Rent and stream the latest TV shows and movies over the internet
Despite its name, the AppleTV isn't actually a TV set, but a small set-top box. Once connected to your TV using a HDMI cable and to your broadband router either wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable, it lets you rent a wide variety of TV shows and movies. It also enables you to watch media stored on computers as long as they are connected to the same router.
The onscreen interface consists of a grid of iPhone-style icons that lead to individual hierarchical menus for content such as Movies, TV Shows, Music and Photos as well as media services such as YouTube and Flickr. It can look cluttered at first, but it's easy to navigate and use. The sturdy, minimalist metal remote control works well, but you can use an iOS device as a remote using the free Remote app instead if you prefer.
The AppleTV's rented video content comes from Apple's iTunes Store. A wide variety is available from Hollywood movies to BBC and Channel 4 favourites at prices starting from £1.99 for high definition (HD) versions and 99p for non-HD versions. Most TV shows are available shortly after broadcast, while most movies are available a few weeks after DVD release.
Purchasing is simple and you have 30 days to start watching your video – once you start, you usually have to finish watching the video in the next two days before it will stop working. Even more content is available from the Netflix service, which lets you watch as much as you want for £6 a month. Even so there are some noticeable omissions, such as any shows exclusive to Sky, for example.
Oddly, you can only buy videos outright using iTunes on a computer. Even stranger, videos rented on a computer can be watched there, on the AppleTV or on an iOS device but videos rented on the AppleTV can only be watched there. On a 6Mbit/s home broadband connection, a 1080p HD movie looked just as good as a Freeview HD broadcast but not as good as a Blu-ray version – bear in mind streaming, HD video requires a fast broadband connection. Oddly, video often looked juddery which was fixed by altering a setting in the AppleTV's menus, which we only found by trial and error.
Streaming video, photos and music from a computer to the AppleTV worked well although you will need to be using the iTunes program. This also means the AppleTV won't play certain common video files, such as Divx, without converting them first. If you have an iOS device such as an iPad, media stored there can be streamed to the AppleTV. Some apps even work with AppleTV, so music in Spotify or programmes in BBC iPlayer can be enjoyed on a TV via AppleTV.
Read more reviews
The AppleTV is easy to use and has some great features, but some odd content limitations and dependency on other Apple products won't suit everyone
Easy to use; works neatly with other Apple products; broad selection of content
Video quality issues; odd rental limitations; limited format support
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