First Impressions: Apple TV

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Date: Friday, March 30th, 2007, 09:39
Category: Review

appletvlogo.jpg
With Apple TV mania at its zenith, PowerPage associate editor, Philadelphia PowerBook Users Group co-creator and Emmy award winning NFL videographer Rob Parker sped out to the King of Prussia Apple Store location to snag a unit.
Here are his first impressions:
I’m a gadget freak and I usually buy cool new stuff immediately after it becomes available. Apple TV is just this kind of toy. However, it has limitations that I decided I wasn’t willing to deal with. I did want to see one in the flesh though so I headed to the King of Prussia Apple Store to see what’s up.
The Hardware:
Apple TV is supremely thin and attractive. I personally would rather it be a little thicker and include a DVD player. While the Apple TV’s chipset and QuickTime itself is capable of 5.1 surround sound, the unit is currently not able to do it. Let’s hope for some improvements in version 2.0. The two store units on display were connected via HDMI to a pair of Sony 32-inch HD LCD Televisions. Both units were noticeably hot. And by that I mean that you could iron your boxers or make a nice panini between them. Where’s my spray starch?
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appletvlogo.jpg
I’m a gadget freak and I usually buy cool new stuff immediately after it becomes available. Apple TV is just this kind of toy. However, it has limitations that I decided I wasn’t willing to deal with. I did want to see one in the flesh though so I headed to the King of Prussia Apple Store to see what’s up.
The Hardware:
Apple TV is supremely thin and attractive. I personally would rather it be a little thicker and include a DVD player. While the Apple TV’s chipset and QuickTime itself is capable of 5.1 surround sound, the unit is currently not able to do it. Let’s hope for some improvements in version 2.0. The two store units on display were connected via HDMI to a pair of Sony 32-inch HD LCD Televisions. Both units were noticeably hot. And by that I mean that you could iron your boxers or make a nice panini between them. Where’s my spray starch?
The Interface:
Navigating through the menus on Apple TV was even easier than I had imagined. It’s simple, straightforward and responsive. The one caveat is that the remote does not control the volume. For that you’ll have to use your TV or stereo controller. The interface is beautiful to look at. The cover art really pops and the text is crisp and legible. Very impressive indeed.
The Content:
If you’re hoping to watch your iTunes Store purchases on Apple TV, I hope you don’t have a very trained eye. In fact, you may want to sit several meters from your set and squint while you watch. It’s that bad.
ALL of the video content on display at the Apple Store was from the iTunes store and it all looked like poo. I work in the television industry so I know that I’m not the typical video customer but I find it hard to believe that most average consumers are so unrefined that they won’t notice the insane level of graining and all of the compression artifacts that are inherent in this kind of setup. HDTV and iTunes store video – in its current form – is simply a wretched combination.
Pictures, on the other hand, looked amazing. And why is that? Well, they’re high definition! The slide shows on the display units played really nicely with a music bed and the ol’ Ken Burns effect. Of course these slide shows were carefully assembled with precision in and out motion points and all images were oriented horizontally so they filled the screen with no black bars on the sides. No complaints on that one though, it’s just good marketing.
I was surprised to find that Apple has no HD video content on these display models at all. Nothing, nada, zip. You would think that they could throw on a couple of HD flicks from their QuickTime demo page, but no. And there are several HD podcasts out there so why not show off a little? I think it’s insane to sell an HDTV product like this and not allow people to see any HD video content on your display units. It boggles the mind.
I asked one of the Apple Store associates if there was ANY HD video content that I could watch. His response was that there is no HD content on the iTunes Store. Yeah, no s#!t, Sherlock. But you’ve got QuickTime trailers and HD podcasts. He explained that there really isn’t much HD content out there. Yeah, ok. Then why produce an HD box? Clown.
Summary:
Apple TV appeals to just about anyone who loves a good gadget. However, the shine wears off a bit when you consider that you can get most of the same functionality from your video capable iPod. If you’re creating your own HD content and you do lots of HD slide shows, then I guess Apple TV is right up your alley. If you’re pounding the Kool-Aid then you’ll probably want one. If you’re a gadget freak with some extra cash then why not get one?
Me? I’m waiting for revision 2.

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