Since the day it was launched, the new Apple TV has created a palpable buzz. The pint sized multimedia device quickly became one of our best selling holiday gifts here at MacOutfitters. As a result, many who are reading this blog right now may already own an Apple TV, which makes the question not “Should I buy an Apple TV,” but rather, “What can I do with it?” Here's our take.
The first things you will need to get the most out of your Apple TV are the necessary components to get it up and running. You need to have a TV with a high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) input, a power source to plug the Apple TV into, and an HDMI cable (not included). Additionally, if you want to hook up your Apple TV to speakers you will need digital speakers or a digital receiver, along with a digital optical audio cable.
The Apple TV can be used by itself or in conjunction with a computer or Apple iOS mobile device. On its own it can be used as a rental device through either iTunes or Netflix. iTunes rentals can be paid for on an individual basis. Movies range in price from $2.99 to $4.99 depending on whether the movie is standard definition or HD, and whether it is a new release or older movie. In addition TV rentals are also available through iTunes for 99 cents per episode.
The other method for renting movies, which differs from the original Apple TV, is through Netflix. Netflix is a subscription service that you can use to instantly stream movies to a home media center, such as the Apple TV. The interface looks similar the one that Apple uses for its iTunes rentals, and can be utilized by inputing your Netflix user name and password into your Apple TV.
In addition to providing two different venues for renting content, the new Apple TV also allows its users to view videos through youtube.com, and photos through flickr.com. Both of these services can be found under the internet tab on the Apple TV’s main menu. This can be navigated to using the enclosed Apple remote, or an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad with the remote application enabled.
AirPlay on Apple TV
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Apple TV, especially to Apple aficionados with multiple iOS devices, is the addition of AirPlay. AirPlay allows you to wirelessly stream movies or music from any Apple mobile device running iOS 4.2 or later. Simply start a movie, song, or playlist on your mobile device, then click on the AirPlay button and the content that was playing on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad will show up on the Apple TV. AirPlay can also be used directly in iTunes from any computer running iTunes 10 or later. (For Mac users, this also means that the computer must be running Snow Leopard.) The only other requirement for AirPlay is that both the Apple TV and the device streaming to the Apple TV are on the same network.
In addition to streaming to your television, AppleTV can also wirelessly stream music to a set of speakers or a receiver with the aforementioned digital optical audio cable, or an HDMI cable, if the receiver supports HDMI. This feature allows the Apple TV user to stream their iTunes content to their home stereo system without the hassle of wires running from the computer to the speakers.
That about wraps up the capabilities of the Apple TV, at least for now. No one but Apple can say for sure what new abilities the Apple TV may be given down the road with system updates, but regardless of what the future may hold, the Apple TV of the present remains a heavyweight performer in a lightweight package.