Thoughts & news on technology…well, mostly

AppleTV HD video review round-up

promo_appletv_box20080115.pngThis week Apple finally released version 2.0 of the Apple TV software that was demo’d by Steve Jobs at this year’s MacWorld. This is a big deal because it finally makes the Apple TV a lot more functional – adding the ability to buy and/or rent movies (SD or HD) and TV shows. However, the one question I had was, ‘just how good is the HD video quality compared to Blu-ray/HD-DVD?’ Answer: it’s surprisingly good…ranking #2 – right behind Blu-ray/HD-DVD.

It’s def worth reading the reviews as they have screen shots comparing AppleTV, Blu-ray/HD-DVD, HD Cable, and standard DVD:

I haven’t had time to rent an HD movie on mine, yet, but I’ll post a review of my experience when I do.


Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, HDTV, Home Theater, Movies, Reviews

How NOT to sell an Apple TV

Are you interested in buying an Apple TV? If so, I bet the first thing you would do is visit an Apple Store so you can demo it and see how it works, how good the video quality is, etc. Well, the good news is the Apple Stores have 3 of them – each connected to a Sony Bravia LCD. Great, right? Wrong.

I went to the Apple Store in Burlington, MA this weekend and watched National Treasure, Heroes, and Pirates of the Caribbean (each for 30 seconds) and the picture quality of all of them was terrible. Of the 3 Apple TVs, the two I tested had the same issues. In fact, the video quality was so bad that, if that was my only experience with an Apple TV, I would NOT buy one.ย  If the Burlington, MA store is indicative of all Apple Stores, then Apple has a problem.

My Apple TV is connected to a 50″ Panasonic plasma (TH-50PX60U) and the picture quality is 10x better. And, yes, I compared the same TV show (Heroes).

Why is the picture quality so much better on my display? Simple – the LCDs at the Apple Store weren’t calibrated. Sony Bravia LCDs are excellent HDTVs and are known to display a very good picture. I’m guessing they just took the TVs out of the box and set them up using the default picture settings (which you should NEVER do).

It wouldn’t be hard for the Apple Stores to calibrate a TV – all they need is someone who knows how to use a DVD calibration disc. Heck, I’ll be their consultant and travel to all of the Apple Stores to calibrate them…I’d be willing to take payment in the form of cash or Apple products. ๐Ÿ˜‰

To sum it up: Apple needs to calibrate those HDTVs if they want to sell Apple TVs.

Filed under: Apple, Apple Store, AppleTV, Digital Movies, Video

How do you determine the video quality of an iTunes TV show?

Does anybody know how to determine the video encoding quality for a given TV show or movie from the iTunes Store (before purchasing)? I’ve tried Get Info but it’s useless.

When the iTS first started selling videos, they encoded them in 320 x 240 (which is similar to the quality you’d get from VHS) but starting around September 2006 they started encoding them in 640 x 480 (which is near dvd quality).ย  I’ve been thinking about buying some older episodes of Battlestar Gallactica and I don’t want to get stuck with a 320 x 240 video file because they look like absolute shit on a 50″ plasma.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, iTunes, Movies, Video

Apple TV review from Ars Technica

In case you haven’t seen this (or aren’t sick of Apple TV posts), Ars Technica has a very nice, detailed, and thorough review of the Apple TV.

If you’re thinking about buying one, I recommend reading their review…and mine.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, Reviews, Video

How to upgrade the hard drive in Apple TV

I’m sure you’ve already read about people upgrading that measly 40GB hard drive. Well, Engadget has some sweet step-by-step instructions with pictures.

Personally, I’m not planning on doing this since I haven’t maxed out the hard drive…yet.

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, How-To, Video

Review: Apple TV

apple-tv-menu.jpg I got my Apple TV this past Thursday and have been using it the past two nights. Everything about it is Apple-esque: the user interface is gorgeous, setup was extremely easy, integration with iTunes was perfect, synchronizing and streaming content performed flawlessly, and watching shows, film trailers, iTunes previews, etc. worked perfectly.

