Apple TV. Why?

Sections: Apple TV, iPod, iTunes, iTunes Movie/TV Rentals and Purchases

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Apple TV
If you live somewhere between “Middle of Nowhere” and “Where am I?”, then chances are you have to use Direct TV to get most of the channels you want. Along with that service, you can get one of their DVRs (digital video recorders). This DVR allows you to record and play back any show that is in the guide. It can record shows in the future and the set top box does not even have to be on.

The Apple TV does not have this functionality.

Most households have at least one DVD or digital video disc player. Some play DVDs through an Xbox or a Playstation (the 360 or PS3 give you a high definition or Blu-Ray option as well). Some have a stand-alone DVD player.

The Apple TV does not have this functionality.

The functionality it does have, however, is to play shows and movies that you have in your iTunes library. It’s Front Row for your television. At $329.00 for the 160GB version and 229.00 for the 40GB version, I can think of a lot of ways to get my media onto my HDTV without spending that money. If you’re a person with money to burn and you get all of your shows and movies from the iTunes store, then the Apple TV might be right for you.

But I do not need one. Do you?

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  • Nico

    I think we've all heard of this before. I simply can't find anything new on your article. Old news, common opinion. Nothing.

  • Doug Petrosky

    I guess I do because I have one and have encouraged at least 4 other people to purchase them. This is a great device only limited by content which gets better every day!

    First lets go with the most reasonable reason to purchase AppleTV. If you are collecting a lot of digital media on iTunes already for your iPod, iPhone and computer then AppleTV is the easiest way to get it from your computer to your HDTV! If you also have personal videos (home movies) photos, music etc in iPhoto, iMovie, and/or iTunes, AppleTV is a great way to get these things to your home theater. If you enjoy YouTube or share photos with friends on MobileMe or Flckr, appleTV is a great product for that. If you have started to notice the huge amount of free content available via PodCasts and enjoy some of those, this is a great device.

    Now if you have never purchased from iTunes, still use 35mm film and think youtube and pod casts are for kids, it is possible AppleTV is right for you as well (although less likely).

    Lets start with AppleTV vs DirecTV DVR service because that is my current situation. I currently have a singleTV with an HDDVR from DirectTV. My monthly bill without any HBO/ShowTime etc is $70. Which makes my annual bill $840.

    We watch a fare amount of TV in our house, which amounts to about 24 new season shows a year. Each of which is about 22 episodes long. for a total of almost 500 TV shows. At $1.99 per show it would cost me at most $1000/year to just purchase these shows on iTunes. In reality, most have season passes which knocks off 10-20% and I can buy iTunes gift cards for a 5% discount. so assume 15% worst case or $850.

    What I get is Commercial free TV and trust me, from someone who has had a DVR for 7-8 years, not having commercials is much nicer than being able to skip them. I can play or replay this content on any of my devices and I own it.

    What I loose, Re-runs of older shows, local news and sports. An antenna can mitigate some of this (mostly sports), but it is something I loose out on if/when I switch.

    Note: I mentioned 4 friends who all also have AppleTV. Now the license for iTunes allows for 5 computers and an unlimited number of iPods/AppleTV (connected to those computers). I personally only use 2 of my computer licenses which means I can share 3 with others. This means that my brother and father (and one friend) can also enjoy this content. Legally! And they can carry it around on their iPods and iPhones. So! Assuming that they are willing to spend even half as much as I am. And that they don't duplicate exactly the same shows I do, I have the opportunity to discover a fair amount of additional content and/or reducing my total over all cost of content.

    Note: at 480p quality, 1 hour shows take about 500MB. This means that I will also use about 250GB/year in storage. Fortunately, storage is cheap and getting cheaper each year. This year I spent $100 for a 1TB drive which adds an average of $25/ year to the cost of this system.

    So, why not AppleTV?

  • eirethug

    Interesting "review"

    As an owner of a 160GB AppleTV and a previous owner of a 40GB unit I'll throw my 2 cents into this.

