back to article Apple TV 160GB media player

Over the past couple of years we've tried at least four different media extenders from Buffalo, D-Link and Pinnacle in an attempt to send AVI movie files from a PC to a TV. The PC is in a home office box, and the TV is in the living room, and all we want to do is watch recorded American TV shows on the big screen. All four …


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  1. Steven Hewittt

    Xbox 360 and Media Center

    For nearly the same price as AppleTV you could get a 360, and if you've already got a Vista Home Premium or XP MCE PC then you're sorted - with the advantage of having a 360 too!

    MS seems to have cracked this. I have a number of machines but use a 4 year old custom box for my media centre.

    Athlon 1.5Ghz, 512Mb RAM and a 160Gb IDE HD. Vista Home Premium on it and my 360 is used as the extender.

    Quality is superb on it - even on 802.11g used on the 360.

    Obviously the AppleTV box is MUCH cheaper is you don't have a PC with Vista Home Premium / Utlimate / XP MCE already.

  2. Alex Walsh


    It would be a good product if the excellent XBMC (Xbox Media Centre) wasn't available for free for use on old Xboxes. I've got a couple streaming films, music and even Apple Movie trailers to stereos and tellies in my house. You can pick up an Xbox 2nd hand on the high st for £30 with a years warrenty.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You should try the products from TVIX

    The HD M-5100SH is a fantastic piece of Kit. It supports all major formats.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative: Archos 605 WiFi

    Perhaps your review should have considered another alternative, the 160Gb Archos 605. It can do most of the things that this box can, and more, as well as being portable. This, and FOR THE SAME PRICE!! Plus, they seem to have a static one available now, which may be cheaper...

  5. Nick Pettefar

    It's funny but

    when I first used my Apple TV the YouTube was dreadful but now it is much better. I have a Samsung 26" 1080p telly. Maybe the Apple TV firmware needs updating?

    I find the recordings OK that I have made using my Elgato Mac telly tuner and encoded to iTunes and watched on my Apple TV.

  6. Spinner

    This or an Mac Mini

    I have been thinking about getting a Mac Mini on clearance, to hook up to a 1080p LCD.

    The Mac Mini can take EyeTV, is more flexible, but I am not sure if the purpose built Apple TV would make more sense. At the moment, can pick up the clearance Mac Mini for $550 (with combo drive), compared to $450 for the basic AppleTV.

    Any thoughts?

  7. The Mighty Biff

    xVid ? iTunes ? Eh ?

    Kiss Technology have been producing this sort of thing for donkey's years, albeit with varying levels of flakiness. My loverly DP558 has been pretty much trouble free for the last 4 years though, streaming pretty much all audio and media (divX, Xvid included) formats from my PCs and network drives without fuss.

    Anything that's not Apple or Microsoft and especially anything that avoids the vileness that is iTunes is a blessing - synching ? wot ? Just point to the folders that contain the media, and off you go...

    They've been bought by Linksys though so that's probably the end of them.

  8. Steve

    That sounds awful

    You guys need to keep up to date if you want to offer credible hardware reviews. I've no idea what media players you've reviewed previously, but if they were the size of a DVD player then it must have been quite some time ago.

    Try getting hold of a philips player, or the new Fujitsu Activy 150 (their spelling).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No DIVX, no MPEG2, so me, a Joe Sixpack can't be sure if it plays or not because I don't know my EMPIG 2 from my NPG4.5, but several digital cameras output DIVX and MPEG2 so lots of media won't play.

    So fails at the first Question:

    Q. "will it play my stuff?".

    A. "Maybe, there's a good chance, possibly. Sometimes.".

    No sale.

    Next to the ease of use. I can select a TV channel and watch it, so I can select a video and watch that?

    Q. "Can I just hit play and watch"

    A. "Well no, you need iTunes and Sync from your PC"

    No sale.

    Q. "Does it screw me over like the iPhone screws its customers in favour of the AT&T lockin?"

    A. "No definitely not, well, unless an upgraded iTunes needs an upgraded iTV, in which case you may need to accept a new EULA or lose the use....".