Overall, it rocks! But, as with anything, there is always some room for improvement. Here are the details:

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, iTunes, Reviews, Video

Apple TV review from Walt Mossberg and David Pogue

The initial reviews are in: Walt Mossberg (From PC to TV — via Apple TV) and David Pogue (Apple TV Has Landed) give the Apple TV a thumbs up. Walt Mossberg summed it up nicely:

We’ve been testing Apple TV for the past 10 days or so, and our verdict is that it’s a beautifully designed, easy-to-use product that should be very attractive to people with widescreen TV sets and lots of music, videos, and photos stored on computers. It has some notable limitations, but we really liked it. It is classic Apple: simple and elegant.

Some points of interest:

  • Video and music that was streamed to the device did not hiccup or stutter on a 802.11g WiFi network (Walt Mossberg)
  • Setup was incredibly simple (Walt Mossberg)
  • After syncing your iPod to iTunes, Apple TV remembers where you stopped watching or listening to a movie, TV show, or song (David Pogue)
  • Pictures cannot be streamed but Apple plans on adding that feature soon (Walt Mossberg)
  • Only files from one computer will be synced/copied to Apple TV. The other 5 computers can only stream content to Apple TV (Walt Mossberg)
  • In iTunes, Apple created a page for ‘Apple TV podcast showcase’ (iTunes link)

The primary limitation that Walt Mossberg highlights is the lack of content that can be directly streamed from the Internet to Apple TV. Currently, only movie trailers, preview clips of songs, TV shows, and movies can be streamed. Another complaint was how

Hopefully, Logitech will update their Harmony remote control database to include commands for the Apple TV.

So far, things are looking good…

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, Reviews, Video

Gizmodo’s Apple TV Unboxing Pics


Gizmodo’s got the unboxing pics. Check ’em out!

Can’t wait to get mine…two more days. ๐Ÿ™‚

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, Video

Apple TV has shipped (for real)

I just checked my order status and I can say with 100% confidence that my Apple TV has been shipped via FedEx with an estimated delivery date of this Friday, March 23. Sweet!

I’m debating whether or not to post un-boxing pics (if you want me to, post a comment!) but I will definitely post my initial impressions by the end of this weekend or early next week so stay tuned!

Update (3/22/2007) My Apple TV was delivered this morning – one day ahead of FedEx’s estimated delivery date.ย  Nice!ย  I know what I’m doing when I get home from the office.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Filed under: AppleTV, Digital Movies, Movies, Video

Apple TV to get DVR features via Miglia?

Eddie Hargreaves (The Apple Blog) witnessed something interesting at MacWorld:

While I was at Migliaโ€™s booth checking out their products and talking to their representatives, I saw a Miglia executive approached by a lady who identified herself as being with Apple. She said she was there to introduce him to someone else at Apple who was her European counterpart. Sure enough, another gentleman made his way through the exhibit hall crowd and they all left the booth to go have a meeting together.

This encounter, along with the removal of all Miglia products from the online Apple store, is what leads Eddie Hargreaves to infer that Apple may be working with Miglia (pronounced “Mee-Lee-Ah”) to bring HD DVR capabilities to the Apple TV. This could just be a wild guess by The Apple Blog but I’m confident that Apple will add DVR capabilties to the Apple TV sometime within the next year. More specifically, I believe Apple will add HD content to iTunes by June/July 2007 then add DVR to the Apple TV sometime within the next year.

Apple wants their products to be the hub of your digital life and the Apple TV with DVR capabilities is a big part of that vision.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, DVR, Rumors

Shipments of Apple TV have begun!


This past Monday, people on Apple’s discussion forum noticed their credit cards have been charged for their Apple TV pre-orders and have been speculating that it will be shipped before March 20. Usually, a company charges your credit card when your item has shipped or is about to be shipped (I believe this is by law?). Well, g-Whiz has received confirmation from an Apple Store sales rep stating that the Apple TV is ready for shipping – sweet!

Maybe we’ll get it one week early?? ๐Ÿ™‚

Update (3/14/2007) Post has been updated since gwhiz showed me where the “chat now” feature is on Apple’s website.

Update 2 (3/16/2007) Just checked my order status and it’s still “not yet shipped” so it looks like mine will ship on March 20.

