Mossberg hands-on with Apple TV: ‘beautiful design, easy-to-use, classic Apple: simple and elegant’

Apple Store“We’ve been testing Apple TV for the past 10 days or so, and our verdict is that it’s a beautifully designed, easy-to-use product that should be very attractive to people with widescreen TV sets and lots of music, videos, and photos stored on computers. It has some notable limitations, but we really liked it. It is classic Apple: simple and elegant,” Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret report for The Wall Street Journal.

“This silvery little $299 gadget is designed to play and display on a widescreen family-room TV set all the music, video and photos stored on up to six computers around the house — even if they are far from the TV, and even if they are all Windows PCs rather than Apple’s own Macintosh models… Apple TV is tiny, just about eight inches square and an inch high, far smaller than a typical DVD player or cable or satellite box, even though it packs in a 40-gigabyte hard disk, an Intel processor and a modified version of the Mac operating system,” Mossberg and Boehret report.

Mossberg and Boehret report, “In our tests, it worked great, and we can easily recommend it for people who are yearning for a simple way to show on their big TVs all that stuff trapped on their computers. We tried it with various combinations of Windows and Mac computers, with movies, photos, TV shows, video clips and music. And we didn’t even use the fastest wireless network it can handle. It performed flawlessly. However, it won’t work with older TVs unless they can display widescreen-formatted content and accept some newer types of cables.”

“Apple TV isn’t for that small slice of techies who buy a full-blown computer and plug it directly into a TV, or for gamers who prefer to do it all through a game console. And it’s not for people who are content to watch downloaded TV shows and movies directly on a computer screen. Instead, it’s for the much larger group of people who want to keep their home computers where they are and yet enjoy their downloaded media on their widescreen TVs,” Mossberg and Boehret report.

“Apple TV’s most important limitation is that it can’t stream much video or audio directly from the Internet — yet. The capability to go directly to the Internet, bypassing the computers in your home, is built in, but is initially being used only to fetch feature film trailers and short preview clips of popular songs, TV shows and movies sold on the iTunes store,” Mossberg and Boehret report. “In its usual secretive fashion, Apple refuses to say if or when this direct-to-the-Internet capability will be expanded. But we fully expect Apple to add the capability to stream or download a variety of content directly from the Internet, and that this new capability will be available on current Apple TV boxes through software updates.”

Mossberg and Boehret report, “In our tests, streaming worked just as well as playing content from the Apple TV’s own hard disk. Even though Walt’s Wi-Fi network is of the older ‘G’ variety, and the Apple TV can handle newer, faster “N” variety networks, every single movie, TV show and song streamed without interruption from both Windows and Mac computers… [Note:] you can’t plug in an extra hard disk to add storage capacity, even though there’s a USB port on the back and the built-in 40-gigabyte drive is too small to hold many TV shows or movies.”

Much, much more in the full review – required reading for those interested in Apple TV – here.

Mossberg’s and Boehret’s video review (5:59):

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Adam W.” for the heads up.]
Apple TV is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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34 Comments

  1. It’s a great review. I like how Mossberg stresses that you don’t need and iPod or a Macintosh to use the device – just iTunes. But anyway, it’s a great read on the AppleTV and if one has a ton of content and are tired of looking at it on your 24″ iMac (or smaller), then this would be a perfect device to integrate into one’s home entertainment system.

  2. It’s only one generation behind in technology:

    1. No 1080p capability (HDMI 1.3 missing?)
    2. No DVR capability (besides tiny disk drive issue)
    3. No Blu-Ray (or DVD) playback support (only iTunes content)

    PS3 with Blu-Ray is a better deal for those with HDTVs.

    No reason that Apple couldn’t have slam dunked this with innovation and cutting edge technology, but Steve wanted to support iTunes only.

  3. I was kind of reluctant at first with this iTV thingy, thinking it’s a over priced piece of hardware.

    But lateley I have been enjoying downloading and watching commercial free video content from iTunes. The computers screen is too small and the large screen HDTV is in another room.