    First, if you have an Apple/Mac centric computing system and media library the AppleTV is an indispensable method of sharing/viewing information. I currently use the AppleTV for:

    1. Listening to my iTunes library over a very nice home theater system (Including the ability to flip through album art and playlists).

    2. Sharing/viewing all of my pictures with family and friends. Including using my LCD TV as a digital picture frame on steroids.

    3. Watching HDTV shows recorded through the QAM tuner on my el gato tuner with eyeTV. (with no Tivo subscription)

    4. Renting/Purchasing movies (SD & HD) from the comfort of my couch

    5. Purchasing commercial free TV shows for my kids.

    6. Streaming my iMovie creations so people don't have to cram around a monitor to watch.

    Also it's interesting to note that everyone whose seen our AppleTV in action has waxed about how they really want one.

    I just think the AppleTV 1.0 SW slowed the adoption to a crawl, but in our house the unit gets prolific daily use.

  • Abe

    I have written some Apple TV related commentary on my blog. Check it out if you like. Some theories to answer the why's of the world.

  • Dale

    I found the comments to be much more useful for whether i want apple tv or not than this review. I will be getting one.

  • Kirk Hiner

    This is not a review (Appletell has a distinct review format that offers more depth and analysis). It's an opinion piece on some key features that Anthony feels are missing from Apple TV. He states quite clearly that it's therefore not for him, but may be right for some users.

    So, apparently, he was right.

  • Michael

    Re: AppleTV Why?

    1. AppleTV is not a DVR.
    2. AppleTV does not play physical media.

    Honestly, why would you write about a product that is obviously not what you're interested in and furthermore, not even intended to be used in place of the above mentioned product(s)!? That's like writing an opinion piece about how useless hedge clippers are to you when you already have a lawn mower to cut the yard.

    The AppleTV is nothing more than a dedicated digital media player for your entertainment system. It filled a missing piece of the iTunes puzzle; getting your digital content from your computer to the TV or stereo system, easily, with very little setup. I don't own a game console or a DVR, so this was the best way and only way to get iTMS content to the TV in the living room.

    By the way, because of the Apple/iTunes system, I can wirelessly stream my music to my Front porch, Living room, and bedroom all from my computer which sits in the dining room. I can also control iTunes from my iPhone from anywhere in the house. I can download a TV show from iTunes and have the option of watching on my computer, on the TV in the living room, or upload it to my iPhone and watch it on the go. I can rent a movie from iTunes and do the same thing. Because of this integration, I can watch/listen to my content wherever, however, and whenever I want. There is no other system that provides all these capabilities from one central location.

  • Nico

    You can, if you add your mp3 library to iTunes.

  • Neurotic Nomad

    How To Fix The AppleTV (Hint: It’s not DVR functionality)

  • MPR

    If it cost £100 rather than £200 for the near useless capacity version or £350 for the one with decent hard drive space, I'd get one without thinking about it.

    Right now, I have my movies in iTunes and watch them on my TV by syncing onto my iPod and connecting that to my telly with an AV dock. Not the greatest quality perhaps, but good enough for now.

    I don't need a DVR because most telly worth watching is available on-demand for 7 days after broadcast by my cable provider (Virgin Media).

  • Anthony Parkinson

    As a side note you can also use an Airtport Base Station with AirTunes in combination with Airfoil to stream ALL the audio from your computer(including iTunes) to a home theater system.

  • Doug Petrosky

    Anthony is correct about airtunes, for $99 you can but a device that will let you stream your music only and gives you no interface at the device for controlling it. On the other hand if this was the only function you wanted, appleTV gives it to you and allows you to control your computer remotely via your AppleTV. I know because that is my setup.

    My computer has the appleTV and an airport Express setup for remote speakers (the express is in the kitchen, appletv in the theater and computer in the bed room). Once playing I can control my computer streaming to all three places from the AppleTV. I can also see album artwork.

