PC Magazine review gives Apple TV 4 out of 5 stars

Apple Store“Since the late 90s, Apple has attempted to make the technically complex simple. The iMac did it for personal computing and the iPod is a paragon of portable consumer electronics,” Tim Gideon and Joel Santo Domingo report for PC Magazine.

“Now with the $299 Apple TV, Steve Jobs and company want to simplify your home entertainment experience. But what, exactly, is it? The basic concept of this product is straightforward: wirelessly stream content from the iTunes libraries of up to five computers as well as play content directly from the box’s 40 GB hard drive. This means you can enjoy almost anything on your PC, be it movies, photos, podcasts, or music, on your enhanced definition and high-definition widescreen televisions,” Gideon and Santo Domingo report.

Gideon and Santo Domingo report, “Apple’s slogan says, ‘if it’s on iTunes, it’s on Apple TV’—and this is mostly true. Those who don’t mind hooking up a few cables and thinking a little about the set-up will enjoy this wireless extension to iTunes. Overall, it does a pretty damn good job, despite some limitations.”

“The video formats supported are many, but undoubtedly the easiest way to go is to simply play files downloaded from iTunes. Apple TV supports MPEG-4, H.264 and protected H.264 video at 640 by 480 and 320 by 240 resolution at 30 fps. It also plays 1280 by 720 video at 24 fps,” Gideon and Santo Domingo report.

“The audio formats are the usual suspects for iPods—AAC (16 to 320 Kbps); protected AAC (from iTunes Store); MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps); MP3 VBR; Apple Lossless; AIFF; and WAV—but no support for Audible,” Gideon and Santo Domingo report. “And for those of your who want to watch your vacation slideshow on your new flat panel, as long as you have your pics in JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, or PNG, you’re good to go. As for TV compatibility, as mentioned earlier, you’ll need an enhanced definition or high definition widescreen with 1080i 60/50Hz, 720p 60/50Hz, 576p 50Hz (PAL format), or 480p 60Hz. Apple has designed this product to work only with widescreen EDTVs and HDTVs. While a company rep explained that you might have some luck with a few 4:3 televisions—the older televisions that lack a letterbox shape—it’s a crapshoot. Apple is banking on the future of televisions here, and thus excluded backwards compatibility with aging models in favor of focusing on making things look right for current and future television screen templates.”

“Oh, and in case you’re wondering whether you could take, say, an XVID file of the movie Cars and convert it to MPEG 4 via QuickTime Pro and then watch it without any issues on Apple TV: yes, you can (you criminal),” Gideon and Santo Domingo report.

“Apple bumped up the resolution of their video content on iTunes on September 12, 2006, from 320 by 240 to 640 by 480, and clearly they had Apple TV in mind when doing so. Watching a brand new episode of The Office on Apple TV is a pleasant experience,” Gideon and Santo Domingo report. “Those thinking of purchasing an Apple TV should think of this: it is basically a big iPod (well, as big as your TV screen) that loads wirelessly and has some of the sharing capabilities of iTunes.”

Much, much more in the full review here.

