My Wacky, Wavy Apple TV

I bought an Apple TV, the dinky new one that looks like it’d be more at home on ice with toothless Canadians batting it about than sitting in front of my TV. I was excited to get it because I have Netflix and I wanted to be able to stream my movies to my five year old, 42-inch Panasonic Plasma TV instead of my iPad or iMac.

My wife has a 32-inch LCD TV in her workroom, and when the impossibly small box arrived from Apple I plugged it into her TV first because its HDMI inputs were much easier to get to.

Setup was barely more complicated than opening the box, plugging it in, and using it. What sped things up was the free Remote app for iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. With it you can type in your account info for Netflix instead of using the easy-to-lose and hard-to-type-with remote that comes with Apple TV.

Apple TV

Photo Courtesy of Apple

I got Netflix up and running and started watching Season 2 of Dexter. It’s so easy to become a couch potato with Apple TV and Netflix. I imagined that if Apple ever decides to do apps, which is only logical, then I’d put the local pizza shop on speed-dial and call in sick. I’d tell my employer that I have an advanced case of Demeaning Plebney and I may not be long for this world, and want to spend my remaining days watching Avatar: The Last Air Bender.

When I got home the following day, however, my dreams of sofa nirvana were horribly shattered when I plugged the Apple TV into my home-theater setup.

See, the requirements for Apple TV clearly states that it must connect to a TV that support 720p. My Panasonic is an Enhanced Definition set, 480p. When I mated the two devices the resulting picture was so wavy that it made the Apple TV menu look as if it was having a conniption fit. No manner of configuration produced an improvement. I was depressed.

ATV on my Plasma

Apple TV on my 5 year old Panasonic

A quick check on Apple’s Support site confirmed my conclusion as I scrolled through pages of new Apple TV owners running into the same issue. Many had the same TV model I own, but there was a significant number of other models mentioned, enough to assume that it wasn’t a problem peculiar to just my TV’s make and model. The common denominator was the age of our sets: all were at least five years old. Apparently, there were enough changes in the HDMI standard to cause compatibility issues. Sets five years and older likely used HDMI version 1.0 to 1.2, which was good up until 2007 when the standard was upgraded significantly in version 1.3.


What this means is that I either buy a new TV for the family room or leave Apple TV on my wife’s set. Or, I can return it and buy a Roku, which has been reported to support my TV.

I’ll likely keep the Apple hockey puck. It works great on my wife’s TV, and it is just so darn adorable, and it’d be like taking a cute puppy back to the pet shop because it missed the potty-paper a few times.

Folks on Apple’s discussion board are hopeful that Apple will come out with a fix for the the waves. While it would be nice, unless it’s something simple, I doubt Apple will bother. It would be like coming up with a fix for a PPC based iMac. It’s in the past and Apple seldom looks back.

The thing is, this adds to a pattern that Apples seems to have fallen into where the devices and services it offers fall short. It’s never anything big. While the media tends make a pimple on Steve Jobs’ behind look like the Bubonic Plague, a majority of users never have an issue with Apple products. But for those who do it’s more than a little disappointing, and that disappointment is not easily forgotten, though it can be minimized with a fix.

Ah well, at least my wife is happy.