The new Apple TV model features a redesigned user interface with iOS-like buttons that appear on the home screen below the thumbnail images. The buttons highlight Apple’s movies, TV shows, music, computers, trailers, podcasts, and settings areas, but also better call out the third-party services available on the Apple TV, including Netflix, Vimeo, and live sports subscriptions for baseball, basketball, and hockey.
And the good news for current Apple TV owners is that the new interface is available Wednesday as a free software update.
Also new is support for 1080p HD video. Previously, the Apple TV supported only 720p HD video, and that’s the highest resolution that Apple sold through the iTunes Store. Now the Apple TV can play 1080p video, and movies and TV shows sold by Apple will now be available in 1080p resolution as well.
Note that you needn’t stream 1080p content. Apple is aware that some people have slower broadband connections over which it would take hours to stream 1080p movies (Apple suggests that you have at least an 8 Mbps download connection to comfortably view 1080p content on the Apple TV). Thankfully the new Apple TV software has a setting that allows you to choose the resolution of your stream—1080p, 720p, or standard definition.
You can redownload movies you purchased on any of your devices. Movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store will now support 1080p HD. The higher resolution means better-looking photos too.
Apple has allowed you to redownload (or stream to the Apple TV) TV shows you’ve purchased already. The company has now added movies to the list of content you can redownload as well.
The Apple TV also incorporates Apple’s Genius functionality in order to recommend movies based on your downloading habits.
The new Apple TV looks identical to the previous model, but incorporates a more-powerful single-core A5 chip instead of Apple’s older A4 chip from the second-generation Apple TV.
The new model will be available on March 16 at the same $99 price as before.
[Updated at 11:33am pacific to include information about the user interface update being available to current Apple TV owners as well.]
[Updated at 11:44am pacific to include information about the A5 chip in the new Apple TV.]
[Updated at 11:22pm pacific to include information about the ability to choose your streaming resolution.]