Apple TV review (2012) – The Verge
3 mins read

Apple TV review (2012) – The Verge

Finding things to watch

For some reason, you weren’t previously able to buy a movie through iTunes and watch it on your Apple TV. You just couldn’t. Fortunately, movies and TV shows are included in the Apple TV’s iTunes in the Cloud feature, so along with your purchased music, you can now watch movies you’ve paid for in addition to those you rent from the device or your computer. Unfortunately, there are some licensing hang-ups with the new addition — HBO has an exclusive window for some of its content, for instance, and its partners aren’t allowing Apple TV users to re-watch their movies during that time. Apparently they’re working it out.

These ongoing negotiations with content partners represent the most troubling thing about the Apple TV. Netflix is great, but there are plenty of other ways to watch TV shows and movies, and Apple TV supports none of them — Hulu is perhaps the most conspicuously absent. For now, you’re stuck with Netflix or buying and renting through iTunes, an expensive proposition that’s still going to leave you without some of the shows and movies you might want to watch. To its credit, Apple seems to be aggressively pursuing deals for more content, but given how long the stalemate between cable companies and tech companies has gone on, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You can stream your own content from other devices, of course, but there are plenty of limits there too. The Apple TV supports M4V, MP4, and MOV video files, plus AVI under very particular parameters. Fortunately, video files from every source are shifting away from the once-dominant AVI and toward the Apple-friendly format, but if you have a huge library of downloaded movies you still might be out of luck.

Apple wants to make the content that is available easier to access, so it’s made a deal with Netflix that allows you to sign up for either service using your iTunes account. It saves the hassle of entering your username and password — as I mentioned, that’s no small improvement — and makes it terrifyingly easy to spend eight bucks a month to stream more movies. This is clearly Apple’s vision of the future: Apple TV apps are the channels, and your iTunes account is your cable bill. It’s not a bad system, I just wish there were more such channels.

Until the content falls into place, AirPlay remains Apple’s real trump card, the one feature the Apple TV offers that no competing device can equal. There’s no real change in the AirPlay experience with the new box, though I’d hoped for a slight improvement thanks to the new processor — there’s still some noticeable lag, which can make complex and fast-moving games unplayable at points if you’re mirroring them to your TV. But pushing YouTube videos or pictures to your TV, or just using it as a giant monitor while you hold your iPhone or iPad in your hand, is pretty awesome. If nothing else, it’s a stellar $99 wireless receiver for audio, letting you stream music from the palm of your hand through your home theater stereo with only the smallest lag between songs.