [​IMG]

    After a longer than expected period of anticipation, we have received our Apple TV and have had a number of hours to spend reviewing it.

    For our review, we strive to give a scientific, thorough, and unbiased reaction to a product based on a product's ease of use, features, performance, reliability and lifespan, and value. For more detailed information on how we conduct our reviews, see the review guide page.

    Without further ado, read on to get our complete review of the Apple TV.

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  2. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago
    #2
    Probably the most unbiased review I've read yet. The lack of support for non hdmi or component compliant televisions was a horrible design choice - so few people will be able to use this device.

    Can you imagine the initial marketing roundtable discussion?

    "Target audience?"

    "Everyone!" That is, everyone willing to convert their entire collections to a proprietary format (QT) or buy movies under the most restrictive DRM regime ever concieved.

    I really wanted to love this box, but I'm afraid it has about as much mainstream appeal as the ipod HiFi (read: nil.)
     
  3. macrumors 604

    zap2

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Washington D.C
    #3
    Very good....but worth mentioning when you guys talk about the PS3 and Xbox 360 at the end, both models you talked about didn't have Wi-Fi. The Xbox needs a USB add on from MS(or 3rd party wireless bridge) and the PS3 599 Model has Wi-Fi, but not the 499 Model.
     
  4. Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #4
    Very nice review.


    So the Apple TV does indeed support 1080i? That is a big deal, and if it's supported, Apple should advertise it.

    ...And what "tweaking" does 480i require? It seems to be one of the regular options. :confused:
     
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2006
    Location:
    Finland
    #5
    The point of the HD in ATV is not to store your TV shows and movies. The whole point for the ATV is to act as a mediator between the TV and Mac and stream content from the Mac to the TV. It acts as a cache.

    Joshua.
     
  6. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Palo Alto, CA
    #6
    Having Tanya Donelly's album "Beauty Sleep": 10/10!!
     
  7. macrumors 6502

    nate13

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    Fargo, ND
    #7
    i hope they will better implement the hard drive with this, and have a feeling that this product will evolve over time. hopefully they let you attach an external hd to the USB port for added network storage, AND someone opens up the OS/ w/e you call it, to make it even better!
     
  8. arn
    macrumors god

    arn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2001
    #8
    I agree. I think a larger hard drive is less necessary due to the good streaming performance. At first, we didn't even know if it would come with a hard drive at all.

    I got an Apple TV myself. I ordered it when it was announced, but wasn't overly excited by it. I knew what I was getting. An iTunes bridge for my TV. That being said, once I got it, I thought the sum of the parts was much better than I expected.

    It was surprisingly fun to watch video content that I had, but never watched because it was on my computer. I also had a much bigger urge to buy more movies via iTunes and subscribe to some video Podcasts.

    btw, I donated that photo with Tanya Donelly's album on it. I was actually very conscious of what album cover was showing when I took the photo. :)

    arn
     
  9. Editor emeritus

    longofest

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2003
    Location:
    Falls Church, VA
    #9
    The "cache" fills up very quickly with only a few movies and TV shows on there. plus, you HAVE to sync music and photos onto the :apple: tv in order to get slideshows to work with music backgrounds.

    Additional note: the :apple: tv selects music for the slideshows at random from your library or a playlist you select. You can't select an individual song, and it doesn't transfer what you set in iPhoto.
     
  10. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2002
    #10
    I have a 4:3 Mitsubishi rear projection tv with component inputs and everything looks great using 480i, except the picture is kinda squished horizontally. The biggest thing that bugs me is that FF and RW performance is absolutely unacceptable. FF doesn't stop at the point you want it to and RW freezes the whole screen. I've sat for anywhere from 10-20 seconds with the screen frozen wondering what's going on. Try counting from 1 to 20. That's a long time. My only option was to restart the video and FF to about where I wanted.

    I am streaming the content from my computer and I'm using g wireless, but ATV should be caching whatever it streams to its hard drive. This isn't really just with ATV. If you try to rewind an h.264 movie in Quicktime there's also a rediculous delay.

    If this is the DVD player for the internet, or as I prefer, the Zune to the iPod, Apple needs to address this issue and others with an update.
     
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2006
    Location:
    cali
    #11
    awesome review. i kinda dissed the appleTV when it was announced, and now i kinda want one. maybe i'm just itching for a new toy... ... :)
     
  12. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2002
    Location:
    NYC
    #12
    I'd be interested in hearing further how you decided on a 10/10 rating for value? It seems that, given the seemingly unecessary missing components (surround, 1080p, optical drive, normal sized hard drive) it'd warrant an 8/10 at most. I think that $300 for a minor convenience is steep and not a great value.