Filed under: Apple, Apple Store, AppleTV, Rumors

Apple CFO answers questions about Apple TV, Leopard, and the iPhone

Last week, we had Apple’s COO answer questions at the Goldman Sachs Technology Symposium. This week, we have Peter Oppenheimer (Apple CFO) answer questions at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference. There were a lot of questions (from Morgan Stanley’s analyst and the audience) and, honestly, only one of them – the one about Apple TV – was of interest. The rest were your typical analyst questions that received fluffy, high-level answers. There was one interesting question asked by the audience:

Q: Is the content that is coming down to you iTunes, is that full HD content or is it similar to the chopped music, not fully analog TV equivalent? When you download “Pirates,” is it the full equivalent to buying the DVD at your local Costco?
A: It is near DVD quality. I’ve seen it running in our labs, and I can’t tell the difference. It’s an excellent experience from my point of view.

As you know, my biggest question is whether or not Apple with offer HD content on iTunes and the above question is the first time I’ve ever heard someone ask Apple anything remotely close to it. Frankly, the question should have been re-worded to, “Will Apple offer HD content on iTunes for Apple TV?” This is a much more direct question that would yield a direct answer. The question that was asked allowed Peter Oppenheimer to confirm the obvious.

I’m still baffled as to why no one else has asked Apple my question. After all, HD is the future and no one has asked Apple how they will address it.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, iPhone, MacOSX, Technology

iTunes 7.1 can sync up to 5 Apple TVs

itunes-cover-flow.jpgiTunes 7.1 was released yesterday and iLounge has found that you can sync up to a maximum of 5 Apple TVs. In addition, iTunes 7.1 now supports full-screen Cover Flow and there are also categorization options for TV shows and movies in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. – hinting that residents in these countries will be able to buy TV shows and movies.

Click through to iLounge if you want all of the deets on what iTunes 7.1 brings to the table (they have a bunch of nice screenshots, to boot).

Btw, Vista still isn’t officially supported.

Update (3/6/2007) Btw, it appears there is a possibility that you may be able to play some of those iPod games on the Apple TV. In the same iLounge article, they found some text strings stating โ€œAll existing games on the Apple TV (name) will be replaced with games from this iTunes library.โ€ If the Apple TV will support games – great – but I have zero desire to play Tetris, Pac-Man, etc. in my living room.

Update #2 (3/6/2007) According to Gizmodo, iTunes 7.1 is compatible with Vista but Apple doesn’t list it as a supported OS. Apple’s site specifically says, “Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 or later or Windows XP.”

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, iPod, Software

Tim Cook (Apple’s C.O.O) on Apple, Apple TV, & iPhone

Tim Cook, Chief Operating Officer at Apple, spoke at a Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium and answered some interesting questions about Apple and their products. One of the more interesting questions was one that I also had:

Q: Why no DVR functionality in the Apple TV?

A: It’s not what it is. Our view is it’s the DVD player of the 21st century, and so, we’re not trying to be a DVR, be a set top box. We’re all about taking the content already on your Mac or PC and watch it on your TV.

First off, of course Tim will defend the current features of the Apple TV – after all, he’s not going to say, “yeah, we should’ve included a DVR…maybe in the next version.” I think they should add DVR functionality to it but I can wait for that.
The “DVD player of the 21st century” is not accurate (yet) because the quality of the iTunes TV shows and movies are worse than the picture quality on a DVD. I’m certain that Apple will eventually offer DVD-quality (i.e., Standard Definition – 720×480) shows/movies because the Apple TV can output a HD signal (720p), supports only component video and HDMI (which implies that the Apple TV is designed to be connected to HDTVs), and Apple knows the future of video is High Definition. My only question is: when will Apple update their iTunes catalog with HD-versions?

If Apple offers HD shows/movies, how will they deliver it? Here’s my guess: iTunes will have two versions of each or most shows/movies – a HD version and the current version (i.e., sub-dvd quality). If I want to buy that episode of ’24’ that I missed last week and want to watch it via my Apple TV, I buy the HD-version (which may be $2.99 or $3.99 vs. $1.99). If I intend to watch it on my video iPod, I buy the $1.99 version. That being said, I’m hoping Apple will give us the $1.99 version for free if we buy the HD version. On the other hand, if Apple wants to minimize the increase in infrastructure (data and network bandwidth) costs to support HD content, they could offer only the HD version and add a feature to iTunes that allows users to convert the HD show to an ‘iPod-friendly’ format. I admit, this is a very unfriendly option since it forces the user to have to re-encode their shows and contradicts the seamless integration between hardware and software that makes Apple so successful.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, iPhone

Apple TV Delayed Until March 20

I just checked my Apple Store order and my Apple TV ship date has been delayed from February 28 to March 20. Apple’s spokeswoman has confirmed the delay:

“Wrapping up Apple TV is taking a few weeks longer than we projected, and we now expect to begin shipments mid-March,” spokeswoman Lynn Fox said by email.

