- Can stream DRM protected content
- great interface
- No local storage
- needs a Mac to be turned on and running iTunes to stream content
The Apple TV makes sense if you already have a huge collection of video content purchased from the iTunes Store, or if you have a home setup that includes iOS devices and a Mac you’re willing to leave on 24 hours a day. iCloud integration may well end that requirement, but for now the Apple TV remains a flawed product.
UPDATE: read our latest Apple TV review.
It may seem a little unfair to include the Apple TV here, and for once it’s not because Apple has an enormous market lead or even the best product in the category. Judged by its specification, the Apple TV is a very poor relation to the rest of the units we have on test here. Yes, it has wireless and wired networking and an HDMI port, not to mention that it’s the smallest device here by quite some margin, but that only tells a small part of the story.
Unlike the original Apple TV, this second incarnation has absolutely zero local storage and no ability to add any. The only way for you to watch content through an Apple TV is to stream it. If you have media stored on your Mac, then this has to be turned on and have iTunes running. You can stream rented movies on the Apple TV and view your photo stream, plus there are a few interactive options such as YouTube and Vimeo, but unfortunately the offerings are slim.
The one huge advantage the Apple TV has in this group test is that it can play movies and television shows that you purchase from iTunes, which may well be the one factor that determines a lot of people’s purchasing decision. Despite its shortcomings this is the Apple TV’s one trump card. It also has AirPlay built in, which means that you can stream your movies, photos and music from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch as well. Another feature that might help improve the popularity and relevance of the Apple TV is its ability to stream games from the iPad to your TV, allowing multiplayer, split-screen gaming.
As you might expect, the interface of the Apple TV is also a huge point in its favour. Easy to navigate and simple to use, it beats all the others here hands down, including the hard drives that use Boxee’s interface, for ease of use and clarity. That said, it has to do a lot less than some of the other devices we look at here.
The Apple TV may be small and perfectly formed, but Apple’s “hobby” product has some shortcomings