Apple TV goes from hobby to huh

So. Apple held its annual Jack Johnson Coldplay-focused brouhaha at Moscone West (I assume) the other day and announced a completely revamped line of iPods. Every iPod has been overhauled. Every single one. Assuming you don't count the Classic, which apparently Steve Jobs does not. Even though he'll gladly nick you for $249 for one if you just can't wean yourself from the click wheel. Or, you know, 2.5 times the storage space of the biggest Touch at less than two-thirds the price. Whatever, troglodyte. You download Angry Birds now!


The new Shuffle, Nano and Touch (I can no longer bring myself to go lowercase on their names) all look pretty suave, but since I'm not in the market for anything to supplement my iPhone at the moment, my interest lay in the inevitable (except when it's not) "one more thing" moment. Or, as Steve put it with a flash of Apple Chancery, one more hobby. Yes, the Apple TV is now, officially and for all time until it is not, a bona fide Serious Apple Product.

It's tiny—literally one-quarter the size of the unit it replaces.

It's sleekish—oooh, the black is so slimming.

It's quiet—no noisy hard drive hum to sully the high-pitched whine from your 50" Bravia.

It's cool—no heat-producing hard drive to melt your other components; also, no high-power video chip, either.

It's streamtacular—no more worries about syncing, which Steve actually said many users found too hard. These same people apparently have no issues syncing their iPhones, however.

I'll admit, when Jobs first superimposed the new ATV over the old, my mouth dropped in anticipation of continued awesomeness. As spec after spec was revealed, it remained agape—frozen in a classic WTF (the "F" is for "frijoles") expression. After all, what have most Apple TV users and haters been clamoring for? Tivo-esque DVR capabilities? Yes, please. True 1080p output? Yalp. An internal SATA connector for real HD upgradeability? I'll take that, too, thank you.

Instead, we get a stripper. A Pinto with crank windows, if you please. Only the Apple TV will no longer catch fire since it lacks a hard drive (I have to keep my current ATV outside my media cabinet lest it bleed gooey innards onto my Blu-ray player). Still no 1080p—and the extra 6 FPS the updated unit spits out is not impressive, because it really just helps Apple and content publishers to avoid providing real end-user benefits. Sure, the 720p my current ATV pumps out looks pretty good on our 42-inch LCD. But come on. If you're a company that goes to the trouble of producing a 326-dpi touch screen, can't you drop in a chip that'll handle the current max for HD?

Now, let us turn to the lack of a hard drive. Steve claims folks don't want to mess around with syncing—that it's just too hard and inconvenient. Okay, I'll admit it's inconvenient when I have to re-sync everything after reinstalling OS X (which happened often in the course of building my Hackintosh). Otherwise, not so hard. At least, not any more so than with my iPhone, which is pretty easy. Now, not having to sync could be seen as more convenient, I get that. But I basically got my ATV so my wife could play our iTunes library on the good stereo and watch photo slideshows with our spawnage. I don't want to have to leave my Hackintosh tower on all day just so she can do that. Now, if Apple had massive amounts of cloud storage for my media, from which all my stuff could stream, that'd be a different story.

Okay, there are a couple of nice things about the new Apple TV aside from its form factor. It'll stream content directly from an iPhone or iPad. Cool. Apple didn't call it magical. Bonus. It's a lot cheaper than the model it replaces. Semi-nifty, considering Roku units cost the same or less and have similar features (except, naturally, renting things from the iTunes store. Gah.)

In the end, I just find the new Apple TV to be a case of "this is what took you four years to build?" It's not completely suckworthy, per se, but it still feels a little hobby-esque. And, more importantly for Steve's Levi's fund, it provides no compelling reason for me to replace my current unit.

But hey, that Nano's tiny touch screen sure is neato keen, ain't it?

Now play us off, Pianocat! Or Chris Martin. Whatever.



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