MacRumors is reporting that Apple Stores will still get the in-store display units on March 5. If this is true, at least, we’ll be able to check it out.

Since my estimated delivery date is March 26, the release date is effectively the end of March.

Well, those rumors about an Apple TV delay from a couple of weeks ago are now true. The thing that annoys me is how Apple officially denied those rumors.ย  Anyways, this blows.

Filed under: Apple, Apple Store, AppleTV, Digital Movies, IPTV

Apple TV Arriving in Apple Stores on March 5th?

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) is reporting that the Apple TV will be on display at your nearest Apple Store on March 5th, which coincides with the delivery estimate for my Apple TV (March 6). Supposedly, they will be hooked up to Sony Bravia LCD HDTVs.

I’ll be curious to see how much interest there is at the Apple Stores and how well they sell.

Update (2/27/2007) The release date has been delayed to mid-March but the Apple Stores are still expecting to have in-store display units on March 5.

Filed under: Apple, Apple Store, AppleTV, IPTV, Retail, Rumors, Technology

I’m Getting an Apple TV!

A very good friend of mine just bought me an Apple TV for Christmas (thanks!) and it’s expected to ship on February 28 so I should have it no later than March 6. This also supports Apple’s denial of the shipment delay rumors that were circulating around the rumor sites a week or two ago.

Regarding the actual device, I do have some reservations about this device – primarily, it doesn’t have HD DVR functionality nor is there any HD content available on iTunes but it will still be nice to watch those episodes of 24 or Lost, that my DVR didnt’ record, in the comfort of my living room. To be honest, I *really* hope Apple will start offering HD content on iTunes. If not, I have a feeling I won’t use this device all that much. Needless to say, I’m still excited to get it and watch some shows in my living room instead of my PowerBook.

Btw, take a look at my previous post on how Apple can be the first computer hardware/software company to make some searious in-roads into our living rooms (‘Can Apple be successful in our living/media rooms?’)…with the Apple TV being the primary driver.

Anyways, I’ll post a review after I’ve used it for a week or two.

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, IPTV

Can Apple be successful in our living/media rooms?

In a nutshell, yes. But, I think it’ll take another 1 to 1.5 years. Why? Because the Apple TV only meets part of our needs as an entertainment device/media extender. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great first generation product (and, apparently, is selling very well) but it leaves a lot to be desired.

If Apple makes the following scenario a reality, then I think Apple will dominate our living rooms and sell more Macs but Apple will need to introduce the following products:

  1. The next gen Apple TV (let’s call it AppleTV 2.0)
  2. Standalone iPod/iPhone docking stations that will wirelessly sync to iTunes/Apple TV and charge the device
  3. DVR software for the Apple TV that can record HD content
  4. Updated synchronization software to sync the content between a Mac, iPod/iPhone, and Apple TV.

Synchronization & Content Portability

I come home from work, wake-up my Mac and connect my iPod and/or iPhone (or dock it in a standalone docking station). Upon doing so,
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, DVR, iPhone, iPod, MacOSX, Technology, Thoughts

Sales of Apple TV are Exceeding Expectations

Apparently, orders for the Apple TV are through the roof:

“Specifically, orders have already exceeded the original 100,000 order that Apple had placed with Inventec, and Apple is preparing to place a second order for twice that number. Apple is now planning to sell over a million Apple TV devices leading up to the 2007 holiday season, and at least that many again during the Thanksgiving – Christmas period this year.”

If this is true, part of me is somewhat surprised and the other half is not (more on this in a later post).

So, have any of you ordered the Apple TV? If not, are you planning to? If you’re not going to buy one, why not? I’d love to read what you all think so feel free to post a comment!

Filed under: Apple, AppleTV, Digital Movies, Home Theater, IPTV, Rumors, Technology