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I Bought an Apple TV Yesterday


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#1 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 27 2007 - 12:54 AM

I was holding off because I had my G4 PPC Mini hooked to my Sammy LCD in my Living Room, it worked well, but I was using a wireless Keyboad and I wanted a remote with a bit better Interface. So I picked up an ATV last night with some credits I had coming at Compusa. Setup was very easy. I moved my Mini back to my office, I connected the ATV via HDMI and Toslink, currently I have it set to Wirelessly stream off my G Network, ethernet was available but I wanted to see the performance via a wireless connection. I already had TV Shows and Movies in Itunes. All I can say is I'm very impressed, the interface and moving within is a dream. Music streams in lossless format effortlessly. Video is also very impressive. I used Handbrake in Anamorphic Mode on the PC (My G4 Mini only gets about 3fps encoding H264) to encode a Copy of "The Queen" I just bought. I put it in Itunes, not only does it stream perfectly but it looks pretty fantastic, maybe a hair down from what it looks like upconverted from my DVD player, but it's very close. Itunes purchased stuff isn't bad, it's a tad less detailed, probably mainly because it's 640 by Whatever, but it's definately watchable. Podcasts look great. I have'nt set up any photos yet, that's next.

A Few Niggles, I have a visibility issue, it will stream but does not show up in Itunes like it should, I have to get that worked out. TV Shows down list in Order like they do in Frontrow, they list backwards, but maybe because this is Back Row and it does get pretty hot because the case is enting the heat. I've turned off the screensave and put it to sleep and it helps a little bit, I would definately unplug when I go on vacation.

Other than that it's won me over, you don't really need it if you have a mini, but because My mini was a G4 and had no Toslink Output, no HDMI, and really no Frontend (although I have run FR on it) I took the plunge, I'm glad I did. Like the Ipod this thing just works effortlessly and does what it does, like most Mac products.
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#2 of 60 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 27 2007 - 04:15 AM

Dave,

I am the sort of person that takes interest in every new gadget,
as are many of the co-workers I surround myself with. Apple
products are always ones that most pique our interest.

That being said, none of us can really understand why someone
would buy an Apple TV.

Perhaps you can shed some light based on your purchase.

As I understand it, this device allows you to watch downloaded
video content purchased from iTunes on your widescreen TV.

The problem is, from everything I have read, the video quality
downright sucks!

For me, since I don't buy content from iTunes, this device has
no use. If I want to watch video downloads from my computer
on my widescreen TV, I would probably opt for the upcoming
devices that companies like Sandisk are beta testing that
let you write the content to a USB stick that you can transfer
to a TV.

As for music, there are far cheaper ways to stream music
to another device thanks to Airport Express.

I may be way off here in my assessment of Apple TV. I can
only go by the negative comments I have read. Yours is one
of the very first positive comments, and I look forward to hearing
more on what this device is doing for you.

Congrats on your purchase!

Ronald J Epstein
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#3 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 27 2007 - 05:26 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
Dave,

I am the sort of person that takes interest in every new gadget,
as are many of the co-workers I surround myself with. Apple
products are always ones that most pique our interest.

That being said, none of us can really understand why someone
would buy an Apple TV.

Perhaps you can shed some light based on your purchase.

As I understand it, this device allows you to watch downloaded
video content purchased from iTunes on your widescreen TV.

The problem is, from everything I have read, the video quality
downright sucks!

For me, since I don't buy content from iTunes, this device has
no use. If I want to watch video downloads from my computer
on my widescreen TV, I would probably opt for the upcoming
devices that companies like Sandisk are beta testing that
let you write the content to a USB stick that you can transfer
to a TV.

As for music, there are far cheaper ways to stream music
to another device thanks to Airport Express.

I may be way off here in my assessment of Apple TV. I can
only go by the negative comments I have read. Yours is one
of the very first positive comments, and I look forward to hearing
more on what this device is doing for you.

Congrats on your purchase!


I was Using a G4 Mac Mini, so No Remote, HDMI, Front Row or Tos link, and even then it did an ok job with 3rd party apps. Still it was missing my main requirement a remote and an interface that offers seemles integration. Now this will only be used in my Living Room, hooked to a 32" Sammy LCD, My PJ is in the Downstairs HT. I mainly watch TV Series and some movies here. The Apple TV has a Polished Front Row Interface, scrolling with the little Apple Remore with limited buttons is really simple, the wife like it for it's simplicity. ATV does more than just stream Content purchased from the Itunes store, it will stream content encoded and placed within Itunes. Using Handbrake(Mac and PC version available) I encode to H264 at about a 2500 bitrate, at that rate, and using HB's anamorphic encoding where every pixel is retained out putting a 853x480 image, my Encode of the Movie THE QUEEN, looks only a Smidgen off the DVD image being Upconverted. A Good encode upscaled to 720p or 1080i is gonna look pretty nice, even Itunes content don't look bad just a bit softer. In addition I can do slideshows, I can view Video podcasts, and stream SD and High Definition movie trailers from Itunes.

