ExtremeTech reviews Apple TV 2.0: very easy to rent HD movies right from your living room

“Apple TV was one of those products that I always wanted to like but just couldn’t when it was released. Oh sure, it was neat to see my photos on my TV and play music or watch a TV show or two. The interface wasn’t anything to rave about, and I couldn’t get any kind of HD programming,” Jim Lynch writes for ExtremeTech.

“The latest Apple TV 2.0 release fixes a lot by adding HD movie rentals, a slick new interface, and the ability to buy/rent without having to use your computer. The Apple TV is now officially a stand-alone (though you can still synch to it and from it if you want) entertainment center,” Lynch writes.

MacDailyNews Note: Remember that Lynch wrote, “you can still synch to it and from it if you want.” We’ll need that later.

Lynch continues, “One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most is the ability to rent movies on my Apple TV. I got rid of cable TV a while back because it’s horrible and far too expensive. As with iTunes movie rentals, Apple has made it very easy and quite comfortable to rent movies right from your living room.”

“You have 30 days to start watching it and 24 hours to watch it as many times as you want after you start playing the movie (though as I understand it, you can always pause the movie and finish watching it past the 24 hour timer…a little known feature that Apple seems to have neglected to mention),” Lynch writes.

MacDailyNews Take: That’s a fact in both ways: it exists and Apple has really failed to explain it properly to potential buyers.

Lynch continues, “I like a lot of what I see on Apple TV right now, but it’s not without its problems. At this point you can’t buy HD movies, you can only rent them. I’m sure that Apple will probably tweak this and allow purchasing, but right now it’s not possible, and I find that somewhat irritating.”

MacDailyNews Take: Don’t hold you breath waiting for Apple to sell HD content; we’re pretty sure Hollywood won’t allow it anytime soon.

Lynch continues, “In the two current versions of Apple TV (40GB and 160GB), the storage offered is simply too small to last long over time. It is amazingly easy to fill up such a tiny amount of storage that I can see the need for at least a terabyte of storage if somebody wants to really build a collection of movies. No doubt Apple will bulk up the storage offering later, but right now I’m just not satisfied with it… I was going to give Apple TV an 8 but I’m going to knock that back to a 7 because of the storage issue. It’s something that Apple really needs to address very quickly as I think that the power users of Apple TV are going to fill their disk space up extremely quickly if they buy a lot of movies, TV shows, music and so on from iTunes via Apple TV.”

Full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: Even though Lynch himself writes that “you can still synch to it and from it if you want,” he seems to totally miss the point that Apple TV is not meant to be your central media storage unit (Lynch even comes up with a wish list for Apple TV units up to 1TB along with fantasy prices). Your storage is located elsewhere (accessible by your Apple TV(s), your Mac(s) and/or, Jobs forbid, your PC). Apple TV wirelessly streams your iTunes content; that drive inside is really best reserved for your temporary movies rentals. That’s what Apple TV’s drive has been waiting for since the device’s release.


  1. Right on MDN… I store a few photo’s on my AppleTV hard drive for the screen saver, other than that everything streams from my central source for all media (over 500GB worth), my iMac. It streams HD and SD content across my draft-N airport extreme seamlessly without so much as a hiccup. It seems the AppleTV is an 8 (at least) after all!!

  2. Thanks for highlighting my column, MDN.

    On the issue of storage, I think it was worth mentioning because some folks might end up using their Apple TVs as their main media storage unit…especially as the capabilities of Apple TV increase over time. With this update it can now operate totally independently of a Mac or PC so it makes sense for Apple to beef up the storage capacity.

    That said, it would be very nice if the USB port in the back of the Apple TV were available so external storage could easily be added. I was puzzled by that not working in this release. Hopefully they will fix it in future releases.

  3. I think that the author is incorrect about the storage issue. I own of the original Apple TV with the smaller storage capacity and I never come close to filling it. This is because the content on the Apple TV is managed by iTunes and tends to flow in and out of the unit rather than remain stagnant. For example, if I rent a movie, it will remain on Apple TV for no more than a month. If I listen to podcasts, the new ones are imported as they become available and the old ones are deleted either because I have listened to them or because they no longer meet my pre-set criteria for downloading them.

    To be fair, my experience may not be typical. However, I think that the author will have a truer opinion of the device after using it for a month. After than, he’ll get a feel for whether he really needs the additional storage or if he only thought he’d need that extra storage.

    It’s also interesting that the Author thinks that Apple TV needs to offer purchases of HD movies. I think this, again, is a lifestyle choice. It appears clear that most people prefer to own their music rather than to use a subscription service. I suspect the reverse is true of movies. While there are a great many people who like to own movies, I suspect that the vast majority prefer to rent.

  4. @Jim Lynch,

    I hope you don’t get the same level of abuse this time that you got from your other recent article about Apple and Microsoft, one stupid one not!!

    That feedback from Microsoft fanboys who so hate everything Apple was nuts…

  5. I have two Apple TVs One is a 160GB and one is 40GB. Neither of them are full of content. My Mac Mini Media Server on the other hand has more then 4 terabytes of USB2 external disk space and the media contained on the software Raid volume is my iTunes library, It’s accessible from both Apple TVs and is our system for syncing all of our iPods. And the master iTunes for our Air Tunes.

  6. @Jim Lynch
    “Hopefully they will fix it in future releases.”

    In regards to the USB opened up for a disc drive, the is nothing to fix IMHO. Jim, there may be some uses for the USB port, but additional storage isn’t one of them. Wi-Fi is built into the TV for a reason: so you can tuck noisy drives away from the home theater area (something MS should have done with their XBox360). Apple has provided an elegant solution to allow one’s theater sound system to operate without competing with the background whirring of discs and fans. Connect your mass storage discs to your computer that is off in another room and let WiFi and syncing do the rest. It really is progress; you just have to let go of the antiquated thinking that all files have to be local and physically connected.

  7. Good article from Mr. Lynch outlining his views on the product. since it’s basically an opinion piece, I would think he’s entitled to offer his views on what it does well vs. what could be improved. Not everyone will have the same view, and most of the discussion on these posts has been very positive and constructive in any criticisms offered.

    I have to also say I’m impressed to see an author make the time to respond to his article being posted, defend his work in a rational way and offer additional comments without everyone getting all nasty about it.

    My $.02.

  8. In defense of the writer, he did mention that he wanted to build a HD library, and the AppleTV ver2 is being marketed as a standalone device. No longer requiring a Mac to serve content. That being the case, I think it’s fair for the writer to be concerned about storage capacity.

    Second, the 24hr time limit, I read in one review noted that the pause before it elapses trick, does not work on AppleTV.

  9. The largest files on an Apple TV are likely to be movie files. Since Apple seems to be going toward rental only (at least when purchased through Apple TV), and rental files are temporary, even the 40 GB version is sufficient space. If it is being used as a “stand-alone” device, there won’t be too much on it except temporary movie files. If it is being used with a computer, everything else but the temporary movie files can be stored elsewhere and streamed to Apple TV. I think Apple has designed a smart system that minimizes the cost for the consumer to get onboard.

  10. am i the only one still only counting 352 movies to rent? and that one week after the update. apple said 1000 movies by the end of february. only 2 weeks left to go. selection is very, very limited at the moment. i have already rented everything interesting. this think will only work if they come up with a lot of movies to choose from pronto. it might not be apple’s fault but this sucks.

    magic word: volume!

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