I’ve never previously been convinced by the Apple TV, for me it always fell short of what I could do with a Mac Mini hooked up to the TV in the lounge. I tried numerous different packages for media playback but always found myself back with good old Front Row – it’s simplicity and wife/child compatability being the stamp of approval required to make it a long term solution for audio/video playback in our lounge. Eventually as with all good things it came to an end… stuttering and spluttering I put the Mac Mini out to pasture and decided to have a shot at replacing it with a 3rd gen Apple TV.
The Apple TV has no ‘accessible’ local storage so I was in part only convinced by the recent introduction of iTunes Match (£21.99 per annum) which would mean that we would be able to access and play any/all of our music collection without the need for another machine running iTunes somewhere else in the vicinity. I surmised that for £99 even if it didn’t do everything I wanted then I wouldn’t begrudge it.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Apple TV is it’s size (or lack of). This box of tricks is epic in it’s minimal proportions and silent running, a welcome change from the humming Mac Mini it replaced in our Lounge. Set up is super quick and easy, only slightly delayed by having to input text with a directional keypad.
Despite much ridicule on Twitter the revised ‘dashboard’ is quick and easy to use – however as you navigate down through the menus it very quickly becomes apparent this is the OS equivalent of a nose job. Elsewhere the menu system feels (and looks) exactly like Front Row did when it made it’s debut back in 2005. Hopefully future iterations of the operating system will see a more complete overhaul which makes better use of screen space to display more content at once.
The beauty of the Apple TV is it’s simplicity, it’s ‘Wife approved’ and that means a great deal if you don’t want to spend your life providing IT support when the other half wants to catch up on some Prison Break – or other dramas featuring men that might be marginally more attractive than yourself. Streaming of iTunes purchased (or otherwise acquired) movies from a nearby iTunes library works a treat (smooth as butter with HD content) and the built in video apps work as expected.
For me the biggest surprise of all is Netflix, a service that I’d never even considered previously had suddenly become the most used feature on our Apple TV. Yes the selection is mostly ‘older stuff’ but when you consider the cost (currently £6 per month / £72 per annum) it’s an absolute bargain. We’ve already watching 4 series of a particular ‘prison related tv drama’ which on iTunes at least would have set us back £80! Netflix has proved ‘very’ popular with the kids too, completely replacing what TV they did watch on cable with a great selection of classics (anyone remember Inspector Gadget?).
So, is it worth the £99 price tag? If you subscribe to iTunes Match and Netflix then it’s an absolute no brainer, if not then at this price it’s almost worth a punt anyway. Hopefully future iterations of the Apple TV will continue to make it more relevant to wider user base with the introduction of other streaming services (fingers crossed!).