I recently got this little gadget to save me the bother of carrying my iMac upstairs to watch rented films from iTunes, given that the iMac weighs in at about 15 kgs, it’s not a task I like doing that often!
So what is the Apple TV, well it’s not a TV in it’s own right, it’s a small box which plugs in to your TV via an HDMI interface. Apple hide the details about the Apple TV on their iPod pages.
It comes with a mains lead, Apple remote and a small instruction book. There is no HDMI lead included in the package so you need to consider buying one of those as well. I bought an ‘Amazon Basics’ one which seems to do the job ok and seems well made.
The Apple TV has an Ethernet port as well as Wifi (802.11n,g,b) so it can easily hook in to your home network internet connection. As well as HDMI there is a digital audio connection available as well.
The Apple TV can be used for streaming content from the internet, or from your own PC or Mac. By content I include Video, Audio, Photos.
Depending on your location you will have different content providers available to you, for instance in the US it’s possible to watch Netflix movies. You can also watch You Tube videos as well. We have been ‘renting’ films from the iTunes store and watching them on the iMac or now on the Apple TV.
In terms of photos you can browse your own collections or look through Flickr on line. It turns our 32″ LCD TV in to a great digital photo frame! For the price most conventional photo frames I have come across only offer quite small screens and limited capacity and then you have to transfer the photos to the frame via a USB lead. With the Apple TV you just browse your existing photo libraries and you can view them in quite high quality on a large screen.
You can use your photos as a ‘screen saver’ on the Apple TV as well. Or as a slideshow with music. The box offers lots of different options.
You can browse and play your audio collection on iTunes on your PC or Mac via the menu system on the TV screen. I have our TV hooked up to a HiFi amplifier and speakers, so I now longer have to hook my iPod in to this set up to play music.
Controlling the box can be done using the supplied remote to navigate your way through a simple menu structure. Or if you have a recent iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad download the Apple Remote app (it’s free!) and you can control the Apple TV from that. You can also use ‘Airplay‘ to play music or video from your ipod/phone/pad device via the Apple TV. It doesn’t do this in real time, so if you say play this video, it streams it to the Apple TV and then plays it but with no pause, so your ipod/phone/pad device can turn itself off whilst you watch or listen.
Setting up the Apple TV is fairly straight forward. Connect your HDMI cable to a spare HDMI socket on the TV. Plug in the mains lead. Turn on your TV and select the HDMI input. If you are using Wifi (and I suspect most people will be) you need to select your own Wifi access point and configure the Apple TV to connect to that access point/router for this you will need to know the password for your access point. The box will then most probably check for an update of it’s own software and download it.
Additionally you might need your sign in user names and passwords for YouTube and Flickr, but once you have done these the Apple TV will remember the details and you will be able to look at your list of subscriptions and saved searches etc and you will be able to sit back in the comfort of your living room and watch plenty of things.
I’ve also found it great for watching Video podcasts, set up iTunes to subscribe to the higher resolution versions if one is available, some are in HD in fact and you can really enjoy a 30 minute or one hour show on a big screen.
Highly recommended, lots of features in a small box that is easy to use.