Do you have the AppleTV?

If so, do you like it? Was it worth the cost? Do you also have cable?

We’re buying our iMac today and we’re considering getting AppleTV as well, but don’t know if it’s worth it.

You don’t need cable or satellite TV service for AppleTV, and I don’t think there’s really any way to get AppleTV involved with that. You do need an HDTV, preferably with HDMI inputs - the thing does not have regular video outputs.

I’ve been thinking about getting one to replace my Squeezebox. The Squeezebox has served me well for the past four years, but its text-based interface is well, four years old and is prehistoric compared to the AppleTV’s on-screen display and Cover Flow.

As far as worth it or not, it sells for what I paid for the Squeezebox, and that was a worthy purchase.

I use a dedicated Mac Mini.

I’ve always had a Macintosh computer as my home computer, so I don’t have any anti-Apple bias. I don’t own a Tivo so I’m technologically way behind the times, but I’ve never understood what the use of the AppleTV would be unless you buy a lot of movies from the iTunes store. If it had a built-in DVD player I might take a second look at it, but the way it is right now, I don’t understand the use case for buying one.

The problem with using the AppleTV with the iTunes Store is the videos on the service are not in HD, so they look pixelated when upscaled to HD resolutions.

That has not been my experience. We’ve bought both Lost and Desperate Housewives as season passes from iTunes, and watched them on our iTV on a 42" Plasma, and it looks great. The iTunes store content is 640 * 480, which as I understand it is roughly equivalent to 480p HD, or greater than 720i HD. As an aside, we’ve also watched the very same files, loaded onto a 5G iPod with a video dock and S-Video connector, and the difference is extremely and immediately apparent, but still on a par with SD broadcast video.

We love our AppleTV, and really watch it as much or more than our TiVo. I’ve used HandBrake to rip all our Buffy and Angel DVD’s, and that’s our preferred method of viewing them. I’ve also used TiVo to go (and Tivo Download Manager) to import content from the TiVo into iTunes for archiving. Again, even after the transcoding from MPEG-2 to H.264, the same programs look better after they’ve been transferred out of the TiVo, into iTunes, and watched on the AppleTV than they did on the same TV directly from the TiVo.

YouTube works nicely (although it’s a pain to search with a remote and no keyboard). A largely unmarketed feature of the AppleTV is movie trailers directly viewable on the AppleTV on demand. We boxed up all the CD’s years ago, but this is a very easy way to listen to iTunes music as well, with digital optical out to the stereo.

A couple of caveats: The AppleTV only holds 40 or 160 GB of content, so we just stream from the iMac. This works very well over 100 MB Ethernet, but not very well over wireless. And the AppleTV gets hot, with no easy way to power it down when not in use. I finally moved ours out of the cabinet and onto an open shelf after the cabinet got too hot for the TiVo to operate. No fire hazard, but enough to get a small enclosed space up to 95 degrees.

Also, if you’re going to be converting a lot of content into iTunes, plan on a big drive. I finally just gave up and moved the iTunes library to a 1 TB external FireWire drive. There are currently hacks out there to allow you to plug an external USB drive directly into the AppleTV, but they sound pretty complicated so far. I would probably upgrade our 40 Gb AppleTV to 160GB before I messed with that hack today. But tomorrow never knows.

Wow, thanks for the excellent advice.

We are not big TV watchers, and aren’t the type to watch a movie or TV show more then once. Is it still worth it?

If you have a video iPod, you might not need one. I have a lot of content on my computer, but it’s not connected to my TV at all. When I want to watch something on the TV, I just copy it from my computer to the iPod and plug the iPod into the TV. It’s not nearly as elegant, but for occasional viewing, it’s been fine.

That’s where it all starts…

480p is only roughly “HD” in that it’s progressive, not interlaced, and is 720x480; its actually the same size as TV content that’s been seen in the last 40 years. There’s no such thing as 720i. 720p (1280x720) and 1080i or 1080p (1920x1080) are considered HD, anything smaller is “SD” (Standard Definition). Additionally, the HD formats are widescreen aspect, the smaller resolutions are not (unless letterboxed).