Apple TV Explained, and My Brief Review

March 12, 2013

Apple

With the death of the video rental store upon us (if you ask me it happened 5 years ago) it’s becoming more difficult to rent and enjoy the latest movies. I must admit that I already miss the Saturday evening movie store atmosphere, walking through the aisles searching for an unknown treasure. That said, there are other facets to shopping for a video rental that I definitely wont miss. For starters, how badly did you want to track down the person who rented the last copy of the latest and greatest movie that you wanted to rent? Maybe I’m alone here, but it often felt like someone rented the last copy just so other people couldn’t have it, not because they were actually interested in seeing said movie. I’m also not going to miss the $30 in late fees I would often accrue because I forgot to return something on time.

So what is the Apple TV exactly?

I thought everyone knew the answer to this question, but over the past few months I’ve been asked this about fifty times so I think I should start off with a brief explanation.

Apple TV

The Apple TV is a small device (a little bigger than a hockey puck/pictured right) that connects to your TV – exactly like a DVD player or your cable box. When you buy one a remote control is included, but you’re on the hook to purchase the cable that connects it to your TV. The Apple TV uses an HDMI cable so the cost is dependent on both the length and quality of cable you buy. On average, you’re probably looking at about $15-$20. You can spend more if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

Once you have the Apple TV connected to your television, it will present you with a screen similar to that of an iPhone or iPad as it uses a version of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system (pictured below). 

Apple TV

From here, you can perform the following actions:

  • Rent or buy full-length movies & TV shows from the iTunes store. The typical rental fee of new movies is $5.99 (CAD) and this gives you a High Definition copy of the movie and in most cases Dolby Digital Surround Sound. If you’re looking for HD audio such as Dolby TrueHD – you’re out of luck but look on the bright side – no late fees and there will always be a copy there when you want it! In terms of how it works, it’s really pretty simple. You click on the “Rent Now” button and the movie begins to download. If you’re internet connection speed is respectable, the movie will be ready to watch in 5-10 seconds. Once you begin watching the movie, you have 48hrs with it. During that time you can watch it 100 times if you like. At the conclusion of your 48 hrs, the movie simply disappears from your device – sans late fees.
  • Stream Music from iTunes Match or your computer. If you subscribe to iTunes match or use iTunes to store your music, you can play your library through your Apple TV. For example, let’s say you have a computer in your basement and it holds your music library in iTunes. In just a few simple steps you can link your iTunes library to your Apple TV, allowing you to play your entire library through your television. 
  • Watch movies & TV shows using the Netflix service. Netflix is installed on the Apple TV by default, but if you want to use it you have to be a Netflix subscriber. Once you’re signed up ($7.99/month), you have unlimited access to movies and TV shows with no limit on what you can watch. Just keep in mind you’re streaming this over the internet so you’ll want to keep an eye on your internet package to make sure you don’t go over the monthly data limit assigned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). And hey, if you’re willing to shell out $3/month more, you can really bust open the selection of your Netflix library using a service like UnoTelly. I suppose I should also mention the host of children’s programming available on Netflix which comes in pretty handy as it does away with hoarding children’s DVD’s. 
  • Stream Photos/Videos from your computer or iOS device.  Do you have a whack of vacation pictures or videos stored on your phone or computer? If so, you can use AirPlay to throw the photos/videos directly to your Apple TV. Another cool feature is Airplay Mirroring which allows you to view your iPhone or iPad screen on your TV set.

There are a slew of other features as well. You can watch YouTube videos, view upcoming movie trailers – even connect to live sporting events like NHL hockey or Major League Baseball. Not a bad deal for $109. I’d like to see them add “apps” to the device so you could surf the internet or connect to other services like sports scores, social media, and news – but for now I’m a happy camper.

The next time you find yourself sitting around during a quiet evening looking for something to watch don’t reminisce about VHS tapes. Get out there and get yourself connected!

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