For awhile now I have had the idea to see my movies, pictures and music from one central location that would connect to my big screen TV and home theater system. I figured I would rip my movies so the kids could watch them without having to handle the DVDs and scratch them all up. My wife would be able to listen to her music on our stereo system while doing house chores and not have to be changing CDs every time. We could show our pictures to family and friends when they came over to the house without having to connect a laptop to the TV every time. What a concept, a device that does all of this with ease of setup, no hassles. High on the list of importance was this device has to be easy for the kids or wife to operate.
I had looked up various methods of accomplishing this with Windows Media Center, Media Extenders, Software, all kinds of hacks that would deliver on the promise of consolidation. However, none of these options was easy to setup, or required too much work for someone that might not know too much about technologies.
A friend of mine and my brother, that happen to be Apple Fanboys, had told me I should get an AppleTV. That this was the device I was looking for and that it would do the things I described. Well after several months of not wanting to give in, I finally bought the AppleTV. I’ve now been using it for several weeks. I want to share my thoughts and impressions on this wonderful device.
Impressions of the installation
The AppleTV has a very nice form factor. It is square, about the size of school book, but half as thick. It looks very elegant and does not take up much room on your entertainment center. (You got to give it to Apple; they put a lot of thought into the product design.)
The connections are very straight forward and easy to hook up to the TV and stereo. It took me about 2 minutes after I rolled the big screen TV to reach the back of it.
After turning on the power it boots up and shows a welcome screen. You then connect it to your home network over a wired or wireless connection. (This sounds complicated but it’s not.) I connected mine through a wireless connection. All you need is the network name and your password. Then, you take a code that the AppleTV gives you and enter it into you iTunes account on your computer. After that, the AppleTV starts synchronizing with your computer. It’s that easy.
Let the fun begin
Now that it’s all set up, you can begin having fun. First of all, you get access to the iTunes store through the AppleTV.
MOVIES – You can:
1. Watch the movies you own that you have ripped to iTunes
2. Watch movie trailers of upcoming movies.
3. Rent movies in Standard definition or High definition
4. Buy movies instead of renting them
MUSIC / AUDIO – You can:
1. Listen to your music library in iTunes
2. Buy music directly from the iTunes store
3. Listen to Podcasts (or watch Video podcasts)
OTHER – You can:
1. Look at your pictures that are on your computer
2. Look at pictures that are on Flickr and MobileMe
3. Watch YouTube videos
So far, I haven’t rented any movies with this. I’ve seen a couple of movie previews and they look good on my TV.
My favorite features so far…
My wife started using the music library right off the bat. This is saying a lot, since I had not had a chance to teach her how to use it. She really likes being able to listen to the music from the home stereo.
My kids like being able to pick the movie they feel like watching and have it playing without having to mess with DVDs.
I have really enjoyed watching YouTube videos and pictures from Flickr, especially the ones from my friends and family. Last weekend we were able to show some pictures to our family on the big screen without any hassles and had background music playing with the slideshow to boot. Totally awesome!
I would definitely recommend getting one of these if you are like me and trying to have easy access to your media from one place that is easy to use, easy to keep synchronized, and easy to manage.
Couple of things to keep in mind
I regret getting the 40GB AppleTV. It just isn’t enough space for my media. This is not a problem since AppleTV will stream the files from your computer. But it’s much nicer to have them on the hard drive that comes on the device. Apple sells a 160GB model; I should have got this one instead. I have checked on the Internet for ways of expanding the capacity, but have not found a way that doesn’t involve hacking it.
Overall, I am happy with my purchase of the AppleTV. (I hope I don’t end up being a Fanboy. Is this a bad thing?)