Posts Tagged ‘Apple TV’

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.

We bought the first generation AppleTV with a built-in 40GB hard drive as soon as it was released. With market trends driving the movie industry to start including digital copies with many new releases, it didn’t take to max out that 40GB and we wish we’d been able to buy the 160GB version, but it was not available when we bought our unit. Just one of the risks being early adopters, but one we accepted. We found it most advantageous  to keep our favorite movies and songs on it, and stream any others we want to watch. Overall, we really did enjoy it and found it absolutely worth the $199 price tag.

When Apple announced the new version of AppleTV, we were hesitant to get another unit even though we really like our AppleTV, because the new unit has little on-board storage and replies on streaming video and music. Our experiences using streaming with our first unit was not impressive – too much jerky replay and it was almost impossible to fast forward (not an issue on locally stored movies).

At the start of the 4th week in March, we decided to buy an new unit because the only version of AppleTV that supports Netflix is the newest model. We wanted to get away from the large satellite bills we have every month, and Netflix offers a low streaming option of $7.99/month for all you can watch. We bought a new AppleTV at Best Buy and it took very little time to install and configure it – we didn’t need to read the documentation, as the product requires very little technical knowledge.

The AppleTV 2.0 was $99.00 (a $100 drop in price from the first gen version) and came with the unit, a remote control, a power cable, and a short instruction manual. The 2.0 version is tiny – much smaller than the 1.0 version. I unpacked and unwrapped the unit and power cord and noticed it lacked the composite video and audio outputs found on the 1.0 version – this was bad as our HDTV only has a single HDMI input so I had to use that one. There is also an optical output I will eventually use for audio, but I need to pick one up before I see how good it sounds.

I used an HDMI cable (not included with the unit) to connect the AppleTV to our television, then I had to configure the unit to access our wireless network (which uses an Apple 1 GB router), which only took a couple of minutes. Then I setup iTunes on a computer to provide the movies and that too was simple.

As I said earlier, we’ve had difficulties fast forwarding movies we stream on the 1.0 version, so I tried fast forward several movies as they were streamed and it worked great. Exactly the same as when fast forwarding locally stored movies on the version 1.0 product. Next we watched a movie and the only time we saw any glitches (where the video/audio transfer was not smooth) was at the very start of the movie. I’m not certain, but I think Apple streams most of the movie as soon as possible, so playback is smooth and more than merely watchable. We also watched movies on Netflix and there was a few times movies did not flow as smoothly as we’d have liked, but they were still watchable, so the viewing experience was fine.

I have found I use the Remote app on iPod Touch more than the remote that shipped with the AppleTV. I also feel Netflix brings enough movies – old and new – to the table that I’ve decided to drop satellite service. Neither satellite vendor can compete with $7.99 a month, and we rarely watch any network shows, so I doubt we’ll feel deprived sans satellite.

Positives

  • The price, especially compared to both versions of the 1.0 release of AppleTV, is excellent.
  • The small size of the unit makes it easy to place the unit wherever I want.
  • Almost no heat given off, especially when compared to version 1.0 of the AppleTV.
  • Streaming movies is no problem. I’ve only seen a couple of times where streaming was not flawless, which is impressive.
  • I like the new remote that comes with this version of AppleTV. It is thin and metallic and the battery is replaceable, while the 1.0 version’s remote is white and plastic and the battery cannot be replaced. And the new remote works with the 1.0 version, so I view this as a decent improvement.
  • I enjoy being able to use iTunes Playlists to organize movies so they play in the order I want.
  • I have been using the iPod Touch remote app with the AppleTV for over 6 weeks (as of May 9, 2011) and love it.

Negatives

  • Some Netflix streaming issues (since then fixed). I’ve never seen it the first time I watch one movie or show, but have had this issue several times when watching more than two shows or movies sequentially. The symptom: jerky video/audio.
  • I wish the composite audio/video outputs were still available.
  • I have noticed that I occasionally lose iTunes connectivity between my laptop and AppleTV. To resolve it I just quit and restart iTunes and that restores my content to the AppleTV. (NOTE: Appears fixed with the March 2012 update to AppleTV)
  • I really, really wish Apple provided Netflix support for the 1.0 version of AppleTV. Our older AppleTV still does a fine job, but without Netflix we have no choice but to buy another unit if we want to see Netflix content on another TV.

