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!

Anyway.

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.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • Welch
    • 9 years ago

    B-Y-O-B

    Build Your Own Box 😉

    Sub-par, overpriced crap from Apple as usual. Glad to see your willing to call it the disappointment it is…. Hopefully Google can do better 🙂

    • bfellow
    • 9 years ago

    I’m using WDTV Live player which connects to Netlflix, network share, and USB Hard drives while outputting 1080p/24 and 5.1 (lossy) surround. How is Apple TV better?

    Now the iPod Nano should have been called the Mini-touch or touch-minime

      • glynor
      • 9 years ago

      This is a perfect example of a product that enthusiasts might like, but which would be terrible compared to the Apple TV for most “regular” consumers.

      The biggest negative over the Apple TV? Where do you LEGALLY get first-run movies for it on the same day as the DVD release? How about the episode of your favorite TV show you missed last night? How is your grandmother going to do it without a computer?

      They can’t handle compressed audio in MKV files, which eliminates pretty much all of them that I make, and the vast majority of them that you could get off of “less legal sites”. And, the UI is a complete joke on them, and MANY people have had issues with them bricking when you try to update the firmware.

      If you are sophisticated enough to use one of these and get content for them, then you’d almost certainly be better off with a real HTPC.

    • burntham77
    • 9 years ago

    I like the flexibility of my Windows 7-based HTPC. It gives me a lot of choices in how I handle media. I can download files, record HD shows from my cable, stream via Netflix or Hulu, or watch DVDs and Blu-rays. Sure it took some time and effort to get everything the way I wanted it (especially setting up the HDHomerun the first couple times), but its great now.

    I don’t like the idea of Apple telling us that people found things to be too difficult. I know there are some dullards out there, but I would rather give people the benefit of the doubt.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 9 years ago

      HD Shows from cable? How’s the CableCard tuner working out for you.

    • glynor
    • 9 years ago

    I think the AppleTV looks awesome. Not for me, of course. I have a HTPC and the expertise to make it work well and to access all of the content I want.

    However, for my mom? For my father-in-law? For my co-worker who just wants an easy way to get a HTPC-like experience, but isn’t willing to spend a lot (because she isn’t sure she’ll actually use it)? For people who have and use iTunes on their PCs in the house already and just want to easily get content onto their TV? Yeah, that’s about the ticket. The key? The price. At $99 it is a compelling product. It can do Netflix. It can do same-day movie rentals. And it can get the occasional episode of a show that you miss, for $0.99, the next morning (usually). It isn’t trying to be everything. It isn’t trying to replace your cable box or DVR. Not right now, anyway. And I think that might very well be the right decision.

    Of course, I think including an IR blaster and trying to be a full-fledged DVR would have been absolutely the wrong choice. If you’re pulling for Apple to do that and embrace the “traditional cable” delivery mechanism, you’re going to be waiting a LONG time. It would have been too prone to failure, too clunky, and too expensive. This is a device that looks past cable, at an all-internet-delivery future.

    Plus, it is built on iOS and has effectively the same internals as the iPhone, so it has a lot of future potential. Apps are coming (though it may take a while). Engadget says this was a last-minute call, and that Apple decided to “let it settle in the market for a while” before introducing the SDK. My guess? They’ll introduce the SDK in January, and roll it out a few months later. Just like the original iPhone, they want people to be able to see and use it as it is, so they can take time to decide on the best way to implement an app. If the SDK came out day-one, there would be the standard rush to be first, and a deluge of poorly-thought-out mobile app clones. This way, when the SDK does come out, they’ll get some well designed and well considered apps in the initial rush.

    • mr_greedy
    • 9 years ago

    Well. Contrary to a lot of what’s been written here I think it’s pretty nifty.

    Firstly, streaming vs buying. If you still wanna buy episodes you can. I’m the sort who’ll only ever watch a box set twice before it gathers dust so that doesn’t bother me.

    Secondly, 720p. Is the Internet really upto coping with 1080p streaming at decent bit rates anyway? Are apples servers upto that?

    Thirdly, no hard drive. Mixed feelings about that really.

    As ever, Apple are just wanting you to use iTunes. They want your bank account details. They’ve made a cheap piece of hardware (basically an iPhone without the screen, phone, accelerometer etc) to do this. You can totally see their thinking.

    It’ll not do amazingly well. But I don’t think it’ll flop.

    • Convert
    • 9 years ago

    Ok so the big news that everybody missed is that the shuffle has buttons again. Buttons! I’m going to buy like 10 of them in case Apple decides to change their mind.

    • leigh crusio
    • 9 years ago

    Just buy a media center PC, hack a Wii, X box or PS and watch whatever you like from your massive divx collection or stream whatever you like from the net.

    Even easier just watch the TV ?

    Also i live in the UK so i can watch BBC i Player (love the lower case “i”) for free on my media center or my Wii.

    Love the review / assasination tho 🙂

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    wow, that’s alot of writing, reviewing and dollars spent for what already is free to begin with. way to go! Maybe its just me, but I really don’t understand what convenience is being provided with selling the worst television shows in history from public tv.

    • dustyjamessutton
    • 9 years ago

    Can it play Crysis?

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Yes. But can /[

    • tomjleeds
    • 9 years ago

    “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.”

