Touch it, Bring it

The Apple TV is a low profile device, measuring 7" on each side and only 1.1" high. It's not going to do a good job blending with other home theater components as it is distinctly Apple; it looks a lot like a thinner, flattened Mac mini.

In traditional Apple style the device's form is very simple, there's not so much as a power button on the unit. On the front you've got an IR receiver for the remote and a single power/activity LED. When the system is booting the LED blinks amber, when ready for use it's solid white, and each time it receives a command from the remote it blinks.

The sides of the unit are bare and in the back you've got a row of ports. Given the target market for the unit, Apple went with strictly modern video outputs. The Apple TV only works via HDMI, component or DVI outputs (the latter through an HDMI to DVI converter). Apple doesn't provide you with any cables other than the power cord, so your choice of output will be met with an additional expense to buy the cable.

Complementing the HDMI and component video outputs are two audio outputs: stereo RCA and optical. Of course if you run HDMI to your display you don't need another cable for audio.

What powers the Apple TV? If you read Part 1 of our coverage we discovered that the unit is powered by an Intel Pentium M based on the Dothan core. The ultra low voltage (ULV) Pentium M runs at 1GHz with a 400MHz FSB and features a 2MB L2 cache. Apple chose Intel's 945G chipset but the graphics output is driven by an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300. The Apple TV currently ships with 256MB of DDR2 system memory and 64MB of GDDR3 for the NVIDIA GPU.

The unit ships with a 40GB 2.5" PATA drive, and our Apple TV happened to use a 4200RPM Fujitsu drive. Upgrading the hard drive appears trivial; a simple swap should suffice, though of course you'll have to copy the contents of the disk over first. The Apple TV's integrated 802.11n wireless is driven by a Broadcom mini-PCI card inside the device; Realtek powers the built in 10/100 Ethernet.

A quick rundown of the specifications paints Apple TV as a notebook without a screen, and a fairly powerful one at that, given the target market. For a box that is only going to be playing relatively light content, Apple made sure it was more than powerful enough.

Index Unboxed and Setup
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  • shermanikk - Monday, July 30, 2007 - link

    You were having trouble with the Front Row remote controlling the MBP in this review, this will actually happen to all Front Row devices visible unless you pair them. It's pretty simple, take a Front Row device (such as the macbook pro) and hold the remote right in front of the IR sensor and holding the "Menu" and "Next" buttons for about five seconds. After that a little chain link icon should show up on the Macbook Pro and now only that remote will control that Macbook Pro. Very handy.
  • vision21 - Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - link

    I have read about Galaxy IPTV DMG 3500 - Digital Media Gateway that is available now for $180. Here is a link:">
    Anand should review this product as well as next version of XBox 360 with HDMI to give us some options compared to Apple TV.
  • heulenwolf - Sunday, April 1, 2007 - link

    Wow, its amazing how much whining was generated in response to this article. I'm glad Apple made this device because I think it solves problems I have:
    My computer is up in my loft, my HDTV is down in my living room, using my PC as a media center sucks, and I want to see and hear my content on the way-too-damned-expensive 720p display I bought.
    So it doesn't play DVDs. DVD players are throw-away devices costing ~$30 now. What real value would be added by including that function in a $300 device?
    So it doesn't output 1080x. Apple doesn't provide 1080x content. They provide 640x480 which scales fairly nicely up to 720p. If you bought a 1080x display, chances are it has its own, high-quality scaler so why should Apple bother?

    Sure it would be nice if it had a few more features but its got the important basics and costs no more than an iPod. Given than it runs some version of OSX, I wouldn't be surprised to see development continue and more features added in the near future. Its a consumer electronics device so its not supposed to support the diy, modding, or pirated content communities. Its supposed to play Apple's content and "just work." According to the review, it does.

    I agree with the article's assessment that the iPod's popularity stemmed from its support for the standard mp3 format. The lack of a comparable, unifying video standard hurts the AppleTV's chances. The video codec alphabet soup is maddening to average users. I hope that the market organizes itself better and that Apple supports whatever standard comes about in future updates.
  • JAS - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    I've seen the Apple TV in person and liked several things about it -- but the modest video bitrates and lack of wider codec support are enough to turn me away. Perhaps some of the negatives will be addressed by Apple firmware updates. I expect version 2.0 of this product to be a whole lot better.
  • Sunrise089 - Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - link

    Nice taste on including the Top Gear shots towards the end of the article. I am curious however, since you aren't in the UK, did you catch the rare (at least in my market) TV rerun of the episode, or do you know of a place to view them online? Youtube doesn't really seem to be able to keep them up for very long at all, which makes it difficult getting friends into the show.
  • ninjit - Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - link

    I noticed the top gear clip too - I'm originally from the UK, and it's one of my favourite shows.

    It was shown on BBC world and then discovery channel for a while, but in a highly edited form, each episode was about 25mins as opposed to the actual 55mins in the UK.

    Bittorent is the best place to find episodes of Top Gear (if it is not broadcast where ever you may live)
  • PokerGuy - Monday, March 26, 2007 - link

    Anand did a nice job providing an in-depth review of Apple TV and it's functionality, but I think I can provide a one-word review that captures it equally well: "Garbage".

    This is quite simply an overpriced useless piece of junk that will not appeal to anyone but the hard core apple fanatic and the ill-informed who ask the Best Buy salesperson what they should get. Bottom line, it doesn't do much of anything, offers very little value, has all sorts of restrictions and limitations.

    My one question: why the sugarcoating Anand? It's clear from the review that you know this thing is a pile of dog crap. Why sugarcoat it?
  • Imazalil - Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - link

    that's because it isn't, to some people. In my opinion the apple tv is meant to be a nieche (sp?) product. There are people out there that do actually buy tv shows on itunes and don't pirate / rip them. These people need an easy way to view their bought shows on their tv's which usually aren't near their computer. Despite of all the hype that the media put on this thing it is not the next ipod or imac, this just lets you view your tv shows on your tv. It's not a tivo, it's not a xbox (360) or anything else.

    If you have an xbox, tivo, your own homebuilt media center, hell even an mini mac connected to your tv, this is obviously not for you. Does it cost too much, in my opinion yeah, but then i'm a cheap bastard who downloads his tv shows from, ahem, other sources.

    Ignore the media hipe, all apple promised was to get your iProgram files (tunes, photos, tv shows etc) easily onto your tv, they have done this in spades. Yes it costs more the a lot of people are willing to spend, but then if you are paying for tv shows in itunes you have a bit of cash to spare right?
  • ninjit - Monday, March 26, 2007 - link

    It just occured to me that for $200 more you get a mac mini, with a faster processor, more hard drive space, more memory, gigabit ethernet port

    And it still has all the features of the Apple TV - apple remote to use with Front row, built-in wifi (and bluetooth, which the Apple TV doesn't have).

    And you can get quicktime plugins to let you play ALL media (divx, xvid, avi, etc.)

    Hook up the mini to your HDTV through the DVI port, and voila your set (it'll operate just like the Apple TV because of front row)

    The apple TV really isn't a good deal at all. It should be priced under $100 to be worth it
  • ninjit - Monday, March 26, 2007 - link

    I forgot to mention that it has a DVD drive for playing movies directly as well

    Seriously anyone who buys this over the mini is very very misinformed.

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