Apple TV 2.0 in-depth review

“Here’s a look at how Apple TV compares as a living room media player and source of HDTV content, what’s new in the software upgrade, and how well the device achieves its goal of bringing iTunes media to home theaters in its second try at inventing itself,” Prince McLean writes for AppleInsider.

“Apple TV is essentially a low end Mac with a video card supporting 1280×800 resolution. The existing hardware will never be able to decode or output 1080p video in full native resolution. However, the new Take Two software enables 1080p output in the unit’s HDMI subsystem to scale up its 720p content and deliver it as a 1080p signal to TV sets that support 1080p display,” McLean writes.

“This is similar to what upconverting DVD players do, although Apple TV can start with higher resolution content; Upconverting DVD players deliver the standard definition content on DVDs to HDTV sets as an HD signal. This doesn’t invent new detail in the picture, but does deliver the best possible picture DVD can produce because it maintains a high quality signal to the set rather than delivering one that must be scaled up within the TV itself,” McLean writes.

“Apple TV plays back iTunes HD content, HD home videos, and HD podcasts all at 720p internally, but can deliver either a standard 720p signal or an upconverted signal to the HDTV set as 1080p. How noticeable this difference is in the picture displayed depends upon the quality of the video circuity in the TV being used. Many consumer oriented HDTV sets use cheap picture scaling and conversion hardware that will result in the Apple TV’s new 1080p mode serving as a nice feature, as the TV won’t have to handle the conversion itself,” McLean writes.

“Using a high quality HDTV set, we couldn’t see any visible difference in using 1080p over 720p from Apple TV, even when looking up close and trying to find differences in the static frames of movies or in the unit’s own menu titles. However, some cheaper HDTV sets might deliver a better picture using the 1080p signal setting. Rather than being excessively concerned about 720p versus 1080p, the main value added by Apple TV is its low cost delivery of easy to access HD content, both for rent and for free,” McLean writes.

There is much, much more (including screenshots of UI, content quality, etc.) in the extensive in-depth review — a must-read for those considering Apple TV — here.

23 Comments

  1. Annoyed that I can’t BUY movies with AppleTV 2.

    It seems to prefere renting. But at 2.99 or 3.99 I wicna’t e renting a lot of videos. I can now buy DVDs at target and such for $5 or $9 so why should I rent it for $3 or $4?

    I’m also annoyed that new iTunes seems to prefer rented movies ….

  2. I watched “The Core” in HD this morning… horrible movie, but the HD looks great on my Aquos. Much better than the grainy crap I get from the Comcast DVR. The addition of AirTunes was perfect.

    Tiny complaint: I had hoped that they would organize ‘My Movies’ into genres. If you have a lot of movies on your hard drive, AppleTV simply puts them into a long text list, and scrolling through at high speeds is like taking a cheese grater to your eyes.

    Also, HD podcasts look un-be-lievably good.

  3. Software upconversion? Don’t think so. All signals go through my Anchorbay Technology iScan VP50 video processor and even my sd dvd’s look great. I have one more extra HDMI slot. Apple TV here I come.

  4. I still don’t know why this is better than just hooking my laptop up to the TV. You can talk video output standards till you’re blue(ray) in the face, but it just seems like a crippled computer, and if I wanted that I’d buy a Vista box.

  5. The main menu isn’t very Apple-like. It’s just a small thing, but I wonder why they didn’t keep it consistent with the rest of the menu system. This menu looks like an afterthought compared to the rest of the interface.

    Also, anyone know why Apple does not include a visualizer like the one in iTunes?

    Agree with the rental vs. purchase difficulty mentioned above.

    Overall, happy to see the new features though.

    Rush is probably going to have problems. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  6. > Annoyed that I can’t BUY movies with AppleTV 2.

    If you bought movies on an Apple TV, it’s hard drive would be filled quickly (even with the 160GB version). And then, you have the problem of backing up huge files in case of disk failure, even if it was possible to sync those huge files back to your computer. For online distribution of feature-length video content, renting is the only way to go. Apple was only selling the movies on iTunes as an interim step while it got the software, hardware, and studio deals put together to start the rental service. That’s obvious now.

    If you want to own it, you’ll have to buy that DVD at Target.

  7. > The Rev. wrote: I still don’t know why this is better than just hooking my laptop up to the TV.

    I do the same thing. It’s not the most elegant or painless way of playing digital video files a TV, but it does save a couple hundred dollars. Too bad Mac notebooks don’t have HDMI out to carry the audio signal in the same cable.

  8. All-in-all a pretty lame “comparison” when they omitted obvious competition like Windows Media Center, the Xbox, Wii, PS3, etc and instead chose to compare the AppleTV to relatively limited hardware like up-converting DVD players and HDTV receivers.

  9. “we couldn’t see any visible difference in using 1080p over 720p from Apple TV…However, some cheaper HDTV sets might deliver a better picture using the 1080p signal setting. Rather than being excessively concerned about 720p versus 1080p..”

    Right….someone has heard of Vudu.

  10. i think it’s ridiculous that people on this forum have been wanting rentals forever… “WE DON’T WANT TO BUY MOVIES WE WANT TO RENT THEM” and then one of the first posts on the updated apple tv is someone saying “I DON’T WANT TO RENT I WANT TO BUY”.

    pretty funny, actually..

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