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Top 10 Reasons Not to Buy an Apple TV at This Time

By  Oct 8, 2010

Topics: Gadgets & Computer Hardware

Apple started shipping its second-generation Apple TV last week. I’ve had mine up and running for several days, and although I’m pretty happy with all it can do, I can see several limitations that may make some users unhappy. I warn you about the top ten in this post.

Although the title of this post sounds a bit negative towards the new Apple TV device, I really am fairly happy with mine so far. However, as I set it up and started using it, I couldn't help but notice that some people may not yet be ready for this -- or may want to wait and see. Also, Google TV was recently announced, and if you're not entirely convinced with the Apple TV, compare the Google + Logitech product. Here's my checklist of reasons you may not want to jump into the early-adopter pool:

  1. You're not a Netflix subscriber or never intend to be one. Apple TV has a very good interface to the popular Netflix streaming service as well as the ability to browse your queue, search, and add content. Netflix has one of the larger online selections of older movies (not so good at current releases), and being able to watch this on your TV and not a computer is really great.
  2. Don't have a large library of digital movies. Apple TV allows you to access your iTunes library and play music and movies through your home network and onto your TV.
  3. Your library of movies is not in iTunes-compatible formats (M4V, MP4, or MOV).  Apple TV uses iTunes' Home Sharing feature, and as such, will only play content in your iTunes library. So if you have movies in AVI, DivX, or WMV formats, you will have to convert these to an iTunes-compatible format. This is time-consuming and will double your disc space use if you chose to keep both formats.
  4. Want to rent newly-released movies. When announced, Apple promised to have movies available through Apple TV on the same day they were released on DVD. In actuality, that doesn't seem to be the case. For example, Iron Man 2 is currently available on DVD but not via Apple TV. Apple will still be at the mercy of the studios on rental releases. Also, if you think you’ll need more than 24 hours to get through a movie rental, better not rent through Apple TV. You only have 24 hours for movies and 48 hours for TV shows. However, both timers start only once you begin viewing. Since this is content-driven, Apple has the chance to improve its offerings -- so maybe later they can improve on their early promise of day-and-date releases.
  5. Don't have an iPhone or iPad. With an iPhone or iPad you can use the Remote app to control your Apple TV. That's big, because the Apple TV remote that is included is elegantly simple, but hard to use especially for entering text. With an iPhone and the Remote app it's a lot easier to control, and you can make use of the QWERTY keyboard on the device. Plus, it taps your inner geek to control your TV with your phone.
  6. Want to rent TV shows on networks other than ABC, Disney, Fox, and the BBC. Right now, Apple only has partnerships with these networks. Hopefully Apple can pull in more networks later.
  7. Want to watch HD movies in 1080i or 1080p format. Apple TV currently only supports HD video in 720p resolution. Although I find the resolution acceptable with a good balance of video display and streaming efficiency, those who now expect 1080 HD resolution will have to wait.
  8. Want to stream video from your iPhone or iPad. iTunes 10.0.1 now supports AirPlay, which allows you to stream audio and video from your iPhone or iPad to your Apple TV. However, until iOS 4.2 is released sometime later this year, only audio streaming is supported.
  9. Don't have a MobileMe account. Apple TV allows you to access your MobileMe account to play videos and show photo slideshows you have stored on your MobileMe account. If you don't have one or don't want to plop down the $99/year for an account, this feature won't do you much good.
  10. Don’t have an HDMI connection to your TV. The only audio/video connection available on the Apple TV is an HDMI connection. If your TV does not have an HDMI input connector, then it won't work. For me, I'm out of HDMI input connections on my A/V receiver, so I'm in a similar situation to figure out how to connect without buying a new receiver. There are HDMI to Component Video + Stereo Audio cables available, but be careful as some only provide 480p video resolution. That said, most HD TVs sold over the last several years all come with HDMI input, so it shouldn't be a problem.