Monday, March 26, 2012

Is the Apple TV the Perfect Companion for the Tivo?

Let me start by saying I love my Tivo. The new Premiere works wonderfully and is a significant OS upgrade to previous systems. The image quality pass-through is phenomenal. The ease of use and intuitive design are both second to none (is it possible for two things to both be second to none?). And that's before the addition of Hulu+ streaming and Amazon downloads.

That said, there are a few things it doesn't do or doesn't do well. It works as a podcatcher but not as well as do other platforms. The ubiquitous iTunes seems to be the standard and one with which I'm familiar enough that I always seem to fall back to. However, getting my iTunes podcasts onto the big screen (my 52" Sony Bravia) has not been easy. The Tivo is absolutely no help here. But of course, it is easy with the Apple TV. Really easy!

Veronica Belmont of Tekzilla fame initiated an open-sourced spreadsheet comparing all of the capabilities of the various desktop boxes available. There are a lot of good options but there isn't one box that rules them all. So the user is left to choose the option that does what they want to do.

And as hinted earlier, what I want to do is get my iTunes content onto the big screen and there isn't a better option than the Apple TV to achieve that functionality (well except perhaps hanging a Mac Mini on the back of the big screen but the cost there is significantly higher). The new $99 Apple TV me this capability in video quality of up to 1080p which is up from the 720p image quality of the second generation box.

There are other functions that the Apple TV provides such as Netflix (what doesn't give you Netflix? Soon, toasters will give you Netflix), movies and TV rentals (through iTunes) and a very few apps (Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, WSJ Live). More apps would be nice. But really it's the ability to stream my iTunes content to my big screen in decent quality that sold me on the box.

One thing I don't like is that the remote has functionality that also manipulates both my MacBook Pro and my son's MacBook. To the extent that my son just bought 8 songs on iTunes accidentally (I know it was accidentally as he would never buy the country music tracks that were included in the mix). Would it be so difficult to make the remote function differently? Not good.

So how could this be made better? Well, I think a lot of the short-comings will be addressed when aTV is ported to the new third generation Apple TV. That would give me the ability to run more apps, a browser, etc. A better remote would also be a bonus. The iTunes ordering cross-talk aside, the single button to input for search and iTunes is frustrating at best.

But overall it's a good box. Very good at $99.

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