AppleTV & iTunes vs. TivoHD & Amazon


macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 4, 2003
I'm a huge Apple fan, longtime user of multiple computers, iPods, and owner of a large chunk of AAPL shares and options. But lately, I can't help but feel that Tivo and Amazon have largely outdone Apple in the media distribution area. I've used the iTS since the day it was announced, but now I'm really thinking of going over to the Amazon Unbox and MP3 download service. Here's my breakdown:

AppleTV with iTunes Store:
HUGE Catalog of Music
So-So selection of movies (~500) and TV shows (especially now that NBC is out)
Seamless integration with iPod/:apple:TV
Can take video with you on iPod
No monthly fee

Mostly DRMed catalog
Mostly lower bitrate than Amazon
So-So movie selection
Up to 720p output
No movie rentals
40 GB HD standard

TivoHD with Amazon unbox/MP3
Full Tivo DVR functionality
160 GB HD standard
Up to 1080i output
Large DRM-free catalog at high bitrate
Huge movie and TV selection
Movie rentals
Cheaper music prices

Monthly fee ($8.21-$19.99 depending on package, plus cablecard rental)
Video isn't portable and can't be watched on a Mac (but can go directly to Tivo without use of a PC)
Media management not as elegant as iTunes

The TivoHD and :apple:TV are both $299. I think that, all things considered, you get more for your money with the Tivo. Yes, there is a monthly fee, but most people with an :apple:TV are renting a cable box/DVR anyway, so the difference is less than just the Tivo fee once you lose the cable box. And soon the Tivo will be expandable with external drives, and TivoToGo is coming to make DVRed video portable. Amazon seems to offer a much better movie selection, along with rentals, which is highly convenient.

Of course, I'm only looking at this from my perspective. If there are any other views or angles that I'm missing, please contribute.



macrumors member
Jul 23, 2002
A few points I think you neglected if your otherwise astute analysis:

- The video selection for both Unbox and iTunes is terrible. TERRIBLE. The Movie/TV studios really need to get their act together and back one of these horses.

-the apple TV HD is MUCH smaller.

- Both can play DRM free MP3s, so you can still play your Amazon songs on your apple TV.

- Tivo just cut a deal with Rhapsody, so if you're into that, it's a bonus.

- It's not easy to put your own videos (handbrake'd, podcasted, downloaded, homemade, etc) on the Tivo. It's dead simple to put your own videos on the apple TV.

While similar, I think the boxes server different purposes. Tivo is a great Tivo. (The best in fact.) All the other features feel bolted on and pretty clunky. Many of the extra features are SLOOOOOW to respond.

The Apple TV is great at taking content from your mac and playing it on your TV. It's more of a video airport express. But, it's a joy to use. I wish the remote had more buttons (especially replay), but it just feel nice. Little things like the photos or album cover screen saver are a real joy.

It seems like apple is betting on video podcasting/IP distribution being the future. I agree, but it's not here yet. Apple TV is the future, Tivo HD is the present.

Do what I did and get both :)


macrumors newbie
Oct 16, 2007

The whole movie download thing is pretty weak. I think Netflix has the best approach ... for every dollar of your monthly plan, you can watch one hour of movies on your peeceee (no mac yet). Well, the "watch now" movie selection is very week and shows no signs of improvement. The studios don't like it. In fact, read any review of a streaming service and you'll see the same complaint. Until Apple has a rental option, with 5.1 sound, I'll be a netflix customer.

Basically, my Apple TV is not for commercial movies. It's for home movies. Now I can put clips together and get them on the TV week before I finish a "proper" DVD. A proper DVD is one with the finished movie, slideshow and graphics.

The Apple TV also rocks for photos - great to play long slideshows during parties. Or, for example, you could have hundreds of photos playing during the holidays to a seasonal soundtrack.

We also use the Apple TV for video podcasts and YouTube videos. YouTube is a bit slow ... searching is tough ... but vid podcasts are delightful.
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