Hands On with the Apple TV

Sometimes, the best gifts we receive are ones that are unexpected.

Last week, after going out to dinner to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, Aarti surprised me with a new Apple TV. It was an early birthday gift, to commemorate my impending birthday. (I’ll reach the big 4-0 in September.)

Apple TV in the box

We’ve had the Apple TV for a week, and we really love it.

Simply put, the Apple TV is a dedicated media center – it can stream videos, photos and music from a variety of sources, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Flickr, YouTube, iTunes and even your Mac. The Apple TV is powered by a single-core A5 chip. It costs $99.

As with all of Apple’s products, unboxing the device is a tantalizing experience.

Apple TV unboxing

The Apple TV box includes the device itself, which measures roughly 4″ x 4″ by 1″ and weighs a little over a half of a pound. Also included is a power cable, a remote and a quick start manual. (You’ll have to supply your own HDMI cable, though.)

Apple TV (2012 model)

In typical Apple fashion, the Apple TV was a cinch to set up: Plug the HDMI cable from the device to the TV, plug the power cord, and finally, use the built-in Wi-fi to connect to the router. It took me less than 5 minutes to have the whole unit set up from start to finish. The Apple TV also includes an optical Audio Out port, a micro USB port (for running diagnostics, if troubleshooting is required) and an Ethernet port, should you need them.

The model I’m reviewing is latest Apple TV model (2012), which lets you stream 1080p content. In my usage of the device this week, the quality was nothing short of superb. While watching movies on Netflix, we immediately noticed the difference in video quality. (Sorry, Nintendo, but we won’t be watching Netflix on the Wii ever again.)

Renting and watching videos from Apple’s own store was effortless. We rented a film (“Harold and Kumar”) and playback was crisp and smooth, with no skips or stutters whatsoever.

The Apple TV lets you stream music, movies and television shows from a shared computer. I tested this with all of the above, and didn’t have a single issue. I also tested Flickr and YouTube on the device – photos and videos loaded fast.

The Apple TV includes a built-in, customizable screensaver to prevent your display from suffering burn-in. If left idle, the Apple TV will go to sleep. Waking it up is as simple as clicking one of the buttons on the Apple TV remote.

What I like most about the Apple TV is its user interface. The supplied remote is responsive and easy to use. It is easy to move between various “channels” and options. The only minor inconvenience is that typing letters on the Apple TV requires clicking one letter at a time, but it does get the job done.

Aside: Prior to the Apple TV, we were using our Nintendo Wii as our media center. The Apple TV trumps the Nintendo Wii on several fronts, leaving our poor Nintendo to sit forlornly on our shelf to gather dust.

Bottom line: The Apple TV lives up to my expectations. It has a nice, small form factor. It is fast. Video and audio quality are both superb. And I no longer need to lug my laptop to connect to the television whenever I wish to watch videos from YouTube or iTunes. to summarize: The Apple TV is a great little media center for the price. It’s a no-brainer decision if you’re in the market for one.

Now if only accepting the fact that I’ll be turning 40 was this easy…

-Krishna

These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • Adam Young
    August 5, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Thanks for this hands on. I’ve been thinking of getting one when I move into my new place (currently I have an old PC hooked up to my TV in the living room to use as a Media Center, but that’s not coming with me).

    I have an iPad, and really like the idea of using display mirroring, etc to view content on the big screen.

    I have two worries with it, and both are because I live in the UK. First off it’s more expensive here costing the equivalent of $155 (£99). Which is just stupid. Secondly it doesn’t support any UK content providers. It has Netflix, and that’s it. It doesn’t support BBC iPlayer or anything which limits what I can watch. Luckily the BBC iPad app supports AirPlay so I can use that instead.

    I’ve been hearing rumours that they may introduce 3rd party apps with iOS6, but that’s a bit dubious. Hope they do though.

  • Kevin Rubin
    August 5, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Hmm… I hadn’t even thought of an Apple TV… I’ve never had a TV before (and I’m on the verge of turning 43), but now that my wife has just gotten here to the U.S. we’re shopping for one and I’m completely lost in the land of TV stuff…

    It also fits for us. I like Apple products (my first computer in the early 80’s was an Apple) because they work very well and generally intuitively, but she’s an Apple fanatic.

    I’ll have to consider this.

    • Krishna
      August 5, 2012 at 9:57 am

      The Apple TV is great! And I think it’s only a matter of time before it becomes an app platform like the iPhone and iPad. Maybe even a new game console…

  • Daniel J. Pinter
    August 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I have last year’s model. I like it to. If you’re a minimalist you velcro the A-TV to the back of your TV. Just make sure that the remote’s signal reaches the box.