by Mike Shea on 22 March 2007
So I've had my Apple TV for four whole hours and here is my initial review. I'll save you stumbling through my own worthless review and point you to an article Walt Mossberg's Apple TV review in the Wall Street Journal. He has a lot of good things to say, all of them true, but he misses one major major drawback:
I paid $300 for a box that requires a high definition TV but has no high definition movies or TV shows. It has an optical digital audio output but no shows or movies have dolby digital sound. For a next-generation home digital device, you'd think it would have better video and sound quality than DVD but it does not. DVDs are higher resolution and have more audio channels than any movies or TV shows on iTunes.
This is likely to change. Most of the movies and TV shows on iTunes were developed for video iPods which didn't need a lot of resolution. However, it would not shock me to learn that the old men from Hollywood are squeezing Apple, trying to get more money for the same content with 20% more resolution.
When TV shows and movies start including multi-channel audio and 720p video, the Apple TV will be the best electronic device added to a TV since the DVD player. Sure, an Xbox 360 is an excellent device too, but it has a much more limited set of TV shows and movies available. If you're a Vista freak, you might be better off with a 360 since it can play games, but in terms of basic simplicity, the Apple TV is hard to beat.
I'm going to leave out seven paragraphs of discussion and go straight to my list of good points and bad points:
It sets up in about ten minutes.
It begins streaming music and TV shows immediately. Even though it looks like it will take 40 hours to synch your crap, you can start watching or listening pretty soon after starting.
The remote and the interface is very easy to use, very fast, and seems very stable. It Just Works.
I can watch Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, and the Shield without paying $70 a month in cable bills.
I can rip DVDs to h.264, import them into iTunes, and build a digital movie library - it would just take me 40 years.
iTunes treats it just like an ipod. Synching it up and transferring stuff is easy.
The device supports 1080i high definition resolution through component video - a requirement for my dated HDTV. It also supports 720p and HDMI.
The device has both optical and composite audio outputs.
It's wireless and easy to configure on your network and to your iTunes computer.
It doesn't have a huge power block. It just has a simple power cord.
Where the hell are the high-definition TV shows and movies?
How come movies and TV shows only have stereo? Where's my Dolby Digital sound?
DVDs still look and sound better, are a widely supported format, and are sometimes cheaper than movies from iTunes.
Synching up 20 gb of movies, music, TV shows, and pictures can take a long long long time.
It only supports mpeg and h.264 video formats - sorry, those BitTorrent xvid files won't work.
It doesn't come with any cables. A set of component jacks and an optical cable can run $50.
It doesn't support 1080p maximum high definition resolutions if you happen to have such a high end TV.
A couple of weeks ago on Macbreak, one of the hosts mentioned a program called Coverscout. Coverscout for OSX helps one associate album art from all over the web with all of that rogue allofmp3 music we've been collecting. In a couple of hours I had album art on every single mp3 file in my 1300 file collection. It's well worth the $20 and with Apple TV, it is much nicer to have your album art all set than it is to see a bunch of blank covers.
Once Apple can break free of the lower resolution video and two-channel audio of its current pay media, the Apple TV will be one of my favorite new devices. Like Don Norman talks about in The Invisible Computer, the Apple TV is a fully functional computer built for a single purpose: multimedia playback in the living room.