Product review: Apple TV


3 Apr 2007

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“If it’s on iTunes, it’s on TV” – this is what Apple TV promises and this is essentially what it does but don’t expect a revolution in home entertainment.

Apple TV is basically a 40GB external hard drive with its own little operating system and graphical user interface (GUI) that works with your computer to bring iTunes content to your living room. The GUI is modelled on FrontRow, Apple’s media player, and like FrontRow it comes with the same tiny white remote control.

With a little help and a large HDTV from Dave at Currys, I got to see my iTunes library in all its glory on a Sharp 42-inch high-definition (HD) LCD TV. The device itself is small, silver and around 8 inches square and one inch tall. It comes with no connection cables so if you think you can plug and play, forget it.

Since I was using the Apple TV with a HD multimedia interface (HDMI) TV, I used the XtremeHD HDMI to HDMI cables, which cost €24.95. Although Apple TV works at its best with widescreen and HD sets, it also has YPbPr component cable ports for older televisions with this compatibility.

A constant broadband connection is needed for both your computer and the Apple TV. It has built-in wireless but also takes an ethernet cable. Even though the specifications state that a broadband connection is needed, I didn’t realise that it was essential for passing all content through iTunes before it authorises the content from your computer. I don’t like the idea of asking Apple permission to move my legitimately bought music from my laptop to my Apple TV.

Because it plays iTunes content only, this isn’t going to replace your DVD player or other home entertainment systems. You can watch movies downloaded from the iTunes store but you can’t download directly onto your Apple TV – instead files are transferred from your computer.

One computer acts as the ‘partner’, so its library is copied and transferred onto the Apple TV hard drive. Up to five other laptops or PCs can stream their content wirelessly so if your friend pops over with their laptop it is as easy as clicking on the Apple TV icon in their iTunes library and entering in the code displayed on screen and instantly their music or video collection is on your television.

Annoyingly, if you place your Mac laptop alongside the Apple TV, the remote activates FrontRow as well as the Apple TV menu every time you click. This can be de-activated in the menu settings but in my experience reverted back every few minutes.

The Apple TV is reasonably priced and is a pretty cool way to effectively turn your TV into a giant iPod but until the hard drive substantially increases from 40GB and other file formats can play on it I’m not entirely convinced.

It is priced at €299 and is available from 3G stores and from the Apple store online at www.apple.com.

Pros: Easy way to share streaming content from multiple iTunes libraries.
Cons: Can only play iTunes files and cannot download directly to Apple TV itself.

By Marie Boran