Apple unveils more Apple TV info

While waiting for FedEx to deliver the just-released Apple TV to our door —it should be in our hands by the time you read this—senior editor Christopher Breen and I had a phone briefing with Apple Thursday morning. Here are some of things we learned from that phone call that should whet your appetite as you wait for your own Apple TV to arrive.

  • The 40GB hard drive inside the set-top box has 33GB of actual space for content. The drive itself is not what Apple considers a user-upgradeable part. Apple says that because iTunes is intelligent in the way it manages content on Apple TV (letting you sync your five most recent unwatched movies, for example) and because you can stream content, the size of the drive shouldn’t a big issue. Whether or not a user can install a bigger hard drive has yet to be seen. (And don’t think we won’t try before all is said and done.)
  • Although Apple wouldn’t say if Apple TV will support additional video and audio formats than those listed among its tech specs, the person we talked to did mention that Apple TV has a Software Update mechanism built into it. That suggests that at least some features are upgradeable, but which ones and to what extent, nobody knows.
  • Apple confirmed that the USB 2.0 port on the back of Apple TV is for Apple service and diagnostic purposes. When asked directly if a user could, say, connect an iPod to it and have its content available via Apple TV, the answer from Apple was no.
  • Each host (iTunes 7.1 or higher running on OS X or Windows) can sync with or stream to up to five different Apple TVs.
  • Contrary to some expectations, Apple hasn’t begun selling 720p content on the iTunes Store now that Apple TV is out. Apple gave no indication that the situation would change. In the meantime, users can transcode content from HD camcorders or other HD sources using the Export To Apple TV option in the latest version of QuickTime Pro. Techspansion also updated its $24 VisualHub application with Apple TV support.
  • Apple TV can decode up to a 720p signal, but it can output up to 1080i. (If you’re wondering what these terms mean, consult the glossary we published the other day.) The device scales the videos to the proper output resolution. Neither iTunes nor Apple TV will decode 1080p content.
  • Apple says Apple TV is “unbelievably quiet” with a noise range of 7db to 10 db.
  • The product doesn’t come with any audio or video cables. XtremeMac sells 2-meter HDMI, HDMI-to-DVI, component, and Toslink cables for $20 each through online and actual Apple stores (analog audio cables cost $15). Except for the analog audio cable, those prices are pretty low. (HDMI cables can run $50 to $100.)
  • With HDMI, Apple TV will take a look at your TV and pick the proper output resolution. When you first connect component cables, Apple TV will give you a list of resolutions so you can pick one that makes sense for your TV.
  • If you have HDMI and component video cables plugged in, Apple TV will default to HDMI. When it comes to audio, Apple TV will output to all of them at the same time.

That’s just a taste for now, until we roll up our sleeves and dive deeper into the Apple TV. We’ll have more content in the hours and days to come on our Apple TV page.

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