Apple TV 1080p Review

Vincent Nguyen - Mar 15, 2012
20
Apple TV 1080p Review

Apple TV was Apple’s “one more thing” at the new iPad launch event last week, but that’s not to say the smart TV adapter isn’t maturing into a comprehensive product in its own right. Now bringing Full HD to the table, as well as a streamlined interface, the third-generation Apple TV is arguably the best companion to the new iPad so far. Does it stand tall on its own, though? Read on for the full SlashGear review.

Hardware

Outwardly, the new Apple TV is identical to its predecessor: a compact black box that fits in the palm of your hand. Ports consist of HDMI, optical audio output, a 10/100 ethernet port and microUSB (the latter for service and support purposes, not customer use), while inside there’s WiFi a/b/g/n and a power supply that avoids an ugly wall-wart. Apple also includes an Apple Remote, a tactile little thing with basic navigation controls.

Inside, though, there have been some changes. Apple has replaced the A4 processor of the previous-gen model with a custom, single-core version of its A5, a change which is enough to add 1080p Full HD support to the Apple TV’s list of abilities.

1080p

Until now, Apple has offered 720p HD content as the highest resolution to purchase or rent. Coinciding with the new Apple TV is 1080p content, however, along with the option to choose it or 720p versions when you start watching. Existing purchases in your iTunes in the Cloud account – also upgraded to support movies – can be switched to 1080p versions once they’re available in that resolution.

Home-grown content and that from third-party services also gets 1080p support. Netflix and Vimeo lead the charge for external providers, with Full HD content in the catalog of each now supported on the Apple TV, while your own 1080p videos – whether filmed on an iPhone 4S, new iPad or something else – can also be streamed, either from the mobile device or from a PC or Mac on your network.

User Interface

Apple has flattened the Apple TV interface out, stripping away the old UI’s sub-menus and replacing them with an almost iPad-style grid of oversized icons accompanied by thumbnail movie previews. There’s less digging and less navigating to get between sections – a press or two on the Menu button has you back to the homescreen.

The core iTunes options – Movies, TV Shows and Music – live alongside third-party services like Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube and Flickr. Apple has also introduced the ability to sign up to services directly from the Apple TV, including billing the monthly subscription to your iTunes account. Netflix will be the first to support that functionality, but other services are likely to follow.

Thing is, you don’t need a new Apple TV in order to get the new UI. Owners of the previous model can upgrade their box and have the same streamlined interface. Still missing is App Store support, however, with Apple continuing to hold off from adding access to the ecosystem of third-party apps.

AirPlay

Apple’s screen-sharing system has ease-of-use in its favor, and casting what’s displayed on your iPhone or iPad to the new Apple TV is a matter of hitting the output button. Streaming picks up almost immediately, and over our WiFi 802.11n network we noticed no hiccups or stuttering at Full HD resolution.

It’s not just video, though; you can also use AirPlay for photos and apps, along with more sensible applications like Pages, Keynote and Numbers. If you’ve got a new iPad, GarageBand and iMovie both look incredible on an HDTV.

AirPlay Mirroring is supported at up to 720p resolution, though AirPlay video streaming is supported at up to 1080p from the new iPad. Second-gen Apple TV boxes running the new software can only handle 720p from the new iPad, though.

Wrap-up

We have to be blunt when it comes to the third-gen Apple TV: if you already have the second-generation model, you probably don’t need this new one. Apple releasing the new UI and other software tweaks as a free upgrade means the only real difference is the support for 1080p HD content.

If, though, you don’t already have an Apple TV, then there’s a bigger motivation to buy this new model. The combination of an easier interface and Full HD support means it’s easier than ever to access your content on the network, on your mobile iOS devices, and streaming from iTunes in the Cloud, and if you have a new iPad then the 1080p support makes them ideal companions. Apple TV may still be the company’s hobby, but at $99 it’s a great accessory to the third-gen tablet and a solid home entertainment platform in its own right.



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20 Responses to Apple TV 1080p Review

  1. What bothers me about the new apple tv is no access to the music store. I use to browse and purchase music that way and Apple strangly removed it. Thankfully spotify works with Airplay! Shh.. Don’t tell Apple.

    • Yeah people were touting this as not needing a PC or iTunes to get this to work, but it kinda sounds like you need a PC or an iPhone to purchase music. iCloud eliminates the need to stream off a PC or server.

    • The ATV 2 didn’t have the ability to purchase music, unless you’re referring to the 1st gen. If you have an IOS device you can purchase music there, and with iTunes Match the song(s) will appear on ATV via iCloud.

  2. Strange that this would be billed as a hobby device, when the only way to treat it like a hobby device is to jailbreak it to install Plex or XBMC.

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for this first feedback.
    Did you notice any improvement on Airplay mirroring for Games, like Asphalt6 or MetalStorm:Wingman  ?
    With Apple TV 2 (2010), I experience lags, despite having the Apple TV connected in Ethernet to my WiFi N Router that is close to the TV (and the iPad2 – so max WiFi bandwidth). I was wondering if this was relative to the processor of the Apple TV 2 that is less powerfull than the one of the iPad 2.
    So any noticeable improvements ?
    Thanks for your feedbacks

  4. Anyone know if Airplay works with the iPhone 4s? 
    Also, for YouTube, up to what resolution do YouTube videos play up to on the Apple TV?

    • AppleTV 2nd Gen did YouTube at 720, the limit of the device. I have purchased the new model yet so I don’t know about that one.

  5. It’s extremely disappointing that with both new pieces of hardware, AirPlay Video Mirroring (and Dual Screen support for iOS apps) is STILL limited to 1280×720 pixels.

    • Based on the fact that when the MacBook Air was released, the portable DVD drive, you could not play DVD movies due to DRM.  So even if you could mount the DVD in your MacBook, it probably wont play commercial DVDs.

      Ripped DVD movies will probably work fine.

  6.  Though
    the new 1080p Apple TV 3 and the iTunes 10.6 enables to play 1080p video, it
    only support 1080p in h.264 format.

    Apple TV still cannot import, stream and play 1080p HD video which is in MKV,
    AVI, WTV, WMV, FLV, WebM, AVCHD, MPG, DivX, MXF, and VOB etc format.

    Just google search Step by Step Guide on How to Convert 1080p MKV, AVI, Xvid, Divx, MP4, FLV, WMV, and MPEG to Apple TV/Apple TV 2/Apple TV 3

    you will find a a
    step by step guide on how to convert 1080p video in MKV, AVI, Xvid, Divx, MP4,
    FLV, WMV, WTV, WebM, AVCHD, MXF, MVI, VOB, F4V, BIK, RMVB and MPEG to the 3rd

    generation Apple TV supported 1080p H.264 format or the 1st & 2nd
    generation Apple TV supported MPEG-4 format

  7. one extra useless device to add to your collection of apple junk. WHEN WILL IT STOP?!?

  8. one extra useless device to add to your collection of apple junk. WHEN WILL IT STOP?!?

  9. This VINCENT NGUYEN is a flat-out PAID publicist for APPLE. He just gave bias, weak and baseless judgements on the phenominal Galaxy Note while everybody including former iPhone users are in love with it. And from what I read, he heaps praises on just about every apple product he touches. So much for credibility. I AM NOW OFFICIALLY TURNED OFF FROM READING SLASHGEAR REVIEWS! PRAISE RELEASES FOR APPLE ALL THE WAY!

  10. Is that a remote? I wonder why they didnt say anything bad about that remote design. Less button but the size of the remote is over exaggerating. That remote looks like a toy, and even Wii-mote looks way better