Apple certainly has a compelling story. After the downfall of their Macintosh computer at the hands of Microsoft, their company was resurrected by a brilliant idea from its founder Steve Jobs – the iPod. Not only did the iPod then change Apple’s fortunes, but it also created a worldwide frenzy which ultimately resulted in the digitization of almost all types of music. It was in the same way that Apple revolutionized the smartphone industry with its ingenious iPhone. The iPad is also having almost the same effect. It does seem like Apple has quite a knack of changing people’s everyday habits, and it seems to be the basic thinking behind its Apple TV (available for $98 on Amazon). Although the original Apple TV was released back in 2007, it didn’t quite catch on. This time around, though, Apple has quite a wonderful offering.
The ATV looks a lot like a hockey puck and has a strictly minimal design. Ports are also scarce with one each for Ethernet, Optical Audio, USB, HDMI, and Power. The little box won’t even be visible in most modern Home Entertainment centers, and Apple thinks of that as being a major advantage. An aluminum remote is provided within the package, but it’s also incredibly minimal with just a four-way rocker, a play/pause button and a menu button. It does look a lot like the 5th generation iPod nano.
The latest Apple TV, however, is NOT intended as a replacement for regular cable television and it is meant for free streaming content. It has built-in support for renting movies and TV shows from Apple’s iTunes Store. These can be watched immediately. If that doesn’t cut it for you, Netflix’s incredible catalog is also available for immediate streaming at the press of a button. A new feature called AirPlay is also being debuted which lets users ‘push’ content from their iPhones, iPod touches, iPads, or even iTunes to the ATV.
A threatening and much more firmly-established competitor to the Apple TV is Roku’s XDS (available at for $99) which supports the streaming of Full HD 1080p video compared to ATV’s limit of 720p. The XDS also has full support for online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and even content sharing sites like Flickr and Pandora. The Logitech Revue is also another competitor who runs on Google’s infamous Google TV system. The Revue is much more advanced, however, supporting full website browsing as well as a variety of apps. It is also costlier, though, landing at $279 on Amazon.
An HDMI cable is a must to use the ATV because it’s the only output supported. The AmazonBasics 2m cable for $7.99 is a pretty cheap HDMI cable for the purpose. An Optical Audio cable is required if you want to transmit your audio to a separate Home Theater system and AmazonBasics again provides a wonderful choice with its 1.8m cable available for $5.99. If you are somehow able to lose the supplied remote, it’s also available for $18.99 (see Apple TV remote here on Amazon), though note that the old-style remote that comes with most Macintosh’s these days will work with your new Apple TV (they just don’t look as nice).