    No sale.

    Apple's really had it's day, now the DRM lock-in has gone on music, the players are too expensive and not that good compared to the opposition. They've lost customers with the iPhone upgrade, and Apple TV is self serving.

  10. Fogcat

    Still missing a lot of things

    I've had an old Phillips Streamium for ages that does an excellent job. It connects to any uPnP servers so I can view the content on my NAS (A Terastation running TwonkyMedia) with having to have the PC on; why would I want a hard disc that my content wouldn't fit on?

    The menu isn't as pretty as the Apple looks and it doesn't handle HD but as I'm now looking around for an HD compatible upgrade I'm surprised at how little progress the market seems to have made since I first "streamed". DivX is still not common, all sorts of format conversion seems to be required, and every vendor wants you to install their own media server.

  11. Lovely Gladstone

    Movie trailers

    The review complains about the video quality of movie trailers on the AppleTV. The movie trailers aren't loaded on the machine, but are streamed from the internet. They're actually pretty good quality considering they're streamed.

  12. Iain

    Hmm, not that tempting, then.

    Being able to view YouTube and iTunes Store content seems to be the beginning and end of features this has over a 360, then. Given you can have a 360 Core for less money and it happens to double as a half-decent game console as well, I'm mystified by this device.

    The single big problem with the 360's media functionality is that it doesn't do Xvid. But neither do Apple.

  13. Joe K

    Well thats crap then

    No divx, xvid, or anything? Whats the point of that then?

    Everything worth downloading, all the HD copies of The Office, Prison Break, ect, won't work.

    Honestly, its plugged into a PC i presume, surely you could rely on the PC to play and just stream to thing bloody thing.

    I'll be leaving my PC plugged directly into my DVI connection of the HD telly then, or burning things off to DVD.

  14. martin burns

    Cheaper AppleTV->SD solution

    Shurely the better (and cheaper) way would be to convert the Component-Video to SCART - yours for about 25 nicker at (and presumably other quality retailers)?

  15. Dominic Tristram

    Xbox? No thanks.

    I wish people would stop going on about using the XBox 360 for this purpose. The jet-engined level noise of the thing is bad enough when playing games, let alone for watching films with the volume anywhere less than 'loud'.

    As for supported formats, which legally purchased films do people have as DivX anyway? If you have the DVD, just rip in H.264. If you get your films for free from torrents... well, why should my money go to Apple to support people like you with their products?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thorough review eh?

    The movie trailers are not stored on the system, they are streamed. The quality of them is patchy as it depends on what is made available. From the manual:

    "In the Movie menu, you have a choice of watching:

    - Previews of movies available on the iTunes Store

    - Trailers of movies in theaters

    - Movies in your iTunes library that you sync or stream to Apple TV"

    I guess its too much to expect the reviewer to have time to read the manual.

  17. John Utz

    Wii opera broswer works great for youtube

    I find that i have no troublewatching youtube content on the wii by way of opera

  18. druck Silver badge

    160 lying marketing GB?

    Leo Waldock writes: "We saw that the 160GB drive has 144.63GB available capacity which is considerably less than we'd expect, even allowing for formatting the drive and the cut-down version of Mac OS X that the Apple TV runs."

    The size of the drive is likely to be quoted in lying marketing GB (10^9 bytes) where as the unit itself no doubt displays the free space in proper true GB (2^30 bytes). So in proper GB the drive has a true capacity of 149GB of which less than 4.4GB is used.

  19. Jon Winter


    I'm amazed that you tried the Apple TV and gave it such a bad rating. Those "pre-loaded" movie trailers you were watching were being streamed live from the web by the way. I've ripped my entire DVD collection into mp4.h264 and the quality is generally pretty damn good on my 720p telly. Transcoding DIVXs is pretty easy and gave me similarly good results. I liked the AppleTV that much that I got another one for the kitchen. And I don't bother with syncing content as the wireless streaming works flawlessly.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uh, problem with the article? Or am I just thick?

    ok the article states:


    If you can drive an iPod then you'll find the Apple TV a doddle, and so too will your mum or - dare we say it - the wife.

