Return to the the tech island in the stream

Today is, by international decree of some mildly corrupt UN commission, iPad Day. Not iPad 3 day, mind you, as Apple has decided to stop numbering their iPad releases. To me, this makes sense. I’m not using a MacBook Air 4 or Mac Pro 22. I suspect the next iPhone may eschew numbering, as well. But I also suspect my neighbors of pilfering my wireless to sell Xango juice, but maybe that’s because their last name is Willoughby.

As much as I’d love to be verbally slobbering about my new 64 GB iPad Not 3 with its suave Retina display and LTE connectivity, I cannot. Because I don’t have one. I apparently sacrificed the wrong child to the MegaMillions gods last week and am, therefore, a bit tight on the tech budget. However, I did manage to snag a new Apple TV to replace my first generation Apple TV/George Foreman Grill combo. If you’ve ever owned a first gen ATV, you know that’s not a joke. Since I can still sell my old ATV (upgraded to 250 GB) for more than the cost of the new one, the budget need not be busted in this case.

You may be wondering if I was stupid enough to venture forth to an Apple Store this morning to fight the pasty iPad mobs. While I have been known to do many stupid things in the name of technology (see my never-ending series on my Hackintosh adventures), today I did something smart. I went to Best Buy. Not only did I go to Best Buy, I ordered my tiny, shiny new Apple TV online for in-store pickup. And, joy of minor joys, Best Buy lets you pay with PayPal when you order online. Which is nice when you still have a chunk of devalued dollars in your PayPal account. It’s almost like buying things for free if you’re high or just have a head injury. While the Best Buy I opted for did have a line of folks purchasing iPads, I only had to wait behind one person to snag my ATV. Strangely enough, the nice lady (who was young enough to be my "accident" sister) not only knew what the ATV was, but also said she was going to buy one, too, to replace her first gen ATV. We had a moment. Then she told me to stop acting like a creepy Android user and move along. So I cut the head off her Barbie doll because that’s what brothers do.

The hardest part of installing the new Apple TV was physically getting around all the barriers I have installed to protect our entertainment system from The Nuts. Being very lanky, yet not very limber, did not make for the day’s moment of gracefulness. But at least I didn’t sprain anything or slice open my index finger on a hard drive bracket. Once installed and booted, I was greeted by the redesigned ATV interface. It’s fine. It works. It’s a bit busier graphically than the old interface, but it doesn’t anger me. Of course, the entire thing is still best operated with the Remote iOS app instead of the dinky IR remote Apple includes. Unless you enjoy feeling like you just nailed the high score on Galaga and have to enter your initials. And you have 23 middle names.

I bought the new Apple TV for a couple of reasons. First, it finally does 1080p. Now, the 720p my old ATV output looked just dandy. But it meant I had to have an additional file just for the ATV. I don’t like having additional files. So, I re-output all my family videos to uncompressed QuickTime movies and converted them with Handbrake. Most of my 1080p files are actually smaller than the iTunes-converted 720p versions. Nice. Oh, and they look awesome. Second, the aforementioned heat of the original ATV was just, frankly, annoying. I couldn’t house the thing with my other components because it ran so hot. Nor could I turn it off. Sure, there was a "standby" command on the interface that seemed to do little more than cut the video signal. The lack of a fan may have kept the unit quiet, but feeling like the trench-coated Nazi from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" every time I moved the thing was not a joyful moment. The new ATV has the same form factor as the second gen. It’s dinky. So dinky, I may just stick it to the back of my TV and call it a day. Or Bob. I dunno, I’ll call it something.

One really nice benefit of the new ATV was altogether unexpected—the Netflix integration. For the past couple of years, the only component we had that would stream Netflix was our Series III TiVo. It worked, but getting a truly HD-looking picture was just never in the cards. I always assumed it was our connection or the speed between our router and the TiVo. Turns out, it must’ve been the TiVo hardware itself that was the bottleneck. The Netflix streaming through the ATV looks an order of magnitude better. If only it could make Dora the Scream Explorer’s voice less irritable. Or British. The interface, too, is much improved versus the TiVo. Faster scrolling, more iconography (in a good way), actual suggestions and ways to add things to your queue.

