I review a lot of gear. While I don't think of myself as jaded, it does take a lot to get me truly excited about a product. The new Apple TV did it. I love this thing, and I am by no means an Apple fanboy.
The reasons why are simple. Apple TV combines several products I use on a regular basis into one user-friendly box. I use a PS3 or Blu-ray player for Netflix streaming, a Wadia 170iTransport for music playback, and my computer if I want to watch a TV show that I downloaded from iTunes. Apple TV takes care of all those things, and more.
Like any Apple product, Apple TV is easy to set up. I got it streaming music from my PC in about two minutes, and that included having to type in my wireless network security code. Hookup options are simple as well. Very simple. HDMI and optical digital are the only outputs, and there's wired Ethernet if you don't want to do Wi-Fi. The micro-USB connection on the back is just for service.
The simple remote has a brushed aluminum finish. It's a little small for my hands, but it feels great and gets the job done.
There are two ways to play media through Apple TV. You can use its interface to access iTunes on your computer (the program must be running). Everything from music to purchased videos are available to stream. In this mode, you also get album art up on your big screen when playing music.
Conversely, you can use Apple TV as a "speaker" via the iTunes interface. This feature, AirPlay, slaves Apple TV to iTunes, letting you drive playback from your computer. You can also enable "Multiple Speakers." In this mode, your computer speakers, and whatever TV or receiver/speakers are connected to your Apple TV, become a sort of multi-room audio system. If you chose the "speaker" method of playback, you can use Apple's excellent Remote app and control the entire system from your touch/iPhone/iPad.
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