Apple TV unboxing report
At the risk of taking all the suspense out of reading my column: Yes, I'm working on a review of Apple's newly revived Apple TV. If all goes well, you'll be reading a review of this $99 device -- which plays music and video from Apple's iTunes Store, from such Web sites as Netflix and YouTube and from your own computers -- later this week.
Apple's public-relations department shipped out a loaned unit on Friday, and over the weekend I set it up. So far I can report that:
* The Apple TV seems even smaller next to ... well, every other device around my HDTV. I've called it paperback-sized, but only those foreign-language travel dictionaries are that compact.
* The setup had one unplanned detour when this paperback-sized device stopped recognizing its remote. After a waiting a minute or two, it resumed normal operation.
* The video quality of the TV episode I rented, a free copy of Fox's Raising Hope, was tremendous. Unlike a lot of allegedly high-definition footage I've seen online, this didn't have the usual fuzzy compression artifacts in the background.
* Typing passwords or other lengthy strings of text with the Apple TV's iPod-esque remote was more aggravating than expected. It's been too easy to hit its center "select" button when you mean to move left or right to "type" a character on the onscreen keyboard.
* The Apple TV's Web-radio feature seems like some kind of a joke. Without a search function, you're limited to browsing lengthy lists of stations in such unhelpfully vague categories as "Alternative Rock" (with 237 sites listed). And four of the five stations I tried did not provide the title and artist of the current song playing.
* Its Flickr search doesn't seem capable of finding groups on Yahoo's photo-sharing site, while its YouTube front-end was far more useful, allowing find-as-you-type searching through that site's vast catalog.
* The rest of the Apple TV's interface shows the high degree of polish you'd expect from this interface-obsessed company.
* Getting access to the iTunes library of another computer does not rely on that program's traditional sharing option (the one accessible via the Preferences window's Sharing tab). Instead, you have to hit iTunes's Advanced menu to switch on a separate, less-obvious "Home Sharing" feature.
I'll be trying out this device throughout the week, so now's your chance to help make the review better. Are there any specific details you'd like to know about the Apple TV? If you've bought one already, how do you like it?
| October 4, 2010; 8:50 AM ET
Categories: Gadgets, Music, Pictures, TV, Video
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