    Apple could have easily and cheaply added an optical drive (hardly an expensive piece of equipment), a MUCH larger harddrive for mere dollars, and certainly surround sound which, as you mention, is nothing short of an absurd omission. Also, I think it is especially stingy that Apple did nothing to make connections to Youtube and other online video sites -- that is just corporate stinginess. Clearly, given that even the iPhone can surf the web, this box could have brought the internet to HDTV in some form.
     
  13. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2006
    #13
    Bah...no surround sound support??? Why then the optical output?

    I'll pass on this one.
     
  14. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2005
    #14
    Nice review - as others have said, pretty straight on, and unbiased.

    I picked up an Apple TV on Thursday (N Michigan Ave store has a rotating stock of 27 in shelves where some useless iPod accessories used to be), and have loved it. I have a 30" CRT Toshiba HD monitor with HDMI, so it looks great, even with 640x480 iTunes downloads. CRTs tend to not look as sharp as LCDs anyway, which in this case, makes the picture better looking. The lack of surround sound is a downer, but I don't have much in the way of surround sound capable files (only DVDs), so not a biggie yet.

    The thing that bothers me so far, though, is that the one thing that seems most unfinished is the one thing Apple always gets right - the software. The hardware is spot on - HDMI and optical audio will be future-proof for some time, and 802.11n flies (even when streaming from my three year old PowerBook G4). Sure, the interface is great, but codec support, surround sound decoding, full 1080p, etc. are all more than possible with the hardware, just not implemented. I'm sure part of the reason is that you're supposed to use iTunes only in Apple's view of the world, so the best video you have is 640x480, which scales adequately to 720p, but not so much to 1080p. And streaming full HD would mean you'd have to have 802.11n on both sides - and few have a Core 2 Duo Mac (or PC with n) and an Apple TV at this point. Integration is a big thing for Apple, so adding features that a majority of the population would have difficulty using is not usually their thing.

    The whole thing reminds me of the initial iPod, but with one huge difference. These shortfalls can be fixed, quickly, with a software update. Maybe there's some very cool features hiding in there waiting for Leopard/iPhone (Safari? iChat with a USB iSight? iCal + Apple TV + iTVGuide + IPTV? iPhone as a remote with chapters and such appearing on the iPhone while the main video plays on your TV, so you can preview which chapter you want without stopping the current video - wait, I should patent that or something).

    Even without the usual "hacks" this box packs all the hardware it needs to be relevant for a number of years without a significant hardware refresh. I'm really looking forward to Leopard/iPhone/the first software update.
     
  15. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Sydney Australia
    #15
    Why?
    Let me ask it again... why!?!

    My iPod also can sync a "photo-album" with its music, but can't sync a "slide show". I don't care if it can't do a fancy cross-fade, but at least allow me to make a slideshow and show it on the AppleTV. I thought maybe it was just because it was a 4G.

    So... just not possible on the AppleTV eh? Does it keep anything else (eg: time per slide, transition type, etc?). This functionality is the primary reason my parents want it... they love their photos, and make iDVD slideshows all the time. What a waste.

    I can hope it'll be included with iLife 07.... but ... pretty high chance of dissappointment eh?

    edit:
    ps. Thank you for the review BTW. Glad to see someone answer this question, I was looking forward to it.
    And I agree on the surround sound too - if AppleTV is designed for people with HDTV, a large proportion of those people will want surround sound!
     
  16. macrumors 68020

    ipedro

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    #16
    Funny how the Netgear device is NOT Mac Compatible, but in their illustration, every computer in the house is a Mac:

    [​IMG]

    MacBook Pro on the bottom and Mac Pro with Cinema Display and Apple keyboard at the top...

    :confused:
     
  17. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2002
    #17
    How is Netgear not compatible? I've been using mine for almost a year and all I have are Macs. If you mean because the illustration says PC's, all home computers are PC's - Personal Computers.

     
  18. macrumors 68020

    ipedro

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    #18
    Not a Netgear Wi-Fi router, I'm talking about their entertainment streaming box.

    That illustration is for their equivalent to the :apple: TV. It does not work with Macs although every computer in the house is a Mac.
     
