AppleTV review: Expensive, but it makes nice living room addition

Apple TV is media player for the living room.  It's purpose is to play content from the iTunes store on your TV.  Music Videos, Podcasts, Movies, TV Shows, Music, and even YouTube content are available to play.  In addition, photo viewing is also available over the network though shared folders on your other PCs, or on-line through Apple's MobileMe and Flickr. Cost $229 for the 40GB model

Our initial impressions out of the box, Apple really knows how to package products.  It almost made us forget that their wasn't a HDMI or Component cable included to actually hook up the device to our HDTV.

Apple was attempting to be forward thinking with the Apple TV.  The only connections available are HDMI or Component(Blue, Red, Green).  They did not include S-video, Composite, or Coax connections on this device.

Luckily, for are purposes, we had a spare composite cable laying around.  Yes, composite cables will allow for component signals to be sent over them.

Once were setup, we booted up the device(by plugging in the power, no on/off button on this device).

Apple has an opening animation that can be skipped if preferred.  It then boots up to the main menu.

The menu is very simple and easy to read.  You can choose from your various TV/VIDEO/MUSIC/YOUTUBE content.

For those of you just starting to use iTunes, you may notice that your library does not have much in it.  A big awakening for us is that you cannot re-download any purchased content from Apple.  With the 40GB harddrive, we initially found it a good idea to delete items when the Apple TV said it needed new space for items we wanted to download.

Trying to get those deleted items back required learning the no re-download policy from Apple.  Which leads us to our next good idea, BACK UP YOUR ITUNES DATA NOW!

If you delete an iTunes movie after purchasing it, it is similar to pulling a DVD off the shelf and throwing it in the microwave for a few minutes.  Don't expect to  be playing it again without spending some more money for a new copy.

The Apple TV is great at the things it is meant to do.  It plays movies/tv shows great, up to 720P in most cases.  It plays the higher quality Youtube videos when available.  Music inventory is exactly what iTunes sells.

The Apple TV in our opinion does a lot of things right.  It's nice to know that in our lifetime we been able to live with the hassel(our opinion) of walking/bicycling/driving to the local blockbuster/redbox/family video/hollywood video to rent a movie.  Apple has create a choice to be able to choose a movie from the comfort of the living room and have it ready to play in 5 minutes.  To us, this small feat justifies the existence of Apple TV.

Your can also download movies for playing on a future date.  When you download a movie, you have 30 days before it expires.  Also when you finally press "play", you get a 24 hour window to watch it again and again.

Two downsides to the movie rental.  For one, the DVD covers are small and the text below them is even tinier requiring you to almost click on every one of them.  If you where glasses, you'd better put them on for browsing.  A second downside to the Movie rental is that some new releases are only available to purchase for the first few weeks after release.  We've already have some buyers remorse from being unable to wait for the rental date.

TV shows being available make it a great way to check out new shows.  It's nice when your talking to someone on the phone who  recommends a show to have the entire first season already downloading before you hang up.

One of our favorite features is  the Podcasts.  Especially now that our favorite podcasts on the Revision 3 network have supported the HD format.  It really makes a nice complement to the current mainstream media choices.

Youtube makes for a fun distraction, this is a great way to show friends and family funny and interesting clips without having to have everyone crowd around a laptop.

As for photos, we wish there was an easier way to view new photos from a digital camera.  It would have been nice if Apple had included a USB/SD port to play photos right on the box.  Instead you need to upload your photos to a website first or put them on your computer's shared folder.

Or current Apple TV setup is still connected via composite cables, running its content from iTunes off of a remote PC in the basement.  This way we are able to store much more content on an external drive(400GB).

Do we recommend the Apple TV?  Yes, we recommend the Apple TV, although expensive overall cost(device, plus content) it remains worthwhile to us and the HD is the best out there(it's still better than standard definition).  We don't think it is ready to be by itself in your entertainment center, however, it's a great compliment to cable programming.

Alternatives: Roku(Netflix), Vudu

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