Apple TV Redux

by Matthew Bookspan Jun 26, 2007

Two months ago, I wrote an article on how I was disappointed with the Apple TV, based upon my experience in the Apple Store (the one in Corte Madera, CA). Well, things have changed and I decided to give the device another opportunity to welcome itself into my home.

After performing more research (web and in person), I was able to define the following tangible benefits for purchasing the device:

1. Media hub for the family. We only have one TV and a simple Home Theater-in-a-box (HTiB) solution. These both sit in the family room. We have limited storage space, so leaving all of our media (CDs/DVDs) accessible is difficult, especially when you have hundreds of music CDs and a bunch of children’s DVDs.

2. Sharing our photos with friends and family. In a home, folks congregate around the kitchen and the family room. To be able to display family photos and have some good discussion/laughs around the content is just fun.

3. Having an opportunity to have all of our music at the touch of one remote. With over 500 CDs collected over many years, this is handy. It is the ultimate Jukebox.

4. Sharing movies with our daughter. I am not advocating support for the DMCA or for piracy, although I do believe in fair use. Being able to enjoy existing movies and have them at your fingertips without having to use the original media is very handy indeed.

5. YouTube. Now, this is just a bonus. It’s easy, mindless entertainment. Not much more to say about it.

So, on Saturday, I purchased the 160GB AppleTV. I got it set up on Sunday and it has been a sheer pleasure. Last night, my wife and I spent a half an hour watching a photo slideshow of our daughter’s second year of life. It was an absolute joy to watch my wife smile while she watched our daughter’s life transform before her eyes.

Of course, I can’t say that the overall product setup was painless. For the most part, it was straightforward. And yet, integrating it into my home theater proved challenging, including:

Audio

The AppleTV has a digital optical output for audio (outside of the standard composite connections). My Sony HDTV also has an optical out. My Denon HTiB only has one optical input. So, I had to connect the AppleTV via standard composite cables. Thus, I lose out on the digital output.

This is an unfortunate circumstance, although I can’t sacrifice the HDTV output. I am looking into a switcher for optical outputs. I just wish Apple had also supplied a coax digital output (preferred in my book). Oh well.

Remote control

I use a Logitech Harmony 720. This is a great device and is pretty reasonable for smart/programmable remote. It took me a few hurdles to get the AppleTV remote programmed into the Harmony, although once it was done, it removed my need for the additional AppleTV remote.

Folks tend to complain about the lack of volume support. I don’t see this as an issue because I use a separate receiver. And, if you connect the AppleTV to your HDTV (or TV for that matter), the main TV has the volume control.

Setup

My system is relatively unique in that I use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device for my backup and storage of media files. I point iTunes and iPhoto to this NAS and then I have the AppleTV sync from there over a Wireless G network. Thankfully, it all works. It is just slow.

UI

I like the Front Row experience, although I am concerned how it will scale once I add additional media to view. The iPod’s interface/scroll wheel works well. The up/down menu navigation on the AppleTV gets a little tedious. I am curious to see how Apple plans to address this in the future.

Conclusion

I have owned the device now for two days. I will hope to learn more as we continue to use the device at home. If anyone has any tips (none that will violate the warranty) on how to solve the audio connection issues, I am listening.

 

Comments

  • Matt,
      Can we get a part II of this! I’m currently running a Mini with an 80gb drive for our home theater. Connected to a projector (VGA) running 4:3 aspect (16:9-auto).
      I’d love to put an AppleTV in there but I have two areas of concern, the 160gb drive hanging off the Mini houses our movies, like you we have little space and I wanted it CLEAN so I spent 4 weekends ripping all of our DVD’s down into MP4’s and storing them there, and the internal drive holds our music collection. All of which is shared throughout the house.
      With the POSSIBLE movie rental service coming to AppleTV in the fall I’d love to DITCH netflix for instant on-demand video rentals and will do so without question. Right now NetFlix doesn’t work with Mac OS X, only Windows Media 10… Who actually uses Windows Media Center in a HomeTheater??? MythTV was 10x’s better, easier on the same hardware and didn’t require 2 remotes… Anyways…
      Let’s see a PartII. How you move your video’s from DVD down, where you put them and how you share them to the ATV unit. Also get some VIDEO of it in action in your room…
      Great article. Thanks!

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jun 26, 2007 Posts: 172
  • The HDMI output also carries digital audio, can’t you use that? You might need a receiver that has HDMI inputs

    dowmck had this to say on Jun 26, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I wish I had expendable income to use on AppleTV, but for the moment, it doesn’t quite add enough value to the entertainment center.

    Add in movie rentals, though, and we might just have a winner.

    I’m *almost* considering giving up cable and trying the all AppleTV route for my TV viewing, but I still watch football, and not everything is available in an iTunes wrapper.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Jun 26, 2007 Posts: 243
  • I really love my AppleTV - it was definitely worth the money.  I just wish that others could see that too!  Thanks for writing such an informative article.  By the way, I use optical audio and have had no problems with it at all.

    http://www.joyofapple.com/apple-tv/convert-divx-to-play-on-apple-tv

    jfrater had this to say on Jun 27, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I’m becoming more tempted as I hear more friends and family adopt the device. However, I’m still a ways from pulling the trigger. What would seal it for me?
    True HD content (yes I know bandwidth is a limitation).
    I don’t currently have all my digital photos in iPhoto. I didn’t like
    it at first and I haven’t gone back. Maybe it’s time to give iPhoto
    another chance. I’m assuming I need my content in iPhoto to use the slide show features etc.
    Maybe, if it were a little cheaper wink
    I need to finally get that HDTV. I currently have a 4:3 aspect flat
    tube 36” digital TV that only supports up to 480p. Yes, I know it’s not ‘true HDTV’. Whatever. So, anyways, I’m not sure I would be successful hooking this thing up to my current setup. I have enough wires behind my cabinet to hang a herd of chickens.

    Kageysea had this to say on Jun 27, 2007 Posts: 9
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