Apple TV, Take Two: A positive first impression

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View
Apple TV "Take Two" is definitely worth the upgrade. It so transforms your old Apple TV, it is almost as if you sold the old model and purchased a new one. And it's free. There's virtually no downside here.

Among all the new features in Take Two, I already have three favorites:

Podcasts. This is my #1 favorite new feature. While there are many podcasts that I would enjoy listening to, I rarely do—because I rarely want to take the time to sit down and listen for an extended time. With Apple TV Take Two, however, I can easily listen to podcasts from my living room TV, allowing me to (for example) prepare and eat dinner while the podcast plays in the background.

True, I could play a podcast from my iTunes Library even with the old Apple TV. But the new version makes it so much more convenient. I don't have to subscribe to a podcast or worry whether the one I want to listen to is on my Mac or not, or synced to my Apple TV or not. I just directly start browsing podcasts on the Apple TV and play the one I want. As a bonus, you can play it without having to download it. This means that, once you are done listening, you don't even have to remember to delete it from the Apple TV (assuming you don't care to save it, as will usually be the case). The process is as simple to do as it is to select a broadcast TV channel to watch.

Some users have complained that you cannot subscribe to a podcast from the Apple TV. Personally, I don't see this as a negative. If I really want a subscription, I can still do it from my Mac.

.Mac and flickr photos. I had already been using Apple TV "Take One" to displays photos from my iPhoto Library. With Take Two, I can now play slide shows from .Mac Web Gallery and Flickr accounts. This doesn't add much value for playing my own photos at home (it's just as easy to use my iPhoto Library directly for that). But it's a great way to view other people's photos—or even to show your own photos when you are at someone else's house (if that someone else has an Apple TV and is willing to put up with watching your vacation slideshow!).

HD content. You can rent HD movies directly from your Apple-TV connected television. Unless you already own a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player, and prefer having physical discs, Apple TV is currently the best way to rent HD content for your television. With "Take Two," you can even play theatrical movie trailers in HD. Very cool!

I do have one relatively minor complaint with "Take Two": All the menus are organized around iTunes Store content. This means, for example, if you want to play music from the iTunes Library on your Mac, you first have to select "Music" from the main menu and then (from a submenu that lists Top Music, Music Videos, Genre, Search and My Music) select the last choice (My Music). This finally takes you to the menu for your iTunes Library; a menu that looks pretty much as it did in "Take One." The net effect, however, is to make you feel as if your own music is semi-buried amid the iTunes Store options, as if Apple TV is now designed primarily as a device to sell iTunes content (and maybe it is).

On the other hand, as a music video fan, I welcome how easy it is now to browse through and purchase music videos directly from the Apple TV. If you purchase a music video (or any item, other than a rented movie), it is transferred to the iTunes Library on your Mac, automatically, the next time you sync your Apple TV.

One caution: I have my Apple TV connected via a 802.11n connection. I am not sure how much streaming and downloading would be negatively impacted by a slower 802.11g connection.

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Comments

CKSandberg

I have been very pleasantly surprised how well my 802.11g connection between the main server (G5) and the Apple TV - it streams audio and standard def video without hickups or stutters.
——-

Tom

Music Videos…

Apple needs to release a fix for Apple TV that will allow continuous looping of Music Video playlists.  (You are currently limited to viewing one video at a time and are thrown back to the main menu to select another video.)  I’ve read all the mainstream reviews of this excellent product but no one seems to be reporting this sorely lacking feature.  If you go to the Apple Support forums on Apple TV you’ll find literally hundreds if not more of postings about this subject.  I love the new upgrade and am wowed how Apple incorporated Airtunes into the product!  Bravo!  But this continuous playback of music videos feature has been lacking since the initial 1.0 version and lots of people were expecting the upgrade to fix this.  Myself and countless others have purchased many music videos in hopes we could make a playlist for parties and let itunes continuously play them… similar to audio only music.    Apple should implement what seems like a minor fix or explain why they can’t.

Japester

I love it. I think the best new feature apart from iTunes Store integration is AirTunes. It instantly solves the problem of the Apple TV’s inability to sync and play Audible content. You can even control the playback, which is something you can’t do with Airport Express. Killer feature.

