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A review of the Apple TV for the Gadget Crate.

Apple TV front

What it Does:

The apple TV is not a TV, it is a set top box that hooks to your widescreen TV only, (regular TVs need not apply) to display media content stored on your computer and purchased through iTunes. It requires iTunes be installed on your computer. Itís priced at $300.

It is a bit larger than a Mac mini. Just over an inch tall. And 7.7 inches on each side. On the back are the Power, HDMI, USB, Ethernet, Analog Audio, Component Video, and Optical Digital Audio ports. It doesnít come with any cables except the power one.

Apple TV rear

When you plug in your Ethernet cable into the deviceís Ethernet port, it will check this connection first for a viable network connection. If it finds one, it will connect to your network using DHCP. If no Ethernet port is present, it will then search for wireless networks using its built-in 802.11b/g/n capabilities.

It has a 40 Gig hard drive 33 Gigs of usable storage space. Thatís 50 hrs of video or 9000 songs. Thatís not a lot of space if you have a lot of TV shows, movies, photos and music. (Photo playback requires iPhoto on the Mac, or Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements on Windows.) The Apple TV gives priority to your media, first syncing movies, then TV shows, music, podcasts, and, finally photos. When a computer is synced with an Apple TV, you see a tabbed interface where you determine how movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and photos are synced to the Apple TV.

It will sync to 1 computer using iTunes ver 7.1.1or higher, Windows or Mac. You then tell it what content to move to the Apple TV. When the hard drive fills up, thatís it, itís full. Content will disappear from the device as you sync it. Example, if youíve configured Apple TV to grab the three most recent unwatched movies and you watch one of the movies, iTunes will tell the Apple TV to delete the watched movie from its hard drive and sync up the next unwatched movie. iTunes and the Apple TV constantly talk to one another. As long as iTunes is running on the synced computer and your network is up and running, the two will update content as necessary; thereís no need for you to initiate syncing. You can manage which media winds up on the Apple TV simply by telling it which content (and how much of it) is synced to the device. For example, you can tell iTunes to sync only the three most recent unwatched movies. Or disable movie syncing altogether so you can sync the five most recent episodes of a TV series.

The Apple TV can also stream content from up to five additional computers. To do so, navigate to the Sources menu on the Apple TV, select Connect to New iTunes, and a new PIN number will appear. Enter this PIN number into the Apple TV preferences on the new computerís copy of iTunes, and iTunes will tell you youíre in sync. You can now stream content from that computerís library to the Apple TV. How quickly it streams depends on the speed of your network and the kind of content youíre streaming. If you have an 802.11g or n network, video will stream fairly quickly. Although you can use an 802.11b networks, I wouldnít recommend it, it will take a while for that content to be buffered by the Apple TV. A wired network should stream just about anything you want to the Apple TV.

Video formats supported

H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): Up to 5 Mbps, Progressive Main Profile (CAVLC) with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps (maximum resolution: 1280 by 720 pixels at 24 fps, 960 by 540 pixels at 30 fps)

iTunes Store purchased video: 320 by 240 pixels or 640 by 480 pixels

MPEG-4: Up to 3 Mbps, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps (maximum resolution: 720 by 432 pixels at 30 fps)

Audio formats supported

AAC (16 to 320 Kbps); protected AAC (from iTunes Store); MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps); MP3 VBR; Apple Lossless; AIFF; WAV

Photos formats supported

JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG

TV compatibility

Enhanced-definition or high-definition widescreen TVs capable of 1080i 60/50Hz, 720p 60/50Hz, 576p 50Hz (PAL format), or 480p 60Hz

What it wonít do.

1) It wonít play your DVDís

2) It not like a Tivo ( wonít record content from your TV )

3) It wonít play your ripped movies in Vob.divx or xvid

4) It wonít play music purchased from other music stores.

In conclusion

What it does it does very well. If most or all of your media is in a format that it reads your golden, or if you are willing to reincode all your media to H.264 it is a great product.

If on the other hand your media is in divx or xvid or one of the many other codex your out of luck.

   
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