Apple TV

The diminutive 8-inch-square and 1-inch-high Apple TV works a like a charm and is a cinch to set up. Just plug everything in, note the five-digit code that it displays on the TV screen, and enter that number into iTunes on your computer. Things get a bit more complicated with Wi-Fi, but even here the Apple TV's setup is easier than most--if you stick to the established 802.11g standard. Interoperability issues between some current draft-n products forced me to use Apple's own AirPort Extreme Base Station to get the Apple TV to operate over an 802.11n network (it's the only 802.11n media streamer in the group reviewed here).

If you can play a file in iTunes on your PC, you can play it through the Apple TV. But that means no .wma music or Xvid videos, without converting them first. Aside from a few video podcasts, 720p movie trailers are about the only HD content currently available for the Apple TV. Most iTunes Store videos are encoded at what the company describes as "near-DVD" quality. They still looked pretty darn good in my tests, but as Apple says, they are not quite at DVD level.

The Apple TV uses iTunes to transfer selected video and music to its built-in hard drive (40GB on our US$299 review unit, or 160GB on the US$399 model). You can transfer photos by directing iTunes to a folder on your PC, or by using software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0.

The Apple TV connects to wide-screen TVs only, via an HDMI, component, or analog connection. Apple TV decodes movie files at up to 720p resolution, and it can up-convert them to 1080i, the maximum resolution it can display.

The minimalist but easy-to-use remote has a ring-shaped section for playback control and a Menu "go back" button.

Test files that the Apple TV could play looked great. I saw no blockiness in the streaming video, and images looked naturally sharp without any signs of artificial edge enhancement. Using 802.11g Wi-Fi produced some unwanted video pauses, but everything moved smoothly with Ethernet or 802.11n wireless. Sound-wise, I detected a very slight harshness in Pink Floyd, but nothing I was likely to notice with the volume set at a regular listening level; Itzhak Perlman sounded perfect.

Apple plans to improve the Apple TV's features over time (as evidenced by the YouTube streaming update); meanwhile, a number of unofficial hacks (including keyboard/mouse support, the ability to install OS X, and DivX and Xvid file playback options) have surfaced online.

If iTunes and an iPod are the beginning and end of your PC-and-Internet media world, the Apple TV is a great choice. But if you dislike those limitations, keep looking.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lincoln Spector

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Skywatcher Dobsonian 8″ Collapsible Telescope

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Whodunnit™ Duo-Scope MFL-007 Microscope Kit

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?