Last time I talked about the recent “Take 2” software upgrade to Apple’s “set top box” called “Apple TV” (ATV2), and chronicled my first experience with ATV2’s marquee new feature: renting and viewing high-definition (HD) movies on an HDTV. You’ll remember that in under 15 minutes I was watching a 720p HD movie without leaving the (considerable) comfort of my living room sofa, having spent less time and money than if I had braved the icy drive to the local Movie Gallery.
HD movie rentals are but one of the new features that will help to earn the ATV2 a spot in HD home theater equipment stacks.
Besides renting HD movies you can also purchase and download TV shows (individual episodes or entire seasons) right from the sofa. Generally, if the show was originally broadcast in a widescreen HD format the ATV2 version is widescreen as well. Plus, ATV2 automatically transfers your TV show purchases to iTunes on your computer so you can view them there or on your iPod or iPhone. At present you cannot purchase and view movies via ATV2 you can only rent them.
ATV2 also brings added support for viewing photos on your HDTV. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, digital photos from newer digital cameras have a higher resolution than the best 1080p HDTVs, and there’s no better way to view digital photos (especially with a group of family or friends) than on an HDTV.
Apple TV has always been able to transfer, store, and display photos from your main Mac’s iPhoto or Aperture libraries, photos from a PC managed through Adobe’s Photoshop Elements or Photoshop Album, or from any old folder full of photos, as well as stream and view photos from other computers on your local network.
ATV2 extends your HDTV’s photo reach to the internet. Mac users with .Mac accounts enjoy the ability to publish photos and movies to personal Web Galleries. ATV2 can now access and display content in .Mac Web Galleries, as well as content on the popular multiplatform (and free) Flickr photo sharing website. Mind you, I’m not just talking about viewing your personal galleries I’m talking about seeing every .Mac or Flickr gallery you know about on the entire world wide web. You can view these photos in automatic slideshows or click through them individually, as well as designate photos from either web source to serve as screen savers when your ATV2 is idle.
With Apple TV, podcasts are not just for iPods anymore. Apple TV “Take 1” supported viewing podcasts on your HDTV, but only those you perused and downloaded via iTunes on your computer, then transferred over to the Apple TV. ATV2 now displays the considerable catalog of podcasts available through the iTunes catalog. You can choose to either: add a podcast to your “Favorites” (similar to making a Bookmark in a web browser); play the podcast; or, download it to your Apple TV to keep around for awhile. All from the sofa. There are many excellent HD video podcasts to peruse, from science to nature to politics to sports to religion and back again. Basically, anything you can discuss at a cocktail party you can find in a podcast.
ATV2 is available in two models: 40GB of storage for $229 and 160GB of storage for $329 (both now $70 cheaper than the original versions). Although 40GB may not seem like much room for a collection of digital movies that are each over 1GB in size, remember that ATV2 can stream content from all the computers (and any storage devices within/connected to them) on your network.
|© 2008 Peter F. Zimowski|