Monday, April 09, 2007

Apple TV for families

Late at night several months ago I was scheming about taking a Mac Mini and turning it into a DVR. After a bit of research I decided that it just wasn't worth it and I ended up picking up my Tivo Series 2 box, which I use primarily to load up my PSP for long trips as well as to burn the occasional DVD.

With this meme out of my head I went on my merry way until the Apple TV launched. I read the gushing reviews as well as the criticism of the picture quality. I didn't really care but the noise was pretty loud. In our office we have the Mac guy. He loves Macs and carries on in the way the real die hard evangelists do when they speak of their technology the same way others speak of their religion.

For a week or two I kept looking at the technical specs on the Apple TV and I scratched my head. Why would I care? I was particularly perplexed by why I would want to buy content for Apple to show on my HDTV when I have a bunch of Tivo's and other devices that work just fine. One day when the noise was unbearable I decided to confront Mac Guy. Why would I buy an Apple TV?

His first argument was that it was a great way to leverage his insane home entertainment to listen to his itunes. Buzz. Not for me. Although I am a big music fan, I have yet to buy the mother of all surround sound systems for my house. The best audio equipment I have is a pretty sad little kitchen desktop unit with an iPod dock.

The next argument was that I could network the box with my computer at stream shows to the TV. Buzz. I have a Series 2 Tivo that can in concept do that although I don't ship movies around the house because of the war between Directv and Tivo. But anyway, you get the point.

The 3rd argument was that I could watch video blogs and other content that isn't available over pay per view. While not a buzz, I didn't see this as a big win. I was mildly intrigued by watching some videoblogs and the ability to watch Dora on demand or Power Rangers would make me a big hit with my kids.

The deal sealer for me was the following. I could rip my CDs, stick them on a hard drive and then stream them or store them on the Apple TV. When I consider the number of destroyed DVDs from fingerprints, bending or other physical abuse, the Apple TV is a cheap way to avoid that pain in the future. I strolled across the street and bought my little Apple TV box.

As all the gushing Apple fans continue to say, the UI is just amazing. You plug it in and it works. That's it. This is the difference between them and so many other companies.

So now that I have had one of these devices for a couple of weeks what do I really use it for, what do I like, and what do I dislike?

I use the Apple TV for three things. I do rip DVDs and store them on the hard drive. It works like a charm. I have become a fan of some of the videoblogs that I never could get into when I am looking at them on my laptop but on a 42 HDTV I am sold. Three, the feature that everyone in my family loves, is the photo screen saver that shows pictures from the last five years in a random fashion. Seriously, this alone is worth the price and I venture if you were to see this with your picture collection you would buy one for each TV in the house.

As far as likes, I really like that I can watch a variety of programming that I could never get into on my laptop. I will do a post soon about my favorites but know that this really gives power to videoblogs. I like the UI and I like the small size.

Dislikes? The video quality on certain clips does blow, especially flash clips. The size of the hard drive is way too small but with the help of a hacker you can beef it up for a pretty low price.

All in all a big thumbs up. For families this is a no brainer AV life saver. My kids can watch pictures of themselves for up to a half an hour without a break.

1 comment:

dmkanter said...

Thanks for the review! I've been using my Nintendo Wii in this fashion. Besides all the fun games, you can use it to watch You Tube, google video and other sites. You can also aim it at flickr with the opera browser and run slideshows too.