    As for MPR and his idea that a 40GB version is near useless. That is just evidence that he doesn't understand how integrated appleTV is with your systems iTunes library. I have a 40GB Apple tv and I can instantly start any one of 83 movies and nearly 350 TV shows. The integration is totally seamless.

    And Kirk, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to state an Opinion and still be wrong, if your opinion is based on flawed beliefs.

    His first assumption is that AppleTV/iTunes can't replace Cable or DirectTV, because if you replace DirectTV with iTunes purchases the AppleTV is a better DVR than a DVR.

    Second is that someone (maybe even him) needs a DVD player. Already iTunes probably matches your local DVD rental store and if it continues to grow it may rival netflix.

    Finally he mentions the cost $229 and implies that you could get that content to your TV cheaper and I'd like some examples. Even an iPod Classic with one of the new TV cables will not give you the quality of the Apple TV and you have to manually sync that content and the final product is going to be just as expensive.

    So, I respect his decision if he chooses not to buy one but at the same time I can know that his stated are at a minimum questionable.

  • Carlos

    I hate it to read not very subjective articles and even worse, with senseless sarcasm, the people that talk bad about the Apple TV are people whom don't own one. I have the Apple TV and love it, it does something that none of the other devices mentioned in the article does. Yes you can rent a movie on iTunes and then wait until it's fully downloaded and find a way to watch it on your TV, sounds like a long process to simply watch a rented movie. With the Apple TV all you have to do is grab the Apple Remote, sit down, select a movie and start watching it right, Period.

  • David

    I don't own an iPod, and I don't use iTunes. But I would like to have access to the 1000-odd mp3 files on my Windows PC so that I can play them on my living room & whole-house audio system.

    Will Apple TV do that for me? I just want to play the mp3 files in one or more named directories on my Windows PC. Must the mp3 files be in some sort of iTunes infrastructure?

    Thanks in advance …

  • Doug Petrosky

    Ok, totally off the wall comparisons don't normally work, but CouchGuy hit the nail on the head and drove it through two boards!! (see what I mean).

  • Anthony Parkinson

    I appreciate everyones comments. As "useless" and "irrelevant" as my opinion might be to you, I got you to voice YOUR opinion and talk about the product. Mission accomplished.

  • Kirk Hiner


    The article's a waste of bandwidth? I wouldn't worry about bandwidth. We're doing just fine. Plus, the article is relevant to those who may be interested in buying the AppleTV, but aren't completely aware yet of what it can and can't do. By your argument, our articles about the MacBooks no longer have FireWire would be a waste of bandwidth, because people should just be buying the MacBook for what it can do, not what it can't.

    Glad to see you like the Apple TV, though. I've been wanting to get one for a while now, but just haven't yet made the leap. We'll see what happens after Macworld, provided Apple gives them another update.

  • Mark

    I understand Anthony's biases/perspectives, and I also understand the motivation of a journalist to get people to enter into a vigorous discussion regarding his/her comments. Both his perspectives and motivations are valid.

    That said, I'll put in my .02 worth. I own four AppleTV devices, have an iTunes library with all of my older LPs, cassettes, and all of my CDs sliced into high-rate mp3s. In addition, all of my DVDs have been converted via Handbrake into hi-def mp4s, and I'm preparing to start on my collection of family videos on DV. All of our photos from the past forty or fifty years are accessible via iTunes as well. This library is served from a single Windows server running iTunes. All of my media, available from any television in the house, using only an AppleTV and a universal remote from any system in the house.

    My media is now backed up on hard drives that I rotate off-site in case of house fire, and my total operations/maintenance costs long-term will drop substantially since a new media format will require the purchase of only one "converter" device capable of reading/digitizing the new media format. After that, it's all the same as far as the network and AppleTV playback systems are concerned. No more programming different remotes to handle different DVD/CD systems or figuring out the foibles of a particular player's power-up order, what formats the player actually supports versus what the mfgr claims, or figuring out how to upgrade four or five players at 3 to 4 figures a pop.

