24 February, 2008

Apple TV is a great addition

I hooked up my new Apple TV on Wednesday, and have had a great time exploring all the content that it has opened up. Actually all the content was already available, but now I am spending the time to view it, because I can view it from the comfort of my favorite chair. And it took more no more than 5 minutes to get going.

I like that I can easily view my favorite video podcasts (or listen to the audio ones) with just a few clicks on the remote. In addition, I can explore the iTunes store for new ones. Thinking about traveling to Europe? The checkout Rick Steves' video podcasts. Perhaps you want to see highlights from the Discovery channel, but don't have cable or satellite TV. No problem, there are video podcasts for that too.

If you don't mind the low quality video of YouTube, using the Apple TV, it has never been easier to explore YouTube. I've watched many great clips from "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" to comedians such as Jeff Dunham and Jim Gaffigan. And of course I can browse my own video collection on my PC -- anything that I can view through iTunes can be viewed using my Apple TV.

What really surprised me though was the picture viewer. I didn't expect that viewing my photos on my Toshiba 47" REGZA TV would make them look so much better than they are on my 19" LCD monitor. With Apple TV, I can select a particular picture collection or have it randomly display my photos. In addition, I can have it play from my music collection, including randomly playing songs from a Playlist. Would I have bought an Apple TV just for this feature? Unlikely, but now that I have it, I really like it. You can also view photos from your .Mac and Flickr accounts through the Apple TV.

The Apple TV also offers TV Show and movie purchase and rental directly from the iTunes store -- no need to go to the video store or choose your movie ahead of time. You can also use it to see movie Trailers. I can also access my music through the Apple TV, which allows me to play my entire mp3 collection in much higher quality than any speakers I've ever had on my computer.

Okay, it's not a perfect product; there are a few disappointments. My biggest disappointment is the long lists of my content that I have to scroll through to find a TV show or movie. From what I am able to figure out so far, all I can do is scroll through a long list of titles -- there is no classification or sub-folders for my own video content. A mechanism similar to how music is managed would be helpful. The fast-forward and rewind could work better too -- you cannot control it in less than 10 second increments. Perhaps with the simplified remote, it's a small price to pay, but a little more control would be nice. (But then with the small remote, how soon until I lose it in the couch?) Another minor note, my Apple TV received the free upgrade to version 2 just a day after installed it, and though I purchased it knowing I would have the additional features, I did like the version 1 interface better.

If this has peaked your interest, but you're not sure if the Apple TV is for you, checkout these three reviews: Gary Krakow (TheStreet.com), David Chartier (Arstechnica), and Christina Warren (tuaw.com). For me, I think it's time to cancel the limited cable TV package I have.

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