AppleTV is the future of television. This nifty $99 box packs more bang into a small package (0.9″ x 3.9″ x 3.9″) than should be allowed by the laws of physics. I’m writing this because there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding out there about exactly what AppleTV can do. In brief, AppleTV is both a content management system and a content delivery system. Anything you can put on the screen of your Mac and most things you can put on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch can be mirrored wirelessly to your TV.
At its most basic, AppleTV will stream Netflix, Hulu Plus, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League (if they ever play again), the National Basketball Association, and iTunes content. All of this is done from the main screen. The first screen shot below is from the AppleTV website, while the second is from our flatscreen.
Note the bottom right icon: Wall Street Journal election coverage. Apple Events is also fairly new. Some items (Netflix, Hulu Plus, sports channels) require subscriptions. Other content (movies, TV shows, music) can be purchased or rented from iTunes. The rest are completely free, including photo streaming from any computer on the network. (Windows users note: iTunes for Windows is available.)
If you have a Mac (OS X Mountain Lion), iPad (version 2 or later), iPhone, or iPod touch, you have Apple AirPlay. We subscribe to Amazon Prime which gives us (a) free shipping on orders shipped by Amazon and (b) streaming from Amazon’s library, with many movies and TV titles available at no additional charge. There may be a free trial available — the Amazon page is incredibly uninformative about the length of the trial, the conditions for qualifying, and other issues. Eventually, you’ll pay $79 per year ($6.58 per month, slightly less than Netflix’s $7.99 per month, $95.88 per year).
AirPlay uses AppleTV to stream video from your Apple product to your TV using wifi. We routinely stream from our iMac to our Vizio flatscreen. There are issues, specifically Amazon’s habit of freezing the streaming at least once per movie. Stopping the video on the computer, refreshing the screen, and restarting the video usually does the trick. This is an annoyance, but Netflix has lately been crashing completely mid-movie.
The AirPlay menu is simple:
There are four ports on the back of the box: power, HDMI, optical audio, and Ethernet:
The remote is a model of simplicity:
AppleTV is far more than just another set-top box. AirPlay’s’ flexibility means anything you can show on your Mac can also be shown on your television. We have not subscribed to any form of broadcast television for many years. And we miss it less every day. Try it — you’ll probably like it a lot.