    BTW – to set a perspective from which I come – I have some extremely high-end systems in the house, and was quite concerned about playback quality of the AppleTV compared to four-figure DVD/CD players and 10K$+ projection systems. Before jumping in with both feet, I tested the system and failed my own blind tests trying to detect the differences between the AppleTV and upconverting players. They're pretty nice.

    The thing that you miss in your perspectives, Anthony, is that digital media, while having been around for a while, is now forcing a sea change in how home entertainments systems are connected and will be used. AppleTV is part of that newer mindset.

    To address one of your primary concerns (DVR), get an AppleTV, unlock it, and add mythtv or xbmc onto it. Put one or more high-def USB-controllable tuners next to your primary back end server, and simply run the mythtv/xbmc front end on your AppleTVs. Voila – a single place for all of your digital tuners and big disks to set, and DVR functionality from any system in the house. All for the price of some cheap USB HD tuners.

    Times change – change the mindset to go along with it. Or not.

  • CouchGuy

    Do I need an Apple TV? Oh, yes.

    I have a DVD player. In fact, I own four. Standard def DVD players practically come in Cracker Jack boxes these days. I don't particularly want a Blu-Ray player. The premium cost of Blu-Ray players and disks isn't worth it to me when physical media can be avoided altogether so easily. If I wanted a Blu-Ray player I;d want to choose the featrure set myself as a stand-alone unit. I don't need another DVD player built into my Apple TV.

    I have digital cable, not satellite, but I have one of those nifty DVRs that comes with my cable subscription. It holds only so many shows then it starts erasing the old ones. I can't hope to collect, say, a whole season of Primeval episodes or a bunch of films from Turner Classic Movies and keep them forever. I use my DVR for timeshfiting things I'm not going to keep — but I already HAVE a DVR available for that purpose from my cable company. I don't need that in my Apple TV, either.

    I do record things to keep forever, using an EyeTV USB dongle and software attached to my iMac. Now I have those Turner movies and Primeval episodes on a computer hard drive I can keep for as long as I want. Likewise, I buy newer films not yet released to cable and classics both via iTunes. I do sometimes buy DVDs, but for the sake of convenience I rip these to a hard drive as well so I can sit back and decide "What do I want to watch right now?" without going to the store to buy a DVD, or even loading one from my existing collection. I have a near-endless supply of video entertainment — recorded myself or purchased and ripped or bought or rented on the spur of the moment (or available on YouTube, for that matter) — all at my fingertips.

    THAT is why I need an Apple TV — and why I'd never give up the one I have. I don't need it to be a DVR or a DVD player. I need it to be what it is — a conduit between my ever-growing library of media on my computer and the place where I want to SEE that media — my big-screen TV in my family room.

    Quit worrying about the common, ordinary things that the Apple TV is not. Embrace the uniquely useful — for me, indispensible — thing that the Apple TV is!

  • CouchGuy

    If all that is being said here is "I don't personally want an Apple TV because I am not interested in the things it does well and it is not a DVR or a DVD player"… well, that's about as useful as saying "I don't want a cow because I'm lactose intolerant and it doesn't have a built-in beer tap and marguarita dispenser". It may reflect the writer's true feelings, but it is a waste of bandwidth as far as being relevant to whether or not a cow (or an Apple TV) is a useful thing to own for most people. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but some opinions are more useful and relevant than others.

  • CouchGuy

    Kirk & Anthony:
    Please don't misunderstand. I don't want to stifle Anthony's voice. Rather, I'd like to hear more.
    For example, he says he can think of a lot of ways to get his media onto his HDTV without an Apple TV. I bought my Apple TV when they first came out specifically for that purpose — the purpose it was really designed for. I couldn't find anything else that would do that job nearly as well. If Anthony knows of better ways, lots of people would benefit. Let's hear about that.