Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool!

Posted by: PeterChenoweth

Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 11:01 AM

To make a long story extremely short, I got a 160GB AppleTV this weekend. It's pretty neat.

While I am a Windows guy when in comes to my computers, all of my music is ripped into my iTunes collection, I own several iPods, and I love my iPhone. I occasionally had rented episodes of missed TV shows on iTunes too. So with my new HDTV, I thought that my family would enjoy an AppleTV. I was correct.

As with most things Apple, it was a breeze to set up. Extremely easy to use too.

Since we're all about sound quality here, I will say that the SQ is excellent, though of course dependent on the source. Unlike some people, I actually think the 256kbs iTunes+ stuff sounds great, so I have several albums of that. I also buy music from Amazon, as I think their 256kbs MP3's sound pretty good too. All of my CD's have been ripped in either Apple Lossless or 320kbs AAC, depending on how important the music is to me. I had been using a DLO Homedock + iPod Classic to get my content from my collection to my Axiom system. The AppleTV sounds much better. Music was the primary reason I bought the thing, and I'm absolutely thrilled with having my whole music collection easily accessible in our den, and with excellent quality. The ability to shop the iTunes store from the couch is both neat and dangerous. We spent a good hour or so just browsing and finding new music to enjoy on our system. Two thumbs up.

I also played around with video. Even the SD content stuff looks pretty good. Certainly not HD, but it seems better than the SD stuff we get via Dish Network. We rented 10,000BC in HD, and the picture and sound quality were excellent. It is only 720p, but it was otherwise every bit as good as the HD PPV we've done via our Dish Network receiver. I'm sure it's not as good as blu-ray, but for us, we're thrilled with the quality.

The photo stuff is also fun. We didn't think it would be that interesting. But I took the time to sync up all 20,000+ photographs in our family collection to it. It's surprisingly fun to look through our family photos on the big-screen, especially with nice musical selections playing. Also neat in that the AppleTV can use your photos as a screen saver while playing music. Lots of, 'oh wow, remember that!' moments while enjoying music. Neat stuff.

For anyone considering one, I'd be happy to answer any questions about it.
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 11:39 AM

My dream future realistic HT system will include an AppleTV (and a TV, and a Wii, and ...)
Posted by: Ken.C

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 11:40 AM

Now, you have to have your computer with your iTunes collection on it turned on to use the ATV, right? THat's kind of the dealbreaker for me.
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 11:47 AM

No, you can download/buy/rent movies and music directly to the device. AppleTV Take 2 is much more capable as a stand-alone device.
Posted by: PeterChenoweth

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 12:10 PM

As that other Peter said, yes, it works beautifully as a stand-alone device. Needing to be tethered to a PC would have been a deal-breaker for me as well.

Once hooked up to your network (wired or built-in B/G/N wireless), it shows up exactly like an iPod or iPhone to iTunes. Just like an iPod, you choose what to sync, either everything automatically or you can customize it. Then it syncs.

If you choose not to sync (why?) or it hasn't finished, AppleTV can still see your collection on the PC/Mac and stream the content. But once it's synced, it acts as a stand-alone device. It hooks up to your iTunes online account for renting or purchasing shows. Any movies, music, or TV shows purchased (not rented) on the AppleTV are synced back to your iTunes, and vice-versa. It's really pretty slick.

It took it about 5 hours to sync up about 60GB of content via my 802.11N network. My notebook acts as my primary PC at home, so it has all of my media on it. The sync was all done wirelessly. While the Atheros chipsets in the notebook & router can negotiate up to a 300mb 802.11N connection, the AppleTV could only manage to sync up to 130. Faster than 100mb ethernet, but not as fast as I had hoped. NBD, as the primary big sync only had to happen once.

The AppleTV did lock up twice while it was trying to sync. It would just stop copying, and then a minute or two later the AppleTV would reboot on its own. Then it'd re-establish itself and start copying again from where it left off. Sort of bizzare, but it worked in the end.

Another very cool feature is the free AppleRemote software on my iPhone. From anywhere in my house I can connect to the AppleTV and command it as to which music or video to play. Album art & volume controls too. Very neat to stand in the kitchen and wirelessly change the music in the other room.

Posted by: Ken.C

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 12:17 PM

Oooh... OK, now I'm interested. I didn't realize you could put non-purchased content on it.
Posted by: fredk

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 12:34 PM

It amazes me that after 30 odd years, Apple continues to be one of the few companies out there that makes the minimal effort to figure out what consumers want and then delivers using a simple intuative interface.

After 30 years it should have become standard practice throughout the industry.
Posted by: PeterChenoweth

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 12:47 PM

 Originally Posted By: kcarlile
Oooh... OK, now I'm interested. I didn't realize you could put non-purchased content on it.


