The maximum benefits of the Apple TV will be reserved for people who own other Apple devices, but anyone can benefit from owning this quality home media server. With great video and sound quality, an easy-to-navigate user interface and access to the iTunes Store, it's hard to go wrong.
This device is a powerful addition to any entertainment center, and it keeps getting better. It has the sleek but simple Apple design, but more importantly, it functions as well as it looks. Apple TV recently got a facelift to look and feel more like an iPad or iPhone, and it is even more user-friendly.
A nice selection of apps is available directly through Apple TV, such as Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, MLB.TV, NHL Sunday Ticket and Hulu Plus. While there are some significant omissions (like Pandora), it has acquired important apps like HBO Go and WatchESPN. The addition of WatchESPN makes it an ideal media player for sports fans.
It also has a nice selection of family-friendly channels such as the Disney Channel and Disney XD. There are also apps and on-demand options for kids.
Apple is always updating its app and channel selections. While, overall, it doesn't have the sheer volume of apps available as some of its competitors, its selection of apps is substantial and ever expanding. With the addition of the iTunes Store, you have access to just about anything you could want.
It's easy to wirelessly sync Apple TV to your iTunes account on your Mac or PC to start playing music from your personal music library. You can play music, watch videos and view artist features on select albums with the iTunes LP feature.
You can use the AirPlay Mirroring feature to display exactly what is on your Mac, iPhone or iPad touch screen on your HDTV, and share it with everyone in the room. If you like to create iMovies on your Mac, this is a great way to show your friends and family the projects you're working on. It's also easy to view personal photos from your iPhoto library.
Apple TV is designed to work well with Apple-specific media, but it's somewhat limited in its ability to access other personal media files. For instance, if you have MKV or DivX files you want to access, you first need to convert them to an iTunes-friendly format, which could be time consuming.
Video and sound quality were terrific on Apple's home media server when we used it to play back HD movies. The sound was also impressive, coming through clear and distortion free. You don't necessarily need Apple products to take advantage of the Apple TV's features. We were able to enjoy great video and sound quality on non-Apple devices.
What would home media servers be without the ability to purchase or rent movies and TV shows, or browse and buy music? With access to the iTunes Store, the Apple TV is a great device for renting and buying movies, music and TV shows.
The iTunes Store is the key to Apple TV's strengths. It is one of the biggest online retailers of music and other media content. You have a choice of HD or SD (standard definition) content, and most films are available to buy or rent as soon as the DVD is released. TV shows are usually available to purchase (not to rent) the day after they air, and you can buy a "season pass." (New episodes are downloaded directly to your computer and Apple TV.) Apple TV is the only home media server that enables you to purchase and play back media from the iTunes Store.
Apple's technical support is quite good. You receive 90 days of complimentary phone support, but after that, it will cost you to call Apple for help. You can purchase AppleCare, which gives you full phone support for two years from the purchase date.
If you're having any issues with the Apple TV and your computer's iTunes (syncing or backing up), AppleCare will provide support for that too. Other types of support include Apple's extensive FAQs and knowledgebase found on its website, along with email, user manual and user forums.
With all the great features, including iTunes Store content and playback of photos, music, and videos from your computer, Apple TV is a great media streaming device. Apple is always updating its apps, so you have access to the vast majority of entertainment available through streaming.