Why you shouldn’t care that Apple TV’s HD isn’t 1080p

Apple Online Store“The refreshed Apple TV sports a new design, Netflix streaming, and low price, but like the old model, Apple’s streaming video box is still limited to 720p content,” Matthew Moskovciak reports for CNET.

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However, “the reality is that higher resolution doesn’t necessarily mean better image quality,” Moskovciak writes. “The fact that the Apple TV doesn’t support 1080p video doesn’t matter.”

Moskovciak writes, “When it comes to streaming video, bit rate is much more important than resolution. Video bit rate basically states how much information is being used to create the video, and in general, the more information the better… The difference between 720p and 1080p content just isn’t that noticeable on a standard-sized HDTV (50 inches or less) at a regular seating distance… We won’t be able to tell how good the Apple TV’s streaming video quality is until we do a hands-on review, but nobody should shy away from the new Apple TV because it’s ‘just’ 720p.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This much we know: The current Apple TV’s streaming HD movies and TV shows are gorgeous. We would expect the new Apple TV to be at least as high quality.


  1. Make excuses for Apple. If Microsoft said this, MDN would be all over it.

    BluRay is still miles ahead of AppleTV. The LOTR BRD is amazing (though I feel ripped off that it’s not the extended edition). The sound and picture quality far exceed the pathetic offerings of AppleTV.

    BUT, I realize some people don’t care about quality media. That’s why they rip their music at 128 kbps. I’m sure Apple will make a ton of money providing crap product. As much of a fanboy that I am of Apple products, this isn’t one that will ever be on my shelf.

  2. i’ve seen blu ray’s in the store and the picture looks amazing. rented Cars on Blu Ray from Netflix and I think that blu ray is too good. it brought out too many limitations of the technology used to make the movie. it is a lot better than the regular HD picture from my HD cable box

    apple can concentrate on streaming, but the reality is that the Blu ray installed base is in the tens of millions and a lot of new blu ray’s are coming with a DVD and a digital copy you can load on your iphone.

  3. Also, 1080p video files are nearly twice the size of the equivalent 720p files. That means Apple needs to send almost double the data to show you the same video, and the delay from rental purchase to start of play would be annoying.

    If you were staring at a STILL picture on a typical HDTV screen at five feet, maybe you could notice a different between 720p and 1080p. But when the content has motion (AKA “videos”), the improvement is negligible. Even videos at 480p look pretty good.

    720p is the current “sweet spot” for HD streaming, and that won’t change until there is a major overhaul in data “pipes.”

  4. Who hires these fucking idiots? What a crock.

    Of course higher resolution images look better and matter. This is merely a weak variation on the same lame-ass argument that iTunes Music Store lovers cry out about low-bit rate music samples vs. Apple Lossless samples.

    Unless you’re blind, deaf, in deep self-denial, too cheap to buy decent playback equipment or just plan stupid, higher resolution images (and sound) DO matter!

  5. LeftCoastDude

    It has more to do with the reality of bandwidth.
    My current AppleTV looks great on my old 42″ Pioneer plasma.
    It is ‘only’ 720p, but even if it weren’t, it is still a faster, smaller stream.

    If I were buying a movie like LOTR, 2001, Blade Runner or Showgirls for a 60″ LED LCD, then I might want the higher resolution. But for TV shows and most movies, the difference is not noticeable…except in the download time.

  6. Moskovciak is correct that bitrate matters, especially for active video like sports.

    But the old false argument that 1080p doesn’t look SIGNIFICANTLY better than 720p is bogus.

    Blu Ray is still the only way to enjoy a decent library of movies at full HD 1080p resolution in your home. AppleTV will not displace BR for serious film buffs.

  7. The primary factors that drive media sales (in particular TV shows and movies) are Content and Convenience. A store needs, first and foremost, have the shows people want to see. Then it needs to make it easy to get and play.

    Price and Quality are secondary factors, which are only important when they are grossly out of whack. 99c and $99 are good price points for the Apple TV, not too high, to keep them secondary factors. And 720p is well then enough to keep good enough picture quality, but has low enough files sizes to keep the experience of getting and watching CONVENIENT, which trumps Price and Quality any time.

  8. Most “over-the-air” HDTV signals, which have a slightly better picture quality than cable HDTV (or so I’m told) broadcast in 720p, with a small number of channels choosing 1080i. I believe 720p is preferred for sports broadcasts as well, due to a lessened amount of “motion blur” than 1080i for displaying fast-moving objects or persons.

    I believe the only way to currently get a full 1080p picture in the U.S. on a home TV is with a blu-ray disc. 720p produces a pretty great picture, so the absence of 1080p on the Apple TV is pretty much a non-issue for all but the most ridiculously fastidious videophile.

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