The downside of the Apple TV, of course, is that it can only stream. Which means my computer must not only be on, but also running iTunes. This isn’t a huge issue for me since I rarely turn off my computer, but still—streaming is never as responsive as physical media.

There, I dinged it a little. Happy?

I wish I could have tried out video mirroring from my iPhone, but, as we all know, I still have a 3GS, and a 4S (or iPad 2/Not 3) is required for such fun. But one day, in the not so distant future, I shall play Infinity Blade III on my HDTV and laugh and laugh and laugh. Hopefully loud enough to drown out the cries of my frightened offspring. Cowards.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
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    • OffBa1ance
    • 8 years ago

    I picked up a Apple TV 2 now that the 3 is out and the 2’s are cheap ($70 US equivalent here in NZ). A quick jailbreak later and xbmc is living on my tv. So much better than the built in playback in my samsung TV. I didn’t have any use at all for the apple apps as I have just ditched itunes for songbird on all my PC’s.

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]One really nice benefit of the new ATV was altogether unexpected—the Netflix integration. For the past couple of years, the only component we had that would stream Netflix was our Series III TiVo. It worked, but getting a truly HD-looking picture was just never in the cards.[/quote<] Amen. I picked up the new Apple TV yesterday and it is magnitudes better then the Samsung apps on their Blu-ray players and Smart TV 's. The Samsungs output looks blocky and low bitrate with constant issues with audio streams being corrupted and dropping out the HDMI audio signal. With the new Apple TV it is a night and day difference. I may actually keep my netflix account now past its 30 day trial.

    • dashbarron
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]There, I dinged it a little. Happy?[/quote<] Immensely. Someone was asking me the other day what they could buy to stream Netflix. I immediately thought of the Apple TV but knew there must be cheaper, albeit "better" products out there. Came across the Roku product line which seems really nice. [url<]http://www.roku.com/roku-products[/url<]

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      I almost bought a Samsung BluRay player for $59 as a backup for my Roku.. Those BluRay players are getting ridiculously cheap and most of them support Netflix streaming.

      Of course, Roku can stream from other providers, too, but if Netflix is the only thing you care about, I’d rather buy a BluRay player so I could, you know, also play Blurays (maybe even sign up for that much maligned but still-a-good-deal Netflix Bluray plan).

      However, the best of my Netflix streaming devices is PS3. The interface is much faster than Roku’s laggy one (as long as you manage to get logged on, which can be a pain with Sony’s update approach), subtitles are well supported, and PS3 can continuously update the picture quality to match the stream rate – a life saver if you have a crappy ISP that doesn’t have a consistent download rate.

      Back when I was streaming Netflix with TiVo with Comcast, it would start off super fast, but there would be periods of when the download rate temporarily drops to near zero. TiVo would freak out, change the picture quality to “Crap” and keep it there for the remainder of the movie…

        • Deanjo
        • 8 years ago

        As I mentioned in my other post, the Samsung Netflix app is horrible (and painfully slow) so I wouldn’t depend on that for a Netflix backup device.

        • insulin_junkie72
        • 8 years ago

        As many Samsung products as I’ve owned, even I wouldn’t touch one of their BluRay players.

        Of the major electronics brands, their BluRay players are generally not well-regarded compared to the Pannys, Sonys, etc. that are usually in the same price ranges.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    i do enjoy your write ups, mr fox. they’re funny.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 8 years ago

      I second!

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]So I cut the head off her Barbie doll because that's what brothers do.[/quote<] The Ken doll stuck in the wall of my parents' house knows exactly what you mean. I treated a hole in the drywall as a window and his head...well...it got stuck. We had to amputate.

      • dashbarron
      • 8 years ago

      LOL

      Poor Ken. It’s like an episode of Days of Our Lives.

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