Related articles:
Best Buy: Apple TV available in all 822 U.S. stores starting Tuesday – March 22, 2007
Analyst: Apple TV could hurt DVD sales and rentals – March 22, 2007
NY Times’ Pogue: ‘Apple TV offers a gracious, elegant, effortless, delightful experience’ – March 21, 2007
Apple TV unboxing photos, interface video – March 21, 2007
Things you might not already know about Apple TV – March 21, 2007
Reuters: Apple makes biggest move yet into living rooms with Apple TV – March 21, 2007
Mossberg hands-on with Apple TV: ‘beautiful design, easy-to-use, classic Apple: simple and elegant’ – March 21, 2007
Apple TV projected to surpass TiVo, Netflix – March 20, 2007
Former Microsoft ‘Enthusiast Evangelist’ Gartenberg looks at impact of Apple TV – March 20, 2007
Apple TV ships – March 20, 2007
Apple shares rise on positive Apple TV analyst comments – March 19, 2007
Analysts: Apple to ride Apple TV + iTunes ‘Trojan horse’ into living room – March 19, 2007
Will Apple TV be even bigger than iPhone? – March 19, 2007
Apple adds 720p Apple TV high-definition export mode to QuickTime – March 19, 2007
Apple planning to buy Miglia to add DVR capabilities to iTunes and Apple TV? – March 17, 2007
Miglia debuts TVMAX+ Mac PVR, TV tuner, content provider for iPod, iPhone or Apple TV – March 16, 2007
Piper Jaffray expects 2 million Apple TV units to be sold in 2007 – March 16, 2007
Apple TV ships – March 15, 2007
Solution providers expect Apple TV to be hot seller – March 15, 2007
Apple TV could help kill traditional TV ads – March 14, 2007
Apple TV manufacturing ramp up to begin as early as today – March 12, 2007
Why Apple TV is more important than iPhone – March 12, 2007
Apple TV concept may eventually catch on with consumers – March 12, 2007
Apple CFO talks Apple TV, iPhone, Leopard and retail (link to full transcript) – March 07, 2007
PC Magazine: Why Apple TV matters – February 23, 2007
Bear Stearns: Apple TV and iPhone have changed the Apple story for the better – February 21, 2007
Deutsche Bank: Apple TV could take 30% of set-top box market within a few years – February 21, 2007
How do Apple TV and Elgato’s EyeTV work together? – February 16, 2007
Apple embraces casual gaming; iPhone, Apple TV to join iPod as gaming devices – February 09, 2007
Former GM of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade: Apple TV to become video game console – February 08, 2007
ZDNet’s Graham: Apple TV hits a number of sweet spots, poised to make a big impact – January 25, 2007
Is Apple out to kill cable television? – January 25, 2007
RUMOR: Apple TV sales blowing away Apple’s internal expectations – January 25, 2007
Steve Jobs: Apple TV is the ‘DVD player for the 21st century’ – January 22, 2007
Apple TV beats out iPod, hits top spot on Apple Store sales chart – January 19, 2007
Report: first batch of 100,000 Apple TVs to ship this month – January 11, 2007
Steve Jobs moves to control the living room with Apple TV – January 10, 2007
Analyst Bajarin: Apple’s iPhone and Apple TV are industry game changers – January 09, 2007
Apple premieres Apple TV: movies, TV shows, music & photos on your big screen TV – January 09, 2007
RUMOR: Apple may enter video game market – December 05, 2006
Could Apple become king of game consoles? – September 26, 2006

14 Comments

  1. I don’t really care if it has native DivX, WMV, etc support as long as I can load the Perian, Flip4Mac, and DivX QuickTime plug-ins.

    What concerns me is whether it will play video that is not at one of the above the prescribed aspect ratios. Does it error? Do nothing? Choke? Or play it anyway.

  2. @Tommy Boy:
    It plays 4×3 content, just windowboxed.

    You can’t (so far) load plug-ins directly on the Apple TV. You have do convert the video files to Apple TV format in QT Pro, then sync or stream them over. It’s a pain, but it does work.

  3. look for improvements on appications to convert your non-compliant media to itunes. now there is a reason to do that. think of these things like the ipod ecosystem, except for appletv.

    see one of the initial barriers as too many hdmi sources for current hd tvs to handle. the xtremac $20 solution mentioned in the article is actually $100 and does not switch toslink, just hdmi video. menas you still need a home theater system that has multiple digial inputs so your audio is switched as well.

    evolution can sometimes be a little messy.

  4. > First priority: iPhone

    Actually, I think iPhone is a nice diversion. It will no doubt be a successful product, but Apple TV (Apple in the living room) is more profitable and “open-ended” in the long run. Apple needs more time to get the full “Apple TV” package in place. Having everyone’s attention on iPhone gives Apple a chance to solidify Apple TV a bit more.

  5. : scottm4321

    hdtv require hdmi inputs for the 720p/1080i/1080p resolutions which define the hdtv experience. you can get 720p and possibly 1080i with a hdmi to dvi-i/a cable. connecting anything else will only give you 480p (edtv).

    the compromise of component video is to take care of people who do not want to buy an hdmi switch or who do not have hdmi inputs on their tv. if you plan to only sync 640×480 resolution content from yout itunes, the component cables will not degrade your source video. if you plan to purchase the new h.264 from itunes, then the component cables will degrade the content you purchased to 640×480. it is not apple’s fault, it is the tvs’.

    to use the av cable, assuming you mean connected directly from your mac or ipod, you’ll probably not be able to get more than 480p max, regardless of how high a resolution your tv has.

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