Ars Technica reviews Apple TV 2.0: Works well as video store replacement

“The update to the Apple TV was achieved through the writing of code, not the soldering of transistors. That means that early adopters aren’t left out in the cold,” Jonathan M. Gitlin reports for Ars Technica.

“As a replacement for leaving the house and going to the video store, the Apple TV works well. Sure, you won’t find as diverse an array of content as you would at a good independent or with NetFlix, but if you’re looking for mainstream movies that have been on recently, you’ve got a fairly good chance of finding what you’re looking for. HD content is a little more sparse, but it’s there too,” Gitlin reports.

“Downloading content is as easy as pressing the play button, and once a small percentage of the file has downloaded to your Apple TV hard drive, you can begin playback… The HD files, encoded to a resolution of 720p, only weigh in at about 4GB; far less than you’d get on an HD DVD or Blu-Ray disc (one hopes). And you’ll notice dithering and compression artifacts, commonly when the scene’s background is broadly one color, such as open sky or deep space,” Gitlin reports.

“But conversely, scenes with lots of detail show up great, at least as good as those displayed by my upconverting Oppo DVD player, and better than 480p. In reality, though, image quality is going to be in the hands of the studio who performed the transfer, and just like the DVD market, some will do this with more care and attention than others. Playback from the Apple TV itself was always stutter-free when viewing content on the device’s HD,” Gitlin reports.

Gitlin reports, “If you rent a lot of movies and are too lazy to visit your local rental store, or even to put your NetFlix envelopes back in the mail, and you want a device that lets you view HD content, then the Apple TV should be on your short list.”

Full review here.

19 Comments

  1. Works well until that first time a movie expires on ya. Over the weekend I rented “Nightwatch” and “Daywatch.” I started watching Nightwatch late Saturday. Things came up, and I didn’t get to finish. Then suddenly iTunes pop open a window letting me know that Nightwatch had been removed from my system.

    Need more time.

  2. Like all Ars reviews, I’d recommend people scroll through the comments. There are some elements of the review (most noticeably “the Ugly” bullet of his summary) that are glaringly false.

  3. Thats great. However, it won’t beat Netflixs for me. Netflixs is way cheaper, and I can get like 10 times the amount of movies per month if I wanted. And, I can rip them into Apple TV format fairly easily.

  4. “If you rent a lot of movies and are too lazy to visit your local rental store, or even to put your NetFlix envelopes back in the mail, and you want a device that lets you view HD content, then the Apple TV should be on your short list.”

    This Saturday night I found myself in the need of entertainment and decided to browse through the previews and picked out something to watch. Did I want to spend time with envelopes, no. Drive someplace, no. Pop some corn, mix myself a drink and rent a flick from my couch, YES.
    Why shouldn’t it be that easy and why is convenient described at lazy? How about SMART?

  5. There are two issues with ATV2 affecting our setup. Stuttering streaming with AC3 audio files and sluggish response to the remote. Hopefully Apple can fix this by software update. It would be really unfortunate if the problem is the underclocked cpu in the ATV.

  6. that WAS very “douche bag” like of me and for some reason (can’t imagine why after the re-read) the tounge in cheek smile on my face didn’t come through. Damn Monday’s! I should have heeded the sage advise: “Never miss and opportunity to shut up”.

    Thanks for the call out.

    My appologies and I’m crawliing back into my hole now.

  7. I read the article. It’s a little hard to take someone seriously who finds the Apple Remote somehow confusing and non-ergonomic. Practically the first evaluative statement in the article was a slam against AppleTV because it didn’t work with his universal remote out of the box.

  8. No special features? No captions or subtitles? No extras?

    Sorry, no sale for me.

    Any device that won’t pass along basics such as captions and subtitles — basically, that tells about 10% of the population that they don’t matter and being hearing impaired means you don’t get to enjoy this service — isn’t for me.

    I’m hear normally, but my wife is late-deafened (she lost her hearing as an adult). Until Apple insists on including captions and/or subtitles, they’re turning their back on a lot of prospective buyers like me. One in ten American adults have hearing loss, and they’re not all senior citizens. It took Apple years to update QuickTime to allow captions. Hopefully, it wont take them years more to update their thinking.

  9. @ericdano
    “However, it won’t beat Netflixs for me. Netflixs is way cheaper, and I can get like 10 times the amount of movies per month if I wanted.”

    Netflix is great, but not perfect either. Ever get a disc so beat up it won’t play? Ever feel like laughing and the only disc you’ve got is Cry’s and Whispers? TV provides an ADDITIONAL method to obtain movie entertain; you don’t have to give up Netflix to find use and value from TV.

    ” And, I can rip them into Apple TV format fairly easily.”
    Once you use this reason for maintaining your allegiance to Netflix, you’ve lost me. The fact you can steal easier from Netflix is not a great motive to cop to.

  10. What really bugs me is the need to hold the DVDs I have ripped on both the iMac ( or its USB connected HD) and on Apple TV. This is just a waste of space ( particularly when the apple tv has 160 GB HD) – anyone have a smart work around that still allows syncing etc?

  11. @garymac –

    It’s not a matter of turning on closed captioning.

    It’s a matter of having digital material with closed captions intact. Last time I checked, out of all the movies and television shows in the iTunes Store, less than 50 were available with closed captions.

    There’s just no excuse for that, considering ALL of the TV shows sold though iTunes originally aired with captions on American television. And probably 95% of the movies sold through iTunes feature captions and/or subtitles on the DVD (a few documentaries and independent films lack captions).

    Until Apple (and/or the studios) insist on captioning, lots of people who might be interested in online downloads will stand by with their wallets closed. To be fair to Apple, Netflix is no better. Their instant download titles don’t feature captions either, nor does the Amazon Unbox service.

    But of all the digital download services, you think Apple would be the most sensitive to the needs of a 10% market share audience, wouldn’t you??

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