    I’ve been thinking the same thing since the arrival of the iPhone 3G, to be honest, and even then only because it /[

    • teryan2006
    • 9 years ago

    Only WWDC is held at Moscone West. This was at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

    • dashbarron
    • 9 years ago

    TR loves Apple!! Fox is an unquestioning fruity sycophant and must die!!! Oh…he isn’t endorsing this product…and said bad things about Apple…?! But…but…he has an iPhone!! We can still hate him, right?

    Seriously though, why didn’t they put 1080p capabilities with the TV? Everyone else has jumped the gun on this HD limitation like what…2-3 years ago? I don’t see the reasoning besides shaving some cost (they have tight margins you know). Any insight into this?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      If it had 1080p this year they wouldn’t have an obvious feature to add to next year’s model :p

        • Chrispy_
        • 9 years ago

        …and in typical apple fashion, shafting everyone who bought the 720p version in the process.

          • NeelyCam
          • 9 years ago

          The funny thing is, I might actually buy this one, since what I really want is Netflix streaming, and my plasma is – gasp – 720p.

          I know, I’m going to hell in a breadbasket.

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 9 years ago

      Typical mac “blog”. I can’t tell if he’s praising or complaining.
      It seems like a bit of both, with emphasis on the job’s worship.
      Whatever. If he looked outside the box, he could probably find something else that suits his needs, but I think that’s not the point here.

        • dashbarron
        • 9 years ago

        Now Mad, Chrispy, that extra feature will only be another $99 next year!

        This blog is appropriately called the “Machole” to discuss non-other than Fox’s journey through MAC land, although my guess is many would like to see him quest through the world of MAC products only to report that he has found no useful offerings, bash all of Apple’s offerings, and then promptly buy and praise some Windows counterpart. These discussions are opinion pieces, aye “blogs,” for witty discussions and observations of the tech world, not reporting like you find in the breadbox. You’ll have to excuse the personality and opinions.

        I’m not sure Fox is hiding his relationship with Apple, though the blog heading is mighty confusing 🙂

    • dragmor
    • 9 years ago

    I want my iWatch damn it. Give me the nano without the clip, put it in a nice leather wrist band and include some sort of kinetic charge mechanism that works well enough that I don’t have to plug it in. Later on add blue tooth for sync and phone functions.

    As for Apple TV, I think Apple is being limited by the content companies. Getting Rupert on board was a big win, but I’m sure it came with heavy restrictions. Its like Hulu, they want it to work, but not enough to strip their current cash cow.

    The next Apple TV will become an app machine. You want HBO, Mad men, whatever, download the app. You want a simple interface, that works from the couch, magic trackpad (its designed for this). Face time from your living room? It has a USB port, apple just need to sell a camera. All of a sudden everyone is buying these as a way for the grand parents to see the kids. It will be cheap and have full access to all your ipad & iphone apps i.e. enough games that most casuals wont bother with a console.

    Its going to become about seamless transitions, your media with you. Imagine watching a TV show / movie / listening to a playlist before going to work on the TV / Stereo, then getting on the train / bus and it continuing on your ipad or phone.

      • burntham77
      • 9 years ago

      Old man’s penis! Ah!

    • JoJoBoy
    • 9 years ago

    Could you please stop saying ATV its not an All Terrain Vehicle.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Sorry, Apple has trademarked ATV now. All Terrain Vehicles will just have to come up with a new acronym or pay royalties.

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    television is not really broadcasted in 1080 so does it really matter?
    also, if you really want to watch a 1080 bluray, most likely you are going to use the bluray player you already own…
    not that I support this product, because I don’t use netflix, I use crunchyroll

      • Dr. Zhivago
      • 9 years ago

      TV isn’t broadcast in 1080? It is where I live.

        • Corrado
        • 9 years ago

        It might be 1080i, but there is no broadcast 1080p ANYWHERE in the US.

          • Palek
          • 9 years ago

          Broadcasting may be done in 1080i, but 1080i is not always inferior to 1080p. As you know, most movies and TV shows are filmed at 24 fps, and then converted to 60fps (59.94fps for the anal-retentive) 1080i using a process called telecine – also referred to as 2:3 (or 3:2) pull-down (2:2 pull-down in PAL/SECAM countries). If the broadcaster does not completely mess up the interlaced stream with bad editing and whatnot, the original progressive sequence can be fully restored using inverse telecine (all modern TV SoCs can perform this process), giving you 1080p (of course then you have juddering stemming from the simple 24fps to 60fps conversion, but that’s another issue).

          • tomjleeds
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah, you know, there are going on 7 billion people on the planet and only 300 million of those live in the US.

            • glynor
            • 9 years ago

            Yeah, and effectively none of them get 1080p broadcast over the air either.

            Too much bandwidth would be required to broadcast anything at 1080p at more than 25fps. Just isn’t worth it. There might be one or two “novelty” broadcasters of 1080p out there in the world, but the vast majority of “real” broadcasters in real markets are 720p/1080i max.

            • Usacomp2k3
            • 9 years ago

            1080p in mpeg4 can certainly take up less bandwidth than the current mpeg2 1080i/720p.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            but that 300M is obstensibly the target audience for this device. It’s not been rolled out into other countries (yet).

      • clone
      • 9 years ago

      it’s 1080i where I am…. most channels and it’s going old school through an antenna.

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