The Short Form
|Price: $299 / apple.com / 800-692-7753|
|The slickest way yet for shifting media from a computer in one room to a TV in another, though you'd better be an iTunes lover.|
•Jaw-dropping menus and screensavers
•Syncs (copies) media from a notebook PC to internal hard drive for playback even when the PC is uncoupled from network
•Compatible with protected content from iTunes Music Store
|•Incompatible with protected content from other music and movie services, including those that use rental and subscription models
•Photo viewing possible only after images are copied to Apple TV hard drive
•No Internet radio or YouTube access
|•Streams music, movies, and TV shows from your iTunes library on a Mac or Windows computer
•Synch content (including photos)
•Once loaded with content, Apple TV can be plugged into a TV in a different place where there's no computer, network, or Internet access
•40-GB hard drive
•3.25-in IR remote
•Inputs: Ethernet, 802.11n wireless networking, USB (unimplemented)
•Outputs HDMI, component-video, optical digital audio, stereo analog audio
•7.7 x 7.7 x 1.1 in; 2.4 lbs
In Apple TV terms, "streaming" designates essentially real-time playback from the computer to your TV through the media receiver. "Syncing" refers to copying all or selected content to the Apple TV's 40-gigabyte (GB) hard drive, which is a plus if you plan to remove the computer, such as a notebook, from the network. Also, since Apple TV weighs only 2.4 pounds (and there's no power brick), you can load it up with content and play it on a late-model TV elsewhere, even where there's no computer or Internet connection available. (One downside to the integrated power supply, though, is that the Apple TV's bottom always feels like a warm hotplate, and there's no Off switch - short of disconnecting the power cord.) While music and video can be streamed or synced, photos must be synced; there's no ability to play them back without first copying them over to the Apple TV's drive.
After seeing that my iTunes library was now accessible from the TV via the direct Ethernet connection, I decided to check out the Apple TV's wireless capabilities. I just unplugged its Ethernet cable and re-ran the setup for wireless mode - and Apple TV, using its embedded antenna, quickly found my Netgear G-type Wi-Fi network and my computer. (Apple says that Apple TV takes advantage of the greater speeds offered by the 802.11n draft spec used in some new wireless routers, including its latest AirPort Extreme.) As before, the iTunes library on my computer was now fully accessible from the TV. At this point, I still hadn't any need to refer to the user manual. Easy!
MUSIC PERFORMANCE My first fun task was to sample 50 CDs that I had recently had a service rip to unprotected MP3s at 192 kilobits per second (kbps), all on one DVD, which I'd imported into iTunes. On the Apple TV's widescreen graphic interface, the CD covers appeared to come at me as if on a carousel and loom six times their actual size - take that, vinyl cover art! Navigation was a breeze using the elegantly designed menus and the white, six-button remote control. Even though there's no scroll wheel on this dog-biscuit-size remote, when I switched from albums to songs, the longer I scrolled down, the faster the list moved. And it came to a quick stop when I let go of the button, putting me in alphabetical proximity of where I wanted to be. Combined with hundreds of previously ripped or downloaded songs on my computer, my more than 1,000-tune library was extremely easy to command and enjoy from the living room. Sound quality was excellent through the stereo speakers in my TV, but the Apple TV's lack of a coaxial digital audio output (it has optical-out only) prevented me from funneling the sound through my home theater receiver.
Back at the computer and going to iTunes, I spent $3.99 on the Kelly Sweet EP, whose five songs include "Raincoat" and "Dream On." They downloaded in the iTunes-dictated format of FairPlay-protected AAC files at 128 kbps. Kelly looked and sounded even sweeter from the sofa than she did from the desktop.
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