AP writer criticizes Apple TV video quality

Apple Store“Apple Inc has graced the public with another smooth, white, exquisitely designed gadget, this time aiming at making it easier to play iTunes movies and songs on the living-room TV set,” Peter Svensson writes for The Associated Press.

Svensson writes, “Too bad, then, that where looks really matter – in the quality of the video on the TV screen – the $299 Apple TV comes up very short. It’s as if Apple had launched an iPod that sounded like a cassette player.”

“On the TV screen, the Apple TV projects a very iPod-like interface, commendably clear and easy to use. It also looks great, especially on a high-definition TV. It uses your own pictures as an animated screensaver,” Svensson writes. “It’s surprising, then, that videos from Apple’s online iTunes store look horrible on an HDTV set. The movies and TV shows have the same nominal resolution as DVDs, but look much blurrier, approaching the look of standard-definition broadcast TV.”

“I compared the Apple TV to Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 game console, which can more or less do the same things, acting like a bridge between a Windows computer and an HDTV set,” Svensson writes. “After having my eyes gently caressed by the Apple TV’s menus, the Xbox interface is like a slap in the face. It’s garish and confusing, and you have to press more buttons to get where you want to go.”

Svensson writes, “But the Xbox does your HDTV justice. Microsoft’s Xbox Live marketplace has some movies in HD, and these look absolutely stunning – better than most broadcast HD, and almost indistinguishable from HD DVD or Blu-ray discs, which provide the best video quality available to consumers right now. [But] the movies can be watched only on the Xbox, while Apple’s movies can be viewed on a computer or iPod screen as well. You only get 24 hours to watch an Xbox movie, which seems unnecessarily harsh,” Svensson writes. “The Xbox is also a bit of a brute compared to the Apple TV. It’s noisy, and its power adapter really deserves being called a ‘brick’ – it’s as large as the whole Apple TV, which doesn’t have a brick of its own.”

Svensson writes, “Of course, Apple will at some point start selling HD video through iTunes. It has to. Will that play on the current Apple TV? Probably, but I’m wary of the result. According to the company’s specifications, the Apple TV can play HD video with a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels, but it doesn’t actually seem that well suited to it. The hard drive is small, and the low power consumption speaks of weak processors inside. And since Apple’s standard-definition video looks so bad, I’m not confident the HD video will look good either.”

Full article here.
It’s unfortunate that one man’s opinion – an opinion that doesn’t jive with those of multiple other reviewers’ (see related articles below) – will nonetheless get picked up by hundreds of AP media outlets. Even more unfortunate is his addition of pure conjecture that when and if iTunes Store offers HD content it “won’t look good either” and that Apple TV “doesn’t actually seem that well suited to” handling HD content. Those baseless statements turn Svensson’s “review” into nothing more than a widely-disseminated hit piece.

Apple TV’s iTunes Store current content looks much better than this reviewer’s opinion leads readers to believe – as multiple other Apple TV reviews have stated (see related articles below).

It is incorrect and unfair to blame the Apple TV for iTunes Store’s lack of HD content. Blame Apple and/or the content providers for that issue; in the meantime, see: Where to get HD content for your Apple TV – March 29, 2007

Robert Scoble, former Microsoft technical evangelist and prominent blogger, April 2, 2007: Microsoft’s Mike Torres notes that Apple TV — to his eyes — doesn’t look sharp on HDTV screens (he’s not alone, several of my friends saw them in Apple stores and say they don’t look sharp). I saw one on display that wasn’t set properly. Mine came by default set to something other than 1080i. When I changed the setting to 1080i it got a TON sharper… when I put HD content on my Apple TV it looks just as sharp as stuff coming off of my Media Center/Xbox 360 setup). Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple TV specs:
• Video formats supported: H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): 640 by 480, 30 fps, LC version of Baseline Profile; 320 by 240, 30 fps, Baseline profile up to Level 1.3; 1280 by 720, 24 fps, Progressive Main Profile. MPEG-4: 640 by 480, 30 fps, Simple Profile
• Audio formats supported: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps); protected AAC (from iTunes Store); MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps); MP3 VBR; Apple Lossless; AIFF; WAV
• Photo formats supported: JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG
• Enhanced-definition or high-definition widescreen TVs capable of 1080i 60/50Hz, 720p 60/50Hz, 576p 50Hz (PAL format), or 480p 60Hz

