March 15, 2012
Lost in all the hype surrounding the third-generation iPad release is the little box that could known as Apple TV.
I have a ton of content in iTunes, and so this device was always on my radar since it first came out a few years ago. But the first iteration was a clunky grey box with a hard drive and, to quote Weird Al Yankovic, "What kind of chip you got in there? A Dorito?"
It took a while, but Apple finally released an updated piece of hardware. Out went the hard disk drive, therefore reducing the size of the box. It also did away with the component video cables and left you just with HDMI and a digital optical output. Amazingly it still has an ethernet port. But once this 2.0 product came out and went from $299 to $99, it got a lot better.
The first edition had all sorts of issues that you wouldn't expect from an Apple device. It ran very hot, and even worse the operating system would lock up a lot. I took my dad's first-generation Apple TV once he got the second version. I haven't heard of any problems from him, and I had to buy a wireless remote to control the power supply because it needs to be reset so much.
Enter last week and the big Apple press event. I had been waiting on a new model to come out because I was worried that the tiny Apple TV box would be discontinued when a long-rumored actual Apple television set is released later this year. I bought a 46" 1080p Samsung LED TV last year, and my bedroom TV is a 32" 720p TV that is hardly shabby and only a couple of years older. I don't need a new TV. I just need a way to connect my TVs to my iTunes library.
So I bought one. And yeah, it was good.
The speed difference between the first-generation and this one is just amazing. The operating system, which has started to look more and more like iOS from the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, keeps on getting better. Rows of icons greet you with third-party options such as Netflix, YouTube, MLB.TV and Flickr.
But the coolest thing is mirroring through AirPlay.
Through the pressing of a couple of buttons, I had my iPad 2 wirelessly mirrored on my television. If I wanted to read a Kindle book, I could do so on my TV. I played a quick round of Angry Birds on my TV. I put the latest issue of Astronomy magazine on my TV.
Apparently this can also be done with a Mac, because my iTunes window on my iMac has the AirPlay icon at the bottom right of the screen. This is probably much more useful if you own a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, but I can see some awesome possibilities in the workplace. Get an HDTV set up, buy a $99 Apple TV, then use Apple's Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint to put your presentations on a screen. It's much easier than dealing with any projector I have ever used.
This is obviously in the realm of "nice to have, but don't NEED it." But it's still a nice little device to have. If Apple does release a full television set this year, it has set the bar high for what to expect from it. I won't get one without winning big in the lottery -- should I play 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42? -- but I'm already impressed again.
Michael Buckelew is a part of the digital team for SCNI, parent company of the Gwinnett Daily Post.