Honestly, never crossed my mind to have Apple TV before. I even didn’t know what Apple TV can do.
Until I found out that iTunes is now available for Indonesian customers to buy contents. I was busy shopping for legal Indonesian songs when I found out that one of iTunes contents available to buy are HD movies. And not only buy, they are also available for rent!
Yes, rent. Now this is a new, compelling proposition for me.
As a blockbuster movie lover that rarely watch movie more than once (except it has “Star Wars” in its title), renting a movie through iTunes is a good solution. I’m not a movie collector anyway (again, except it has “Star Wars” in its title.)
For a cost of IDR 29,000 per rental, it’s a no brainer for me. Going to cinema will cost you a lot more, if you include the transportation and snacks. Buying pirated DVD or BlueRay also don’t suit me: leave me with pile of junks that I won’t watch again, plus the inconsistent picture and sound quality that drive me mad.
So I looked for available solutions to watch the rented iTunes movie contents from my iMac to my HDTV. I’m thinking of buying extended HDMI cable to connect the two, or using PS3 to as media device to stream the movies from iMac. And none of them give me satisfactory solution which is elegant and complete.
Then I remembered about Apple TV, and found out this is the device that I actually needed! Priced at IDR 1.4 million, I know it’s not cheap, but it’s not outrageously expensive either. So, last weekend I bought one.
Ok, so here is the review — the first impression on this device. Please bear with me, I only have this device for 2 days, and only managed to watch movie once. So don’t expect in-depth review in this article. But if you’re new to this device and would like to know what this little thing can do, you’ll find useful information by reading this review (I hope).
The Box Packaging and The Device
Apple is famously known for its elegant and minimalist packaging. It is no different with the Apple TV packaging. Its a small, neat cube design, but effectively house what you’ll get from the package:
- Apple TV device
- Remote control
- Power cable
- Small user guide books
- Usual Apple stickers
Please note that HDMI cable is not included, hence you need to buy a cable on your own, as it requires one to work.
The device itself is very small, much smaller than I expected. I thought it’s going to be as big as my AC Ryan HD Player, it turns out to be only a quarter of that. Here I take picture with my Blackberry as comparison to its size.
Setting it Up
Setting it up, as in any other Apple’s device, is a breeze. On the back of Apple TV, there are only four cable slots:
- Optical Audio
- Wired Network
You won’t be mistaken which cable should be plugged into which slots, as they are all difference in shapes and forms. For No. 1 and No. 2, you must plug the cable to make the device works. But for No. 3 and 4 are optional. If you don’t connect your Apple TV to your Home Theater system, the sound will be channeled through HDMI connection, but that means you lose the potential of full digital sound (DTS) of your HD contents.
If you don’t connect the wired network cable, then Apple TV will search for wireless connection through Wi-Fi. Don’t have internet connection? Forget it, Apple TV won’t work (more about this internet connection later).
So, once you put all cables on their slots, you just turn on your TV and watch the device initializes. You don’t need to turn on the Apple TV (it doesn’t have power switch anyway), so it’s an always-on device, much like your Wi-Fi router.
After Apple TV successfully find internet connection, it will prompt and ask for your Apple ID. Then Apple TV will sync the media contents so you can stream all of the media contents you purchased or installed on your iTunes to Apple TV. If you have these contents sync through iCloud, Apple TV will automatically stream the contents from the cloud. If you have this on your iMac or Macbook, you need to “Turn on” the “Home Sharing” function on your iMac/Macbook, and turn on your computers so it can stream its contents to Apple TV.
So what are the functions of Apple TV? Its primary function is as device to play the multimedia contents purchased or rented through iTunes. So if you have invested contents on iTunes, you’ll find a lot of use with this Apple TV. You can stream your movies, music or pictures, and play it over your TV or through your home theater system for better audio. Please not that this device does not have hard disk, so it can’t store your multimedia contents. All of your contents will be “streamed” through this device.
Which poses to one issue: you need a FAST internet connection.
Especially if you plan to stream Full HD movies. My first experience with Apple TV was when I rented Pixar movie “Brave”. Applying the highest possible setting (1080p), I waited for 17 minutes for Apple TV to download the movie to the buffer memory before I could watch the movie (just like waiting for video to stream in YouTube – look picture). And when it is still downloading, don’t ever try to press the “Menu” button to go back to previous Menu, as it will restart the buffering process all over again! (exactly, just like pressing the “Back” button on your browser when you’re watching YouTube). My internet plan is up to 2Mbps (using FastNet Express), and it’s considered as relatively stable broadband service in Indonesia. I can imagine the time to wait can be much longer if you use cellular broadband internet plan, as its network speed tends to fluctuate.
However, after it’s ready to play, the experience was smooth. The glory of 1080p picture and DTS sound were delivered to my living room perfectly, just as I expected.
Beside this function, I can foresee in the future Apple TV will have a lot of contents. For time being, there are only couple of widgets, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Podcast, and few third-party content channels such as MLB.com (sports) and WSJ. com (news). It is basically on demand featured video and news streamed to living room. MLB.com, for example, delivers game highlights, scores and stats of American baseball. You have to pay for monthly subscription to watch premium matches and highlights, though. But I can imagine, I will be more than happy to sign up for such services if it’s Barclays Premier League, or UEFA Champions League instead of baseball.
Rumors circulating in internet tell that there will be Apps Store in horizon for this Apple TV. I hope the rumors are true, so the prospect of Smart TV in my living room will be brighter than ever.
As for today’s Apple TV contents, I found out that for Indonesia is still quite limited, especially when I compared this with iTunes USA store contents. You can find easily hundreds or thousands of movies in various genre there. Whereas in Indonesia, for example, when you browse for “Romantic” movie genre (disclaimer: under my spouse request), you can only find less than 10 movies.
Nevertheless, in conclusion the prospect of Apple TV is very bright. It may not necessarily provide much value right now due to the limited apps and contents for Indonesia, but I’m sure more contents and apps will be available in near future. And along with more customers buying this contents, I’m sure the price for purchasing or renting contents will be lower and lower. And when this time comes, you mayfind (or at least crave for one) Apple TV in your living room.
As for now, for Indonesian customers, the first key consideration before you buy Apple TV is to make sure you have internet connection which is stable and fast enough to stream HD multimedia contents. When you do, Apple TV is a recommended device in your living room.