|Apple TV Review (2010)|
|Home Theater Media Servers Home Theater/Media Center PCs|
|Written by Mike Flacy|
|Thursday, 07 October 2010|
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I didn’t care for the Youtube application as much, mostly because the content on Youtube is hit or miss when it comes to HD quality. The Flickr application is great though and makes it easy to slide through photo presentations for friends. I also liked that the Internet radio app continued playing the music when I exited back out into the menu. I’m left wondering why there wasn’t any Pandora included though. I realize that Apple wants you to spend money on music in iTunes, but nearly all new CE set-top boxes are including a version of the popular streaming music player.
As mentioned earlier, the Apple TV plays a limited number of video formats. For those who rip their content to file formats like Divx or even just AVI, you won’t find compatibility in the Apple TV. It has to be in MP4, MOV or M4V format to be streamed onto your AppleTV. Streaming from a hardwired computer (or media server) to a wireless Apple TV works flawlessly, but streaming from a wireless laptop to a wireless Apple TV didn’t fare as well with our tests. You will likely be greeted with numerous buffering screens due to the stress on your wireless network. It makes me wonder how successful AirPlay will be when it rolls out for the Apple TV in November. AirPlay is designed to work in conjunction with iOS4 devices (iPad, iPhone 4, iPod Touch) and push the application to the Apple TV. Apple’s allowing third party developers to stream their application data to the Apple TV and it may not be just limited to music / video. The ability to control your apps while watching your television may just be the game changer that gets the Apple TV into iPhone / iPad owners home theater systems.
Audio / Video Quality
Interested in seeing how the Apple TV stacked up against the competition, I compared 720p streaming content on four other platforms: the Xbox 360, the Samsung BD-3600, the Roku XDS player and my Time Warner HD cable box. I was using Iron Man and some of my favorite episodes of Lost as a basis of comparison. There are difficult to see a clear difference in Iron Man, but the diverse locales (and various lighting changes) in season 4 of Lost really showed how much cleaner the Apple TV was able to handle image quality. There’s a definitely superiority to their encoding process for video and it was evident in the streaming quality of the video. There was less of that pesky blocky pixelation that you see so often on streaming content with low-bitrate encoding. Regarding audio, there was little difference in any of the players, with the exception of the terrible Time Warner audio clipping problems. The 5.1 surround sound tracks all sounded excellent for streaming quality. Of course, the Apple TV doesn’t hold a candle to 1080p video on Blu-ray discs or 7.1 DTS surround mixes, but it’s the best cloud-based streaming solution that I’ve seen so far in terms of A/V quality.
Apple has a definite problem with the Apple TV. Without more content or applications to support the platform, it’s going to have a hard time competing with other more complete offerings like the Roku XDS, Boxee’s upcoming hardware release or even existing set-top boxes. Apple needs to find a way to convince the other television studios to jump on board, but I would wager that wouldn’t be announced until next year.