The first time I heard about the Apple Tv thing I was a little curious. It had been predicted, or should I say prophesised, as the Airport express with Video. Sure enough : That concept did sound pretty appealing, a way to stream your audio and your video to your tv. Like you could do right now with your Ipod Video. (At least if you bought the expensive apple cable to do just that). But when the whole Apple-Tv thing finally hit the stores.. I was less then impressed. Before I tell you why lets run down the merry list the Apple Tv Brings to the table.
– Play Itunes video's on your Tv. The Appletv is able to play Itunes content (audio and video) from the Itunes collection on your "other mac" to your tv. The apple tv is hooked up using either an HDMI connector or a composite connector. So you can hook it up to both the old-school or the HD-tv sets.
– Syncs playlists from your Itunes on its local hard drive for seamless playback. The AppleTv has a built in 40 gig hard drive that will sync whatever playlists you want to its local drive. That way the bandwith intensive HD movies you stream are already tucked away on the drive for jitterfree movie fun.
Has a funky remote and a pretty front row interface. If you manage NOT to loose a remote the size of an Ipod shuffle (old school shuffle) you'll be able to control your AppleTv when you are in the shower. (should you need to).
And erm .. thats about it. Now in order to get all this from your Mac Upstrairs to your Tv downstairs without making a cat-5e network-cable spiderweb the Appletv has a 802.11N wireless network connector on board. This baby plays nice nice with the new Apple airport express that pumps out the same standard.
Now : As for the downsides of the story.. If you live in the Us, only own macbooks, macbooks pro, new airport expresses, have plenty of movies that you bought on the Itunes Music store AND own an HD tv . You are in Apple-Tv heaven. In this Utopian scenario you can download tons of Video content from the Itunes store, pump this over your lightning fast wifi connection through your Airport express, and use the AppleTv either to stream them .. or sync them up when you are busy doing something else. Then you can play all that goodness on your big ass HD tv.
But even here there is a catch. The movies you would want to "sync up" to your Apple-tv are the ones that are in HD. Now these can go up to 2 gigs or more in size. The 40 gig drive on your AppleTv might just fill up pretty fast.
And what about "the real world". Where our wireless network is mixed, perhaps you don"t own an new Airport express. Or heaven forbid : Don't own an HD Tv nor have movies to buy in your local Itunes store. What does the Apple tv bring to the table for .. me .. for example. I have an 80211.G network (56 mbit) that drops down to 11 mbit when my wife's Ibook joins the party. So no dedicated 100 Mbit wifi for me. No matter, because since I live in Europe, we can"t even BUY movies on the Itunes store. So the only stuff I can play are : Movies I ripped myself, stuff that I recorded with my Eye-Tv and podcasts. That by far justifies the purchase of a 300 euro cupwarmer. (Since I don"t have an HD-tv, why should i even care)
So i'm going to give all of you a nice alternative : Buy a second hand mini ! Seriously !! They are dirt cheap for the moment and the perfect solution.
Hooking it up : The Mini has a DVI output : So you can either buy a dvi-composit adaptor or even a DVI to HDMI output to hook the mini up to your TV.
Operating it : If you buy an Intell Mini you'll even have the little front-row remote to play with. And that gives you most of the multimedia functionality you need. Otherwise, you can use a wireless mouse.
Streaming it : Using Itunes you can play everything that you have stored on your "other mac". Just like the Apple-Tv.
Syncing it : Don't worry bout that. If your wifi-speed is a little slow : SYNC the movies to your mini. Its quite easy : You have an 80 gig drive at your disposal : All you need to do is let the mini boot up at six AM and use your crontab and Rsync to sync whatever directory you need from your first to your second mac.
Playin it ! : There is a little horizontal slot that turns your Mini into a full blown dvd player too. So chuck out your dvd player and enjoy the ride.
No limits : And where the Apple Tv screeches to a non-hacked halt when it comes to "Non-Steve" codecs, Just install VLC media player on your mini and it will play EVERYTHING to your hearts desire.
The Proof is in the pudding. Ok , So next week I'll go out and get myself a second hand Mac Mini and give you the lowdown on how its done. So stick with me and find out that the Apple-Tv is a big waste of money.