    The clue lies here, where Apple spells out the list of supported formats which includes H.264 at 1280 x 720 and a data rate of 5Mbps, as well as MPEG 4 at up to 3Mbps. If you want to play movies from the iTunes store the quality is limited to VGA (640 x 480).


    Doesn't it seem like there should've been a sentence prior to "The clue lies here". Clue to what?

    As for the AppleTV, through in a DVD drive, the ability to connect additional external drives, add a tuner that supports clear QAM and CableCards as well as ATSC and NTSC OTA (and DVR software), and add support for naitive 1080p and I'm sold.

    Make the DVD drive a burner for saving/archiving shows, or Blu Ray or HD-DVD and I'll pay even more.

  21. Cyberspice

    Apple TV, Mac Mini and X-Box 360

    We have the X-Box 360 set up in media center mode and although its an okay player its a pain in the arse because it has to be on the same bit of network as the server. I.e. it cannot access a server that may be a couple of hops or switches away. I suspect this is because its using multi-cast ethernet packets.

    Rather than an Apple TV we have a Mac Mini plugged in to our Samsung HD TV. We're using a DVI to HDMI cable to connect it. Install all the quicktime codecs for DivX and so on and you have everything the Apple TV does, a DVD player, and something that can play all your other media.

  22. Paul Norman


    A 160 GB drive has a formatted capacity of 149 GB, when using 1024 instead of 1000, so the OS doesn't take up that much.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who listens to music from a TV?

    If you notice, there is a TOSLink connector on the back. The TV is the iPod display interface, and it plays digital out the back. Any receiver with a good DAC plays back the music very nicely.

    You can turn the TV off, once you've selected you playlist. So no annoyances there. If you use lossless compression (on pc) it sounds as good as a CD w/ digital out. Getting 1k+ CDs out of the living room make everyone happy.

    I haven't tried to watch any movies; DVDs work fine for me.

  24. Paul

    Doesn't add up

    can't really see why you would bother with this when you can have a mac mini

  25. Gareth Irwin

    Download iSquint

    Stick practically any format of movie you stole from the web in it and have it automatically insert it into itunes.

    And there's your format issues sorted out.


  26. God of Biscuits

    One hitch

    @Paul: can't really see why you would bother with this when you can have a mac mini

    The trouble here *might* be the mismatch between your HDTV's panel resolution and TV overscan issues. Sure, you can buy a DVI-to-HDMI cable, but that only gets you the connection.

    The direct way around this is to use the TVs VGA/DVI port. One of the most overlooked features in an HDTV--at least here in the States--is that the HDTV's VGA/DVI port (if it even has one!) isn't always the full resolution of the panel itself.

    I consider myself quite versed in all of this and I still missed the fact that my JVC 46" 1080p set's VGA port only drives the monitor at 1024x768. My friends with newer Sharps and Sonys have ports which drive the full 1920x1080.

    So if you know your TVs VGA port can drive the panel at the full 1920x1080, then a mini is 90% better.

    I say 90% because the appleTV is utterly a consumer component. No tinkering needed for anything. No keyboard needed, nothing. The Mac mini, since it's a full computer, has some edge cases where you need to be sure you have a keyboard and mouse around "just in case".

    I've had an appleTV since they first came out in the States. I sync NOTHING to it. I've got a Mac mini in the other room with 2TB of storage attached to it and that STREAMS everything to the appleTV.

    It's brilliant. I just sit down at my TV and all of my media content is right there, accessible with a 6-button remote.

    It makes no noise and it's small and out of the way. I hardly remember it's even there. I use it far more than I use my iPod.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mac mini vs. Apple TV

    I looked at both the Mac mini and Apple TV and went with the ATV because of its far superior graphics processor and HDMI connector. The mini has the Intel GMA 950 while the ATV has the Nvidia GeForce 7300 Go.

