The latest Apple TV media streamer is here, and unlike the original that launched in 2007, this one has a lot of competition. It features a super-small frame, fantastic iTunes movie rental and Netflix support, a clean-looking and smooth-operating interface and overall good performance. But can Apple’s latest compete with the established competition?
Local Library & Apple TV Configuration
After the first couple of days of use, I decided to finally test out connecting the Apple TV to my PC to stream some music. Unfortunately, I ran into some show-stopping issues, and it took me a couple of days to figure out a solution. To connect to your PC or Mac, you need to have the latest version of iTunes installed and running, along with Home Sharing enabled. That part is simple.
The problem I ran into is that even though I could see my computer listed fine, trying to access it was met with the Apple TV just going back to the menu. After perusing forums, and posting on a few, I got no help. In the end, I figured out that it was a problem mostly with my iTunes install, and after doing a complete refresh of the application, the option worked fine…
… until I enabled photos in the Home Sharing option. For some reason, the Apple TV had problems with my large photo library (~25,000). Even though accessing my PC didn’t time out, it simply took forever to complete its process. This did become faster over time, but it’s a frustrating problem nonetheless. If you find yourself in a similar situation, simply add the folders in your Home Sharing one by one and you could be fine.
Once in, you can browse the same content that’s available through your iTunes install. I personally don’t have anything aside from music and pictures, as I rarely purchase digital music and never purchase digital movies (Blu-ray all the way). Still, I have about 8,000 MP3s and then 800 M4A, and I could see them all through the Apple TV just fine.
Under the music category, you can fine-tune things as you’d expect. This is useful if you happen to have a lot of music.
Being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my music collection, I kind of hated the way the Apple TV displayed my music, which is essentially on a per-artist basis, even if there’s a various artists compilation. This is the way most people like it, but not me, and I couldn’t find a way to switch to a “folder view”.
The closest thing I could get was the album view, which still isn’t ideal, but served the purpose a lot better.
As this review is getting a bit long, I’ll let the “Settings” tab speak for itself.
Here’s an example of the “Origami” screen saver mode, which if enabled, can utilize your picture library via iTunes. If you don’t have one, you can use either of the default installed image galleries, animals and flowers (one is definitely cuter than the other).
I find that posting pictures of playing content to be a little pointless, but for the sake of showing something, here are a couple of examples. The first is The Replacement Killers, via Netflix, and then Superbad, also via Netflix.
When fast-forwarding HD content, the full-screen film will shrink to a small box, for the sake of performance, and after you reach the desired time, you can unpause and it will revert back to full-screen (or wide-screen, depending on how the movie is formatted).
Whew, finally… let’s get right into my overall impressions of the Apple TV!