Related articles:
Apple TV USB support is now enabled via hack – March 30, 2007
Digit hands-on with Apple TV: ‘simple to set up, a delight to use’ – March 29, 2007
Newsweek: Apple TV has a lot going for it – March 29, 2007
Apple overriding Apple TV hacks? – March 29, 2007
Hacking Apple TV: Joost successfully run on Apple TV – March 28, 2007
Apple TV software hints at future DVR functions? – March 28, 2007
Ten Apple TV myths – March 28, 2007
Ars Technica in-depth review: Apple TV ‘impressed all those who touched it’ – March 27, 2007
The chips inside Apple TV – March 27, 2007
Analyst: Apple TV is a platform, not a single product – March 27, 2007
Digital Trends reviews Apple TV: 7 out of 10, ‘huge phenomenon will challenge conventional thinking’ – March 26, 2007
Automatically convert video files for Apple TV with Apple’s Automator – March 26, 2007
Apple TV, iTunes, iTunes Store: BusinessWeek’s Wildstrom blows it – March 26, 2007
iLounge gives Apple TV a ‘B’ in hands-on review: ‘recommended’ – March 24, 2007
CNET reviews Apple TV: ‘Very Good’ – 7.7 out of 10 – March 24, 2007
Video: Apple TV menu and interface walkthrough – March 23, 2007
Analyst: Apple TV will change the TV business – March 23, 2007
G4’s ‘Attack of the Show’ host Olivia Munn licks Apple TV – March 23, 2007
Xvid fully functional on Apple TV – March 23, 2007
Apple TV does not require Widescreen TV or HDTV, works with standard TVs – March 23, 2007
CBS looks at Apple TV on ‘The Early Show’ (with video) – March 23, 2007
Scoble: ‘Apple TV rocks’ – March 23, 2007
Apple TV hard drive upgrade works – March 23, 2007
Apple TV dissection photos – March 22, 2007
Apple posts Apple TV User’s Guide online – March 22, 2007
Enderle: ‘Apple’s attractive and well packaged Apple TV likely to set the pace’ – March 22, 2007
David Pogue demos Apple TV in humorous NY Times’ video – March 22, 2007
PC Magazine review gives Apple TV 4 out of 5 stars – March 22, 2007
NY Times’ Pogue: ‘Apple TV offers a gracious, elegant, effortless, delightful experience’ – 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

60 Comments

  1. He’s entitled to his opinion. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to see Apple TV in action, I can’t comment on quality. But for me, Apple will need to start selling content in HD before I buy the device so that I will enjoy it more. SD on HD just doesn’t cut it for me.

  2. “Apple TV’s iTunes Store current content looks much better than this reviewer’s opinion leads readers to believe.”

    Also just MDN’s opinion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the review.

  3. Probably a paid assassin on the Microsoft payroll. Death by drive-by journalism.

    What gets my shorts in a knot is that it’s almost impossible to reply to the aforementioned article to hold this twit accountable. Thus, it’s a perfect FUD vehicle for Microsoft. Typical.

  4. And since Apple’s standard-definition video looks so bad, I’m not confident the HD video will look good either.”

    That’s the funny part, in bold.

    He’s complaining that standard-definition video looks horrible… ON AN HDTV SET.

    D-frigging-uh.

  5. “What gets my shorts in a knot is that it’s almost impossible to reply to the aforementioned article to hold this twit accountable.”

    Yet you have enough information to discern he’s a twit. Typical smug fanboy mentality.

  6. I can only speak from my own experience with my Apple TV – it rocks!

    HDMI -> 42″ Plasma

    I adjusted the video settings on the ATV to 1080i/50.

    All of the HD content that I streamed over from my MacBookPro looked fantastic.

    I think his beef is actually with Apple not providing higher quality content on the iTMS.

    The video quality of the ATV is just fine.

  7. MDN: “Those baseless statements turn Svensson’s “review” into nothing more than a widely-disseminated hit piece.”

    – Well, except that he actually supports his “baseless” statements with actual reasons. Sure, you can disagree with the validity or importance of his reasons, but they are certainly not baseless, unlike many of your attacks.

  8. I hope he was watching the newer 640×480 content on his TV rather than the earlier 320×240 videos. If it’s the latter, he’s a moron. If it’s the former, he could just be really picky about his video.

  9. “Probably a paid assassin on the Microsoft payroll. Death by drive-by journalism.”

    You have no proof of that. But, looking at overwhelming number of Apple ads on this site, we CAN prove that MDN has a vested interested in heaping endless praise on anything related to Apple. AP needs to maintain a reputation for fairness in reporting. MDN clearly has no such standards.

  10. I excitedly and with great anticipation raced to the Apple Store to see the next great idea in person.
    One word best describes the experience, DIS-A-FRICKIN’-POINTING!

    If Apple doesn’t bump up the resolution of the TV and Movie content, they won’t sell more than a handful of these units.

    The rest of the functionality, music, photo’s, interface etc…typical Apple excellence.

    I can’t justify the expense until the resolution is appropriate for my HD set.

    Movie rentals would be a good step as well for obvious reasons.

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