    I did wish the ATV had a DVD player though but my Tivo has one so it wasn't a real issue. Ultimately I wish Apple would take the best of the ATV hardware/software and add it to the mini and we would have a true media server.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: "Uh, problem with the article?"

    The "here" is a link to the apple specs site

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Firefox on TV

    I have a very simple approach to watching movies from my pc on my TV - I have a 10 metre vga cable and a dual-head card in my pc. Also have a wireless keyboard and mouse. Then you can have Firefox on TV too.

  30. Dweller

    MythTV and PS3

    I've run a Mythtv Linux box connected via SVIDEO to my TV, Now I've ditched the cables and use a PS3 over WiFi connected to MythTV via UPNP. Its got a high end Freeview (DVB-T) setop box because its great quality. But the PS3 playback quality is the best I've ever seen on a TV and the HDTV upscaling is very nice as well. Only gripe is one or two of the audio streams of the MPEG-2 TS format don't seem to be supported by the PS3 but I expect an firmware update soon.

    I'm not rushing to buy a AppleTV as I don't use iTunes to download and view video but that said its pretty easy to turn the Apple TV into a fully fledges Mac and run iLife as well as a MythFrontend package so I guess I'm tempted but not convinced. I think if iTunes (UK) had a better choice (other than Ugly Betty and South Park) I might be more convinced.

    Still at the same time it will be interesting to see what Sony do which online services so I suspect the only thing I need to replace my aging MythTV service is PlayTV and a large disk for the PS3.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freecom SD & HD networked Media Players

    I have a Freecom MG35 (HD version also available) with a 320Gb drive installed.

    Movies can be dropped on to the hard drive either across my wired network using NDAS or via USB cable. Content can also be streamed across the network from any PC (no synching needed).

    Plays every video format I have thrown at it (MPEG, DivX, Xvid, DVD VOB, MP4 ...) Won't do WMV, but that's hardly a problem for me.

    No noisy cooling fans inside... just the faint almost inaudible noise from the spinning drive.

    The whole set up cost me about £140 12 months ago .... could probably get the same for £110 today.


  32. Chris Miles

    Apple TV Hacking

    Apple TV hacking is coming on very nicely.

    At the moment I have SSH access into the box, and a full read-write filesystem to copy whatever I want on, and make any changes I need.

    There are already codecs available to allow playback of XVid, DivX and various other video formats.

    Support to allow mounting of external drives through the "non functional" usb port have already been written, and support to allow mounting of network shares.

    At the moment I have my NAS box (samba) sitting with different types of videos, although mostly my favourite flavour XVid, which I watch through the NitoTV or ATVFiles plugins.

  33. vincent himpe
    Jobs Horns

    call me when they can deal with 1080p...

    All the rest is just mediocre intermediate format.

    when they have a machine that can play back a true 1080p stream then it gets interesting...

  34. Steve Button Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    Or you could just use an xbox 1

    No, not an xbox 360. Get an original xbox (£25 from Game with warantee) and stick xbmc on it.

    Sorted. And it does MORE than Apple TV (Divx, etc.)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Stuttering D-Link? Not here!

    I've got a D-link DSM-520 which plugs into my Panasonic LCD (only 26" I'm afraid). My home router/access point is a G624M, into which is also plugged a G600 ethernet/wireless hard-drive enclosure (also has access point, but I've disabled this). The latter hardware sits in the backroom, at the other end of the hallway, so only two doors & twenty-odd feet of air between the router and the media player. I get 99% flawless playback, the only failing usually being media storage, which clears on a reboot. This rarely happens.

    Ripped of (via bittorrent) US shows play back perfectly, whether in XVID or DiVx, and there is rarely any sync problem. HD encodings play back at 720p, looking excellent on the 26" Pana.

    As an added bonus, I can use my laptop as a server (any pc will suffice) and playback bot channel 4 and the BBC's downloadable programmes (in wmv format). Two shortcomings there; quality is poor, and there are no discernable titles for the files, meaning that playplack can be a potluck affair.

    Gosh, what would I give for Apple TV with no DiVx, XVid etc!?!

    Non-starter IMHO.


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