Conclusion

Our impression of AppleTV 2.0 has been very favorable. The remote is better and has a replaceable battery, the unit itself is much smaller than the 1.0 version, the unit itself does not heat up the way the 1.0 version does (it can get quite toasty when left on for more than a few days), and the iTunes video streaming was smooth and far superior to what we saw on the 1.0 version.

Will we go to the AppleTV 3.0 (released March, 2012)? Yes we will. We want to see if the higher resolution is noticeable, and we can always use the 2nd gen AppleTV downstairs – waste not, want not.

Recommendation

Would I recommend it to someone? Absolutely. A very good price for something that works great with our environment. I did test the unit using a 1GB router and would suggest upgrading to one if you are still using a 100MB router – Apple’s new wireless router is dual band, so you can have 100 MB and 1GB devices access it at the same time without slowing down overall access.

3/14/2012 Review Update

There was another update to the AppleTV I installed today. The AppleTV menus changed – they are laid out instead of under menu categories at the top. The 2nd generation AppleTV has a max output of 720p, so you have to scroll down to see all of the items on the screen. I wonder if the newer 3rd generation AppleTV’s 1080p resolution means you don’t need to scroll to see all of the items on the screen – comments, anyone with the 3rd gen AppleTV?

Something else to note. In the past, if my laptop that has the movies I stream to the AppleTV went to sleep, I had to quit and restart iTunes to get the movies to show up – that is no longer the case. One thing that bothered me before, was that I could not see movies on the AppleTV if there was an update available on my laptop with the movies I want to stream – I had to accept or quit out of the the update notice before I could stream, and this is still the situation after the most current update.

11/20/2011 Review Update

I’ve downloaded a couple of AppleTV updates the past week, with the most current (4.4.2) today. This update addresses Netflix support in Mexico, plus audio issues via the optical output when a television is off. Click here for a detailed list of updates from Apple.

5/28/2011 Review Update

Today I spoke with Brad, who is another AppleTV 2.0 owner, and he mentioned that he had too many problems streaming Netflix content. Several times I’ve seen streaming problems with Netflix content, but put that down to network traffic. The only times I saw this issues was after I watched two shows or movies, which is very rare, so this had not happened enough to concern me.

Brad said he spent 2 months trying to get a resolution and after no luck he returned the AppleTV 2.0 and went back to his AppleTV 1.0 unit. He mentioned a couple of discussion threads where people discussed this problem: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2616899 https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2597992.

Brad said he mainly streams music and podcasts, not movies, so he has no problem using his older AppleTV. I do a lot of movie streaming and the newer AppleTV unit is so much better at steaming than the original version, so I will stay with the newer unit. Hopefully Apple will find the source of the problem and issue a patch to the AppleTV – They did (see comments below).

Have you experienced a Netflix streaming issue?

5/9/2011 Review Update

It has been over 3 weeks since the April 17th update to this review, and I still have occasional problems accessing iTunes on my laptop, but iTunes streaming is still smooth as locally stored movies on the AppleTV 1.0 product. I should add that using Netflix is always good on the first movie or TV show, but I sometimes have streaming problems when watching more than 1 show.

Updates

November 20, 2011 – added comments about AppleTV updates, plus a link to Apple’s list of AppleTV updates.
May 28, 2011 – added date-based section, add another negative feature, add ‘Have you experienced?’ question
May 9, 2011 – add date-based section, add another negative feature
April 17, 2011 – add more positives, plus a 2nd negative feature

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I bought a first gen Apple TV when they were released. My unit has a 32 GB drive and I’ve enjoyed using it from the very start. I keep my favorite movies and songs on the unit itself, streaming other content as desired. In truth I am now far more likely to buy a movie if it comes with a digital copy, because the AppleTV is so convenient to use. If I have any negative, it is the problem trying to fast forward streamed content – I can easily do this with content stored on the Apple TV hard drive, but it doesn’t work well on streaming content. I’m sure the problem is that I use a 100 MB connection speed instead of a 1 GB connection, so I can’t really blame Apple for this shortcoming.

Overall I am very happy with the Apple TV and am considering buying one of the new second gen units for a different TV and stereo. I do wish the first gen USB port would allow me to attach an external drive, but that isn’t going to happen, based on the second gen of this product. The new Apple TV has a lot less local storage and instead it replies on streaming content from other sources.

Why talk about this now? Yesterday Apple released a press announcement that it expects Apple TV sales to top 1,000,000 units this week. That, in and of itself, is impressive as the first gen unit didn’t do well and some analysts predicted Apple would completely drop the product line.  I hope they have as much success with the Apple TV as they are with the iPad. I like mine and hope they are around a long time.