The vast majority of my library is not-from-Apple content, though it's all managed through iTunes.
Posted by: EFalardeau

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 12:51 PM

What formats are you adding to iTunes? I have tried several things and the only thing I ever got to work was pretty low quality H264.
Posted by: PeterChenoweth

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 01:01 PM

 Originally Posted By: EFalardeau
What formats are you adding to iTunes? I have tried several things and the only thing I ever got to work was pretty low quality H264.

My videos start as high-quality AVI files. iTunes won't natively handle AVI files, of course, so they must be transcoded.

For that, I've had great success with a free little utility from a company called Jodix. Do a google search. On my Core2Duo Vista notebook it can transcode an hour-long AVI video into the mpeg-4 format that iTunes uses in about 10 minutes on its highest-quality settings. At those settings, I can't tell a difference between the pre-and-post files. You can adjust the quality down if you don't need it (for viewing on an iPod, for instance).

Once converted, it's just a simple drag-and-drop of the .m4v file into iTunes and the videos play perfectly on an iPod, iPhone, or now, AppleTV. ;\)
Posted by: Haoleb

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 01:17 PM

The Apple tv's are a really cool little product. I would probably consider getting one myself but I am just not sure on the reliabilty on those units. I have yet to hear alot of talk of them failing but the ones I worked with in the past got incredibly hot and did not appear to have any way of dissipating heat. I am a bit weary of dropping a few hundred on something that I dont expect to last more than a couple years \:\(
Posted by: PeterChenoweth

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 02:02 PM

I will vouch for the heat. It definitely is a hot little device.

After the data transfer, it was *very* hot. Hot enough that it was immediately uncomfortable to touch. Hot to the level that if my amp were that hot I'd shut it down. After sitting unused overnight I expected it to be cool again, but was surprised to find that it was still quite warm.

As an IT guy, I'm well-aware of the dangers of overheated computer equipment. It does not appear to have any sort of fan (none that I could hear, anyway), and so I think it is just passively cooled. Though there are no vents on the top of it, so it's hard to say how effective it is. Apple is usually pretty good at designing stuff, so I hope they did their homework on this. I'm not overly worried about it dying due to heat, but I will definitely follow its instructions to *not* place anything on top of it.

I have a live ethernet cable already run to my AV Rack for my DishDVR receiver (was for Tivo, ages ago). As a test, I was thinking of throwing a cheap switch on the end of it and hooking up the AppleTV to that, so that I could disable its WiFi. Just to see if that would cool it down a bit. After all, that heat is coming from the power it's drawing from the wall, and awfully wasteful...
Posted by: Murph

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 03:35 PM

I know this is not ideal for you, but for others..

If you already own an XBox or PS3, there is a FREE solution that includes video playback, but again you need a PC running.

Wasn't super easy to get working but easy enough for most anyone to muddle through if you don't mind going back to their web page for some FAQ reading. I am now using it as a server to stream all my music, pictures, DVD movies and concerts, Jeep run videos, etc... via the PS3 in order to play them on my TV and Axioms. I was just using Windows Media Player for this but switched to TVersity for two reasons.

-- WMP only worked with my MP3s but TVersity will automatically transcode my FLAcs to PS3 acceptable WAVs so they remain lossless.

-- WMP doesn't transcode native DVD files so you have to manually convert any video files that are not natively supported in the PS3 (like DVD's VOB files). TVersity will automatically transcode (transcode = on the fly, real time conversion) any kind of video file so that it can go directly to the PS3 without first manually recoding it to a new format.

All the transcoding is figured out automatically for you , so you don't have to be a media file expert to get them to work. This is a nice feature for many because there are so many file types it can be very confusing.

It has some other neat features that I don't use so much like podcasts and YouTube access. It also acts as a PVR if you connect it to your cable box but my BEV receiver already does that for me.

For you Bluray people, the new Nero product, version 8, does all this transcoding work as well AND handles Bluray but you have to pay for that software. I'm also unsure about HD audio support but maybe it is there?

TVersity is a great media server for zero dollars if it suits your setup, like having a PC turned on.
Posted by: oldskoolboarder

Re: Got an AppleTV. Pretty cool! - 07/21/08 05:47 PM

Love my AppleTV, it's dedicated mostly for the kids stuff. I also have it connected to Flickr's photo album for screen saver.

Love the remote control w/ the iPhone, VERY cool. I think with the remote control app, an iPhone/iPod Touch, and a few Airport Expresses, you could easily replace a SONOS system for much cheaper. The Airtunes app is relatively easy to configure. Just hook up multiple Expresses to powered speakers or various amplifiers in your house and voila, you've got a whole house music server that's controlled by a nice wifi remote with decent GUI. I'm also pretty impressed with Airtunes, there's virtually no latency between rooms (granted I'm using all of the new 802.11n versions). I can play music on one room and in the same music in another room is pretty much synced, you couldn't hear any delay at all. That in itself is VERY impressive if you've ever worked with wireless equipment.

Yes, the AppleTV does run quite hot. Mine sits in cabinet that is opened during use. Never had an issue, I've had my unit since the first release. I use mine w/ wired ethernet so downloads aren't so slow.