A Weekend with the Apple TV 2 and AirPlay
This weekend, thanks to a private project I had worked on, I was able to upgrade my old Apple TV to the new, tiny, Apple TV 2. Â The new and improved Apple TV loses the ability to cache video files on the device, but makes some gains in many other areas. Â But let me first give you the reason why I even own them: Â my sons are both very adept at damaging DVD's. Â That, and I am often left wanting more when it comes to current traditional television programming. Â So I started looking for better ways of managing my video entertainment.
The Apple TV provided a way for me to stream my iTunes video collection to my TV. Â And by using various tools, I can rip the DVD's I already own and make them iTunes compatible (and as such not infringe copyright law by stealing media someone else owns). Â I spent a lot of time since first getting the Apple TV ripping all the DVD's we owned so we could watch them through a single interface.
The Apple TV 2 improved in a lot of areas. Â First, it's smaller and takes up less space. Â Second, it doesn't pump out a ton of heat (which the previous did, to an alarming amount). Â Third, it provides an interface to Netflix and other content media, which I will get to in a minute. Â The size makes it easier to place in a small corner and have it be less conspicuous. Â Add to that the ability to control it remotely using WiFi and an iPad/iPhone, and you could even hide it within a closed cabinet. Â The display is great, though not at the full 1080p that the TV can support. Â Instead it manages with 720p, which is incredibly crisp.
One difference that took some getting used to was the location of the shared library. Â Shared libraries are now in their own menu, which actually makes it simpler to move from a movie to a TV show without drilling all the way out.
Another difference is the inclusion of three apps: Â Netflix, MLB.TV, and NBA.
Netflix has always been an interesting concept for me. Â I'm not big into watching content on the computer (unless it's the only option), and would prefer to be with the family in front of the TV, sharing the experience. Â So streaming services like Netflix didn't make any sense to me, unless it was part of a set-top solution or built into the TV itself. Â The Apple TV (along with other solutions) makes that possible, with the Apple TV 2. Â For $7.99 a month, you have access to an incredible list of TV shows and movies that you can stream, as much as you want. Â Some even include seasons that are currently running, and not yet released on DVD! Â Needless to say, I am now a Netflix convert.
But what interested me was the inclusion of MLB.tv and the MVA channel as apps. Â These are web streaming apps, similar to what Netflix has done, but specifies a category or "channel". Â It's a beginning, and one I think ultimately has the best possible result. Â Instead of having to work with current Network and Cable schedules, it's possible to watch and pay for only the channels you want. Â If I want to watch the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs game, I can. Â If not, I don't have to pay for it. Â It limits my channel surfing, but lets me see what I want to see when I want it. Â Google wanted to do this with Google TV. Â I think this could well be the future of Cable, and it's something that Cable and Satellite companies would want to pay attention to and embrace. Â Let us decide when we want to watch our shows, and you will have happy costumers.
Airplay was another really neat feature, one that I really wanted to have and the main reason why I wanted to upgrade to the Apple TV. Â When we travel, I don't want to have to lug a laptop or a computer with me just to watch my own videos. Â I have an iPhone and an iPad, as does my wife, and together we could potentially carry all our content we normally watch. Â Airplay lets me push my video up to the TV without having to have a computer with me. Â And with the latest update, I can use Airplay for some third-party apps, though that list isn't very long right now. Â I can use it for Air Video, YouTube, and Netflix, and a couple of others. Â But I can't use the PBS iPad app (though it works for the iPhone app), the ABC video app, or the Xfinity app. Â For PBS or ABC, it just Airplay's audio. Â for Xfinity, nothing. Â It would be nice to see all three of these get video Airplay, so I have additional entertainment options while traveling.
Integrated Home Sharing is wonderful when using the Remote apps for the Apple TV, as well as streaming. Â It makes it easy to use your Remote for the Apple TV which was previously a complicated setup. Â The new setup takes a lot of the complication out.
So, do I think it's the future of home entertainment? Â That might be a bit of a stretch, but I think it definitely has the potential to being all we need. Â Right now it's a great offering from Apple, and one that I really enjoy. Â I'd like to see some games for it, some additional services, and more individual "channels" start to explore this method of subscription programming. Â I think that alone will make or break any set-top box like this. Â Only one thing: Â if I'm going to pay for my content, I don't want commercials. Â Thank you.
So that was my experience this weekend, and it was a blast. Â I would definitely recommend the Apple TV 2 for anyone with a TV that supports HDMI input, particularly if you have an iOS device. Â It works great, looks great, and feels less cluttered than the earlier Apple TV.