It's a great little standalone box perfect for TV shows and the occasional movie, excellent ro streaming Apple Lossless music. It does what it does perfectly.
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#4 of 60 Eric M Jones

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Posted April 27 2007 - 05:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
For me, since I don't buy content from iTunes, this device has no use.

Ron, you are not the target for this device then. At this stage it really is nothing more than a wireless enabled iPod for your TV focusing on the casual user. I've read several positive reviews and of course they've highly praised the ease of setup and beautifully executed user interface. Yes the iTunes video at current standard encoding is going to look horrible on a huge display. At this point it is only optimized for watching on a 3" ipod screen. So the reviews trashing the video quality should be no surprise. That being said it is capable of playing Quicktime HD 720p which is looks great (not looking to get into an HD format war here). Most insiders predict that we will see some some type of HD content (beyond movie trailers) being offered at iTunes this year. Anyway I digress... If you look at it this way, iTunes is what the number 3 or 4 media store on the web now? Apple has already sold over 100 million iPod to date. Everyone of those users use iTunes. aTV is a natural extension to allow those users another option to enjoy their purchases. Yeah you can hook your iPod to you TV but the aTV is a more convenient, elegant, permanent solution.

BTW - I considered purchasing an aTV but I didn't want to have to mess with re-encoding files to play nice with iTunes. Instead for $200 more I purchased an Intel MacMini which I use in leiu of an aTV. I can watch iTunes content but I also have a media server which I use for DVD (disc playing and rips), internet video downloads (non-itunes), a DVR (Elgato EyeTV) and music. Oh and it's all controlled via remote by a great little app. called Remote Buddy.

FWIW - I do think the aTV is over priced.


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#5 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 27 2007 - 05:59 AM

Itunes Content is not optomized for a 3inc screen, it's a minimum of 640x something depending on Aspect ratio, so it's really optomized for TV Out of the Ipod, but I can tell you it is not horrible by Any stretch I have an episode of "Raines" that Itunes offered for free, Raines is in Hi Def on NBC so the Itunes version is a H264 encoded File at probably 640x352. I thought it look pretty good Not as good as My DVR Hi Def version, but definately better than looking at it in SD on my Digital Cable.
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#6 of 60 Eric M Jones

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Posted April 27 2007 - 06:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Scarpa
Itunes Content is not optomized for a 3inc screen.
You're correct. I was speaking in gross general terms assuming that the majority of iTunes users are watching downloaded video on a 3" screen. I probably should have said "targeted" instead of "optimized".

I've been watching video from iTunes since the day they began offering it. They did up the quality from the original resolution (I don't remember the exact spec.) to what Jobs calls "near DVD quality" quite a while ago. The original resolution was horrible on anything other than an iPod. The newest is a lot better. I would agree that it's better than standard cable. On 17" iMac it looks great, on my 27" LCD it's adequate, on my 100" projector not so good. I just wish they'd get to the HD already.

Glad you're enjoying the aTV.

Just out of curiosity what machine are you running handbrake on? And how long is it taking to encode a DVD?

-EJ
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#7 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 27 2007 - 06:59 AM

I mostly encode movies with Handbrake on my PC, it pales compared to the Mac version, but the Mac version runs so slowly encoding H264 on my G4 mini I think I get 3fps meaning a movie would take about 12 hours to encode on 1 pass. My PC is no speed demon either its a AMD 3200+ but at least I can do a 2 pass encode in under 4 hours. This christmas I need a serious upgrade. I'd like to stay Mac but I cannot afford a Pro, the Mini's only have a core Duo 1, and I don't like the All in one Styling of the Imac's
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#8 of 60 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 27 2007 - 08:39 AM

Okay, now that I have a better understanding of how this
product works, I can appreciate its use.

You guys are right, I am not the target audience for this device --
but I can see its usefulness for those who use iTunes.

Thanks for the insight!

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#9 of 60 ErichH

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Posted April 27 2007 - 10:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
I am not the target audience for this device --

Many of us are not. There have been a few Apple products that are not well designed. This is one. It exists to buy content from iTunes. Very limited & low quality. A Big Bird iPod IMO.

The iPhone will be a different story.

E

#10 of 60 hgerman

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Posted April 27 2007 - 01:22 PM

I always like to wait a few months before I go out and buy. That said, it seems as though Apple's been getting many things right lately.

#11 of 60 Christ Reynolds

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Posted April 27 2007 - 01:43 PM

I don't buy content from iTunes, but I still want one. One does not HAVE TO buy iTunes content in order to enjoy the AppleTV. I plan to buy one to rip my DVD and CD collection to, and access the content with Front Row. And because I control the quality of rip, the quality is good, contrary to what is being said about this device. The video quality of ANY device depends on the source material, how is the AppleTV any different?

CJ
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#12 of 60 Chad A Wright

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Posted April 27 2007 - 02:35 PM

I tried hard to resist the Apple TV, but I just can't. We are getting rid of our satellite. I put a pencil to it and we can buy and own every show we want to keep up with for far less than we are paying for satelite now. Plus we would actually be able to keep up with the shows. Not having a DVR, I'm constantly missing episodes and then I don't want to watch new ones without seeing the old ones. This means I'm paying $70+ per month for satellite plus usually buying the DVD sets when they come out to catch up.

