Associated Press reviews Apple TV 2.0: latest software update takes Apple TV to whole new level

“The latest incarnation of Apple TV, a white box the size of a hardback book that connects to your TV, is an attractive alternative to the usual ways we get our video content, even if it still has room for improvement,” Peter Svensson reports for The Associated Press.

“The latest software update, which arrived last week, takes Apple TV to a whole new level: It can now download rented movies directly from iTunes, with no need to involve the home computer. Some of the movies are even in high definition, finally providing a picture that’s a match for our flat-panel sets,” Svensson reports.

“At $229 for the basic model with a 40 gigabyte hard drive, it’s probably the cheapest way to get video from the Internet to the TV. There’s a model with 160 gigabytes of storage for another $100, which you might consider if you plan on buying, rather than renting, a large number of movies,” Svensson reports.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple TV is not meant to be your central media storage unit. 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 really what Apple TV’s internal hard drive has been waiting for — along with (shh!) the Hollywood studios giving Wal-Mart a year for their online movie mess to fail — since the device’s release.

Svensson continues, “I rented ‘The Italian Job’ in HD for $3.99 and waited two minutes until a box popped up on my TV to tell me the movie was ready to watch… I hit the ‘play’ button on the tiny but easily mastered remote, and was impressed with the image quality, even on a 46-inch LCD TV.”

“The only visual flaw I could detect was occasional ‘false contouring,’ which is when a field of relatively even color, like a blue sky, breaks into bands of distinct hues. It’s a defect you’ll see in cable and satellite HD transmissions, but hardly on Blu-ray discs,” Svensson reports.

“The main downside to… Apple TV isn’t the technology. It’s the terms Hollywood imposes on downloaded rental movies. Once you start playing a movie, you have to finish it in 24 hours. If you don’t, you have to pony up the whole rental fee again just to finish it,” Svensson reports.

“Obviously, this doesn’t work for busy people who watch movies half an hour at a time and take a week to finish one – the movie studios are practically steering these people toward DVD rentals and DVRs,” Svensson reports. “It would be great to see Hollywood lighten up on this issue.”

Full article here.

24 Comments

  1. I don’t get why there’s this 24-hour limit… There’s no limit for Netflix or Blockbuster — why not just make it valid for 3 days or a week? Do they really think we’re going to start having people over every night and charge admission to watch our rented movies????

  2. Okay, maybe I’m just weird, but I’ve never heard of watching a movie a half-hour at a time. You sit down, you watch it, the end. I never understood the issue with the 24 hour time limit. It must be awful to be so busy that one cannot take 2 hours out of one day in a month to sit down and watch a movie.

  3. I do not like the Sync scheme Apple imposes, similar to the sh*t the iPhone uses. I would prefer using the iPod model.

    Currently, in order to add content to your you have to re-sync the whole thing and what has been removed from your iTunes library gets removed from the Apple TV. That is just BullSh*t.

    As to rentals- no way Jose. Why rent for $3.99 when I can buy the movie for $9.99 with no DRM forever. Jobs has drank the Hollywood Kool-Aid. I buy movies and why would I want to rent a movie not worth buying.

    If Jobs thinks most people only watch movies once he must have never heard of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, The Movie Channel, The Independent Movie Channel,The Sundance Channel, Faux Movie Channel, Turner Classic Movies, American Movie Classics, Encore, Starz…

  4. “Do they really think we’re going to start having people over every night and charge admission to watch our rented movies????”

    Oops. So, that’s wrong? I tried getting express written permission from the commissioner of baseball.

  5. First of all, you must realize you are in the minority of people – people that buy vs. Rent. Do the math with the latest figures and you will discover one movie is purchased for every 20 rented, so don’t beat on Apple for delivering the model that meets mosts needs. And if you want, buy the title in iTunes and stream to to your TV via Apple TV. You can purchase via iTunes any time you’d like.

    Secondly, $3.99 for an HD rental is a good price – with nothing to pick up, or mail back, or decide for in advance, and yes, people rent movies all the time they would never purchase (see the first point).

    Lastly, if this model does not work for you that’s fine, but it’ll work for most, and Apple TV will very quickly become the main Blu-Ray competitor. Not quite the image quality, but cheaper entry price, and it does more. As for those movie channels, in the last 10 years all of them are quickly running to original content – not rerun movies.

  6. Okay… we get the same complaints about TV everytime there is an article about it.
    1. The 24 hours period is obviously a studio requirement. I would hope that this period will be extend as time goes by. I haven’t tried it, but enough people have noted the pausing-before-finishing method to extend the viewing period so that I believe it must be fact. Waiting for new movies to be available on iTunes is another studio move. They obviously want Blockbuster, Netflix, et al to have a reason to buy a gajillion copies for renting before digital download makes the need to buy moot.
    2. The syncing is moderately annoying, but doesn’t kill the deal.It seems to work fine what really needs to go to the entertainment center.
    3. If one wants to collect a library of movies, of course renting is out of the question. Most people don’t want a big collection of DVDs. That’s why rental operations have become so successful over the past two decades.
    4. Handbrake is great, but when used on rented DVDs is just another form of piracy. So check your morals at the door when using this way.
    5. With all the blow back against Jobs and Apple from the entertainment industry, I was shocked to learn that Jobs had been able to bring all the major studios on board with this. The potential wealth of content makes up for some of the compromises Apple had to make along the way. Once the system proves itself as a revenue producer I think some of the usage parameters will be loosened. Remember that the early days of video rental were much more expensive and restrictive than today’s more generous rental periods and fees.
    6. The TV is still not the perfect solution, but Apple has proven that it is capable of moving it forward, often at great leaps.
    7. The comparison to VuDu fails to mention that Vudu’s box must be connected by Ethernet cable to a fast (2 Mbps minimum) broadband Internet connection. And it costs $399. Pulling an ethernet cable out to my entertainment center isn’t going to happen. TV’s WiFi makes it infinitely more usable for many, if not most, people.

  7. We, the Apple TV generation, are in the midst of a vast Hollywood experiment. We the willing rats are being monitored and tested for our behaviours to see if this thing really works. Guess what? We already know it does, its Hollywood that needs to catch up.

    Please stayed tuned for more good information.

  8. “You can see it indefinitely.”

    I believe you’re wrong. Once you’ve resumed viewing the movie after the 24-period you do not have the option to pause it even to answer the phone, grab a drink or hit the bathroom.

    “If you are watching past the 24 hour window, and try to pause the movie, you are told you must finish watching it or delete the movie.” -Source

    Though I suppose if every 90-120 minutes you “rewound” to the beginning (without ever stopping or pausing) you could watch it indefinitely.

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