Thursday, January 11, 2007

Apple TV Announced

Apple's latest gadgets have just been announced at MacWorld Expo 2007 and, while the iPhone is an extraordinary piece of technology, there's no news of when it'll be venturing outside of the USA, if ever. Mind you, now we know what Apple used all those touch-screen LCD panels it bought last year for. Most of us thought we would see a touch-screen iPod in order to fit in a larger, wider screen so we weren't too far away and I expect the next iPod version will sport the same screen and interface.

That leaves us with the Apple TV, a media streaming device intended to facilitate streaming music, images, podcasts and videos from your Mac or PC to the large screen TV and audio system in your living room.

Apple TV
Okay, this is nothing new as there are several other similar boxes on the market already (see below) so how does Apple expect to win in an existing market? Well, with over five million iPods out there and with the vast majority of their owners using iTunes to manage them, I expect that Apple reckons that their box, which can sync and stream directly from an iTunes library, will prove very tempting to those iTunes users.

For just under £200 you'll get another little box and remote control to add to your living room media/entertainment array. Connect it up to your widescreen TV or AV kit and you can then sync or stream content from your iTunes library over your 10/100 Base-T wired or 802.11b/g/n wireless network and you can sync up to five computers to it. It has a 40GB hard drive for holding content locally and they say that translates to about 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs or 25,000 images.

Audio formats supported: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV. Video formats supported are H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store), .m4v, .mp4, .mov and MPEG-4. Image formats supported are JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and PNG.

The downside is that you'll need a reasonably new TV, one that supports HDMI or component video. If anyone knows of an HDMI or component audio/video to SCART converter (at a reasonable price) I'd be keen to know.

My thoughts: a 40GB drive is pretty small these days and I think it'll outgrow that very quickly, especially if users take advantage of its ability to sync with multiple systems. It might be worth waiting for that 80 or 160GB upgrade!

Here's a few alternatives worth looking at…

DLO HomeDock

DLO HomedockIf you already have an iPod and don't want to splash out on a High Definition TV, then it might be worth looking at the DLO HomeDock, which basically allows you to connect your iPod to your TV or sound system through a standard, three-cable AV connector or via S-Video.

The deluxe model, at around £130, also allows you to display the iPod library content on the TV screen, allowing you to navigate, select and play your songs or videos using the included 18-button remote control and it'll even charge your iPod as well.

…and there are a few more network digital media streaming devices worth considering out there…
You've probably noticed the lack of Macintosh support in these alternative options so if you're a Mac user and want to stream Internet content, then the Apple TV may be your best choice.

NB: The Freecom box above can connect to a Mac but it can only stream content from a Windows PC or direct attached media. It's also not wireless compatible.

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