Now the shows we want will automatically download for our viewing pleasure when our schedule allows. Plus I've picked about 200 of my movies that I love and I'm going to rip them into iTunes. Having instant streaming access to that many movies is exciting.

#13 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 27 2007 - 04:19 PM

Yeah I know what you mean, Cable and Sattellite I'd like to get rid of, and it almost to the point I could except I would miss getting the Red Sox in HD, it's the only thing keeping the Cable TV in the House. But I Might be dumping the HD DVR soon.
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#14 of 60 Christian Behrens

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Posted April 27 2007 - 05:20 PM

Also, if you watch video podcasts, that's where an ATV can really shine. Podcasters can and will take full advantage of the 720p resolution the machine is capable of. Plus, your own pictures look pretty nice on a HD display.

But no, it is definitely not for everyone (yet). Like Chad said though, if you want to reduce your cable or satellite bill and have locals OTA in HD, it might make a lot of sense to just buy the few things you like to watch and don't get OTA on iTunes, and save money that way. That's a total game changer.

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#15 of 60 Chad A Wright

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Posted April 28 2007 - 01:57 AM

I was a little leary about buying tv shows off iTunes because I like having the HD satellite. Then it occured to me. It's probably been a month-and-a-half since I sat down and actually watched tv. Which basically means I spend $70+ a month for my kids to watch Dora every day. Dora's nice, but she ain't worth $70 a month.

So basically I'm spendng less money to actually watch shows I want to. I survived about 25 years before getting HD, I guess waiting on iTunes to go HD won't kill me.

#16 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 30 2007 - 12:17 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErichH
Many of us are not. There have been a few Apple products that are not well designed. This is one. It exists to buy content from iTunes. Very limited & low quality. A Big Bird iPod IMO.

The iPhone will be a different story.

E

I can tell you from my almost week of using this that I absolutely love it. And it's anything but low quality. I watched A Night at the Museum last night, a rip off the DVD, in H264 Anamorphic, which is something like 853x464, it was absolutely stunning at 720p, that's using Handbrake in single pass mode, I could probably get better results if I take the time to do two pass. I keep hearing how lousey the image is from people that don't own one, or saw the demo with some badly encoded file in a store. And it simply ait't true.

I might even pick up another for my Basement HT...
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#17 of 60 Chad A Wright

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Posted April 30 2007 - 03:07 AM

That's good to hear. My Apple TV arrives today and I can't wait. I've ripped about 20 movies and a few tv shows into iTunes. I'm waiting to see the quality of downloaded iTunes TV shows before I spend a bunch of money on them.

The Fedex guy needs to hurry up.

#18 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 30 2007 - 03:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad A Wright
That's good to hear. My Apple TV arrives today and I can't wait. I've ripped about 20 movies and a few tv shows into iTunes. I'm waiting to see the quality of downloaded iTunes TV shows before I spend a bunch of money on them.

The Fedex guy needs to hurry up.

The ITunes stuff looks Good but I hear the quality varies, I DL a free episode of Raines and thought it looked quite good, but your own encodes will always look better
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#19 of 60 Chad A Wright

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Posted May 01 2007 - 05:37 AM

After playing with it yesterday, I think it's really great.

The things I ripped off of DVDs looked very good. Sometimes you could tell it wasn't as good (mainly older movies I did 1-pass encoding on), but for the most part is was almost like having the DVD in the player. I'll trade off a small amount of quality for the convenience of having my collection at my finger tips.

Things downloaded off iTunes did not look as good, but were still passable. I noticed a lot of the softness everyone talks about.

I'm using a Mitsubishi 62" 1080p DLP set and honestly didn't think it would look as good as it does. I don't have anything synced onto the hard drive. I'm simple streaming it all from my main computer.

It did take a while (and a call to Apple support) to get it set up. For some reason it had a lot of trouble detecting my network. I'm using an Airport Express for my base station. The Apple tech had me change a few settings on it to get it up to speed and it has worked fine since then. Trailers and things off the internet load up very quickly.

Overall I'm incredibly impressed. Right now it's hooked into the library on my G5. I'm thinking of bringing my Mac Mini back home and hooking it up on my wife's desk in the back of the living room. There I'll attach a 1TB external firewire hard drive and use it for the library and stream from that. Importing movies and TV shows it taking up a ton of space and this G5 Quad sucks a ton of energy so I'd like to shut it down when not in use.

#20 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted May 01 2007 - 06:32 AM

Chad your right it depends alot on the quality of the encode. The Stuff I did in Handbrake with anamorphic mode turned on and Two pass look phenominal, I made a copy of the Movie the Queen and it was very comparable to the DVD. For the record quality wise the picture does'nt really suffer with one pass, the file size just might be slightly bigger, for H264, 2 pass is less of an issue than with Mpeg 4. Speaking of Mpeg 4 the latest version of Handbrake for the Mac make great looking Mpeg 4 files that look really good on the ATV if you're looking to save a little encoding time and don't mind a larger filesize. I had ordered two Atv's by mistake and was gonna send one back but Now I think I'll keep it for my Basement HT.
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