Apple does have plans to release AirPlay. The idea behind AirPlay is that any iOS device that can play multimedia will be able to “send” this media to the Apple TV and thus to your theater. It is supposed to take the dependency of iTunes out of the loop. In theory, the VLC app that we have for the iPad should have a new little icon on the interface to send the picture to Apple TV. This is great if it ever happens the way Steve Jobs described, but it still doesn’t solve the fact that the Apple TV still displays a maximum of 720p picture quality. What would be more innovative is if Apple would allow DLNA for the Apple TV (and iPad/iPhone/iOS) to stream content from network attached devices and drives…you know, like every other media player on the market.
Before you go and write this review off as an Apple-hater on a rant, you need to know that I don’t hate Apple. In fact, I really like Apple and think that Apple products are very good for the PC and entertainment industry. When you look at the Apple TV, there are a bunch of things that I like and would love to see with other set-top boxes. By far the strength of the Apple TV is the ability to read “meta data” from the net like IMDB. For each movie or music title you view, you can get a complete history of the title, the creator, the actors and even cross-reference other titles from this information. It’s not intrusive either when it shows this information. There are a lot of people who want to see the movie posters of the titles before they hit “play”, I could personally not give a crap about a stupid poster, but it is a nice amenity.
Other than the meta-tag reading, I’m not really sure what else this “player” can do that is unique to other boxes out there. There are many boxes that can stream Netflix and YouTube…most of them support resolutions higher than 720p. There are also tons of media players that can play MP3 and M4A media files…they can usually play AVI, MKV, ISO, and many, many other file formats though without the use of a computer running iTunes. There are even set-top boxes that run as quiet as the Apple TV but support attaching external drives full of media files that the player can play…again, without the use if iTunes as a medium. Like I said, you can like this product for the things that is does, but there is no way that it can compare to any current player on the market.
Apple, you really let me down. I hope your new OS update will include something that people want and will set you apart. Maybe include Hulu access and playback, or at least being able to watch the network streams of current shows instead of trying to gouge viewers by charging $1 for the latest episode of Glee…you know the same episode that I can watch for free anytime with a browser and laptop. I don’t even like the Apple TV remote as it doesn’t have TV volume, mute, or power so now I have to have my hands on at least two remotes when I’m watching a movie.
Sigh…the more I try to use the Apple TV, the more frustrated I get. The list of what is wrong with the Apple TV is a long one.
Legit Bottom Line:
While pretty and quiet, the $99 Apple TV (Gen 2) is really a media streamer that needs to mature much more. Unless someone gives you an Apple TV for your birthday, we recommended that you stay away from this box.