    This device would fit my needs wonderfully.

    Instead of watching solo, I can let the rest of the family watch as well.

    Only problem is renting content via cable box/netflix is substancially cheaper than iTunes.

    I don’t think I’ll be buying many movies at $14 a pop.

  4. “No reason that Apple couldn’t have slam dunked this with innovation and cutting edge technology, but Steve wanted to support iTunes only.”

    There’s no technical reason iTunes couldn’t have supported those features. 1080 and Blu-Ray would not have made it harder to use, altho a DVR would’ve made it just a tad more complicated.

    So some combination of Apple/Jobs vision and Apple’s market research convinced them not to include those features and price it at $299. We should know more about that vision when Leopard/iLife and iPhone are released.

  5. You do not need 1080i
    You do not need DVR
    You do not need Blu-Ray

    The idea with Apple TV is to take the content from the Mac to the TV.
    Mac has the DVR capability with Elgato/Miglia.
    Let´s see first what happens with Blu-Ray.
    About the 1080i you need to read:
    http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/D1925D1E-7479-4F44-B3B7-472113B366D8.html

    “Blu-Ray can deliver a 40 Mbit/sec video bitrate, and HD-DVD 29 Mbit/sec. There is simply no way that Internet downloads can deliver much more than iTunes’ existing 1.5 Mbit/sec until much faster broadband service becomes available. The problem is the pipe, not the server, so “peer to peer” and torrents are no solution.”

  6. @tm

    A PS3 is only a better deal if you don’t want any of the facilities Apple TV offers you plank. They are totally different devices.

    Thats like saying, Looking for a new car? – The new Honda drives great, but it doesn’t float and doesn’t have a propeller!! – You’d be better off with a boat!

    Apple TV is made to bridge the link between content on your mac / PC and your TV. SIMPLE.

    I personally couldn’t give a rats ass about HDMI, 1080P, or Blue Ray.(Thats pretty easily added, and DVR capabilities are seemingly in the pipeline anyway, which is becoming increasingly obvious.) None of those are involved in me playing my library of iTunes tracks, Videos and pictures stored on my iMac.

    It does its job very well for the vast majority of people who just want to watch whats on their Computer. HD content is very limited at the moment, and HD TVs are still in the early stages. most people have a standard widescreen TV and lots of standard video, pics and songs.

    If it doesn’t do what you want it to, buy something else!!

    MW: Rather, as in i’m ‘rather’ bored of people complaining that a product doesn’t have so and so feature. get over it, buy something else.

    Do you honestly think you know better than a multibillion dollar electronics company what people want?

  7. The people carping about the technical specs about AppleTV remind me of the famous Slashdot riposte when the iPod came out — “no wireless”. Do you remember that one, guys? Do you remember how stupid and how wrong they were? And yet you plunge ahead, regardless of history. I hope you enjoy the taste of your own words, because you’ll be eating them in three months or less.

  8. Short summary: Apple TV is a winner.

    Also remember that the switchover to HDTV is being forced by law to be done by 2009. The potential market will grow soon at a fantastic rate.

    It’s too late for Microsoft to run their copy machines on Apple TV. It must be raining chairs in Redmond.

  9. @TowerTone Said: One word-Movie rentals.

    Falkirk: I’m with you on this, TowerTone. I’ve given up thinking that I’m smarter than Steve Jobs. I’m always thinking: “why don’t they add this, why don’t they add that” and everytime, Jobs and his staff seem to know what the core features on a product should be.

    For example, the Ipod has never had a radio (although they allow for an add-on). And Jobs eschewed the subscription model and insisted that people wanted to own thier music. That seems like common sense today, but it went against all the norms 5 years ago.

    I’m hoping that Steve-o decides that people want to rent, not own, their movies. I know many others like to own movies, but I have no desire to do so. I just want to watch it once and be done with it. The combination of Itunes/Apple TV and movie rentals would, I believe, be the killer ap.

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