I am a little annoyed with how often the interface locks up, even when just trying to move the cursor. I have an Airport 11.n base station and a fast (24Mbit/ps) ADSL connection, so I don’t know why this is happening. With the previous version, 1.1, it would only lock up when syncing or sometimes when browsing YouTube or downloading YouTube and trailer videos. Now it’s widespread.

The update is unquestionably worth doing, however, even though here, in Australia, there is nothing extra in the way of movies and TV shows. I can buy music and music videos and directly access podcasts, which will make the Apple TV far more feasible here where video content can’t be purchased or rented.

coaten

I’ve been an Apple TV owner/user almost since the day they were released. I have always emphasised to people curious about it that it is essentially a network extender, providing a means to get computer-sourced content on to your TV. It does a great job of this and I don’t for a moment regret buying it. Connected to a 720p TV, the picture quality ranges from acceptable to excellent, depending on the source material.

But so few journos get it. I’ve berated two senior tech journos in Oz because they’ve taken Apple’s “If it’s on iTunes it’s on Apple TV” marketing line literally, declaring the Apple TV useless because the Oz iTunes Store doesn’t do TV programs or movie rentals (yet). Um, like… duh. I’ve also had a heated email exchange with the editor of an English Mac magazine, whose editorial policy regarding the Apple TV seemed to be to tear it down because it was an easy target and, in the larger picture, a relatively insignificant one.

I’d really like to see writers, especially at sites such as MacObserver, place more emphasis on the Apple TV’s versatility. Ted touches on it in this column but doesn’t go nearly far enough. I’ll give you an example. I partner a photographer to create wedding packages. When clients visit me to see a photobook layout, I can “softproof” it for them using the Apple TV and a slideshow by exporting the photobook as a PDF and bringing each page back in to an image slideshow. The client gets to watch the show on a large LCD panel from a comfy lounge. Sweet. Neither of us need to be in my office, which is a cramped place for any more than one person and therefore not a space conducive to selling.

FYI, I recently replaced my 802.11n Airport with an 802.11g wireless modem router. I’m not experiencing any negative impact as a result, although my Apple TV always displays synced rather than streaming content. I’ll try streaming a movie from a computer and check the result.

gopher

My only qualms now with AppleTV are:

1. No adjustable aspect ratio.  Some TVs don’t offer that, and Apple’s DVD player offers it.

2. Menu navigation got harder with having to go to main menu, and having to go to shared movies and shared tv shows for streaming videos from your computer.  Both should be grouped together.

Neil

@Coaten - you are right on.

I have friends come over for dinner - and after dinner we listen to music, chat and watch any number of the literally 20,000 digital pictures scroll by. (Been shooting digital since 1998) 

or we surf YouTube - or, now, watch a vid pod cast.  My son wanted to know what the international space station looked like - poof Nasa Podcast all about it.  How cool is that?!

It makes for a fun thing to be enjoyed.  It is simple and it works because or in spite of it’s simplicity.

YodaMac

As you say, purchased content is synced to your iTunes… but what about families who share a computer.

My wife and I share a Mac and use separate iTunes libraries for our iPods/iPhones, but I can’t find a way for her to purchase content using the AppleTV (which is on the living room TV that we both share as well) and have it go into HER iTunes library…

Think different Apple, think FAMILIES!  smile

Roland

Like many of you, I was pleased with my Apple TV “Take Two” purchase. But my reasons were different, as I live outside the U.S., where fewer HD viewing options are available. I wrote about Apple TV’s relevance in my blog, http://www.textraextra.com/textra/2008/02/apple-tv-take-t.html

Joe Sondei

I’ve used Apple TV since it first came out and now with “Take Two” I can burn to DVD the photo slide shows, podcasts, etc. that I create and just mail them to my friends, just like netflix!  I use component-to-svideo adapter made by svideo.com at http://www.svideo.com/appletv2tv.html

coaten

TO follow-up on an earlier post, I streamed an episode of Lost over 802.11g with no problems.

Tamagotchi Town

Thanks for sharing this information, I was looking for something similar for a long time

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