  19. macrumors 603

    Multimedia

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2001
    Location:
    Santa Cruz CA, Silicon Beach
    #19
    Just Noticed The New SpiderMan3 720P Trailer Is Not AppleTV Compatible

    Just downloaded the new 118MB 3 minute SpiderMan3 Trailer3 exclusively hosted by Comcast and find a fantasticly high quality example of 24fps 1280 by 720P that exceeds AppleTV's maximum allowable bit rate by a mere 454 kbps (5453.58 kbps). Here's an example of how Apple has ignored what bit rates Hollywood is using to post their movie trailers. I don't see why the appleTV maximum bit rate couldn't have been 6Mbps instead of 5 do you?

    I recommend you all download and look at this full screen. It will blow your mind. Gotta be among the worlds best movie trailers of all time. Absolutely amazing. :eek: :)

    I'm able to watch it on my directly connected Samsung 40" LN-S4095 HDTV and the quality is really outstanding. Looks like HDTV. Never seen a better quality trailer encode ever.
     
  20. arn
    macrumors god

    arn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2001
    #20
    I just downloaded it and it's playing on my Apple TV.

    arn
     
  21. macrumors 68000

    illegalprelude

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    #21
    for me, the deal breaker seems to be lack of 1080p. 720 just dosent do it for me and trying to rip movies all on high quality and then storing them on iTunes and playing them on the TV is just a long long process.

    having said that, i still do want it
     
  22. macrumors 68000

    echeck

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2004
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    #22
    I can not believe the AppleTV doesn't support true surround sound. That's just ridiculous.

    I was going to get one of these the second I saw it in a retail store, now there's no way.

    I'm okay with lower video quality, but no surround sound? That's 300 bucks Apple won't be getting from me.
     
  23. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2006
    Location:
    Finland
    #23
    It's a shame that the ATV does not have to option to select between 16:9 and 4:3. Right now the Apple TV is feeding an anamorphic picture to your TV and your TV is not capable of squashing the picture so you don't get black bars on top and bottom. Or maybe it can... check the manual if you can change the aspect ratio on the TV to 16:9. I know a lot of 4:3 TVs can. Then you'll get a letterboxed image but at least it's not squished.

    Joshua.
     
  24. macrumors 603

    Multimedia

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2001
    Location:
    Santa Cruz CA, Silicon Beach
    #24
    Wow. So Apple's Specification Is Already A Higher Bitrate Than They Publish

    Wow. I don't have one. And I didn't even try to put it in my iTunes, which I now see it will load. But the bitrate is clearly more than what the spec says on their website — maximum 5Mbps. So they must have revised the bitrate's upper limit. Wonder what that new upper limit is now? I also notice when putting it in iTunes that there is no longer a monitor icon next to movies except in the Podcast list. I think that's different isn't it? Also the new full screen interface is way better. What a pleasant surprise for those of us without AppleTV who are directly connected to a HDTV as one of our monitors. All we hav to do is drag iTunes over to the HDTV screen, hit the full screen button and our HDTVs are rolling just like from AppleTV.

    On my Quad G5 a 1920x1080 40" HDTV is just one of four monitors. So AppleTV would actually be a step down from my setup unless I wanted to use an Apple TV as a 5th video connection while reducing what I could do on the HDTV from my Mac directly, having the ability to add a 30" 2560x1600 monitor without having to add another graphics card inside. The trade-off leans me toward keeping it the way it is now because I like to play a lot of stuff on teh HDTV that AppleTV can't over there - particularly native EyeTV recordings.
     
  25. macrumors 68040

    matticus008

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2005
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    #25
    Have much AC3-encoded audio on your computer, do you? I agree that it's unfortunate that it's not included, but seeing as though it doesn't play MPEG2 (obviously a conscious choice rather than an oversight), there's no reason to support surround sound at the moment--you can't pipe DVDs to it unmodified. If you want to watch lots of DVDs without getting up, get a DVD changer.
    The hardware most certainly does. How are you planning on getting that content to the :apple:TV, though? Other than DVDs, what online content has AC3 surround audio in it?

    Again, framing the discussion against a DVR/DVD player is prone to problems. It is neither of those things, and doesn't claim to be.
    It says right up front that a widescreen TV with component video is required. This is aimed squarely at the HDTV/digital market. With the analog spectrum shutting down in about 18 months, there is little point to introducing new devices which support the old TVs scattered across the US (or the world).

    You'll need an ATSC tuner box in 2009 anyway, and it will definitely have component inputs. You can always get one now and use an AppleTV on your old 4:3 CRT television if you want. But why bother? Lamenting that you're not the market is like wanting a Blu-Ray player for your 4:3 CRT. It would probably put a picture on the screen, but you'd lose all of the worthwhile benefits.

    Do you have a video iPod and an old TV? That's about as good as an AppleTV would be on a pre-SDTV.
     

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