The Apple TV is a handy tool for watching online video. This digital TV box lets you browse and watch content from iTunes, Netflix, YouTube and Hulu from the comfort of your couch. In addition, you can use the Apple Airplay feature to send streaming video from iOS devices like the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Apple TV costs $99, which is the same as the Roku streaming player and a little less expensive than the new Boxee TV. It makes a nice addition to any home entertainment set-up - particularly for iOS users.
Getting Started with the Apple TV:
You might be surprised by the size of the Apple TV player when you purchase it. Weighing in at just over half a pound, and measuring one inch high and four inches wide, the Apple TV is an easy addition to your entertainment center. In order to use the Apple TV you'll need a good internet connection and a widescreen television. The Apple TV is capable of streaming in full 1080p, but also works with lower resolution televisions.
You'll need an HDMI cable to connect your TV to the Apple TV. Then, connect the Apple TV power source, and configure the Apple TV to use either an ethernet internet or wireless network connection. If you want to access your iTunes content through the Apple TV, you'll need a computer equipped with the latest version of iTunes. For Windows users, this means you'll need to have Windows XP or later. If you have Netflix or Hulu plus video subscriptions, you'll just have to enter your user information once to watch streaming content with the Apple TV.
The Apple TV User Interface:
As with most Apple products, a slick design and user interface is essential to the Apple TV. The Apple TV remote is small but simple to use. It features a menu button, play button, and arrows that let you navigate between different menu options.
The home screen features a grid layout of icon links to all your favorite media. The top of the screen includes Movies, TV Shows, Music, Computers and Settings, which are all the functions that link back to your Apple computer or iTunes. You can use these buttons to purchase or rent movies and shows in HD from iTunes, manage the computers that share content with the Apple TV, and access your Apple TV's settings. The rest of the home screen features links to non-Apple online content, like Netflix, Huluplus, MLB, NBA and NHL, and also free content from YouTube and Vimeo. If you start watching a show or movie on a different device, you can resume playing in the exact spot you left off using the Apple TV.
In addition to this selection of video content, the Apple TV lets you view your photo stream by linking your computer to the device, or by logging into your Flickr account. This is a great feature for presenting a slideshow of family photos or showing your vacation pictures to a room full of friends.
Using Apple Airplay:
Airplay is one of the most popular and exciting features of the Apple TV. Airplay lets you stream videos, music and photos over your wireless network to your television screen. Using Airplay, you can mirror your computer screen to the television screen to display home videos and pictures. You can also create a dual screen experience using your iPad or iPhone as a remote control with the video game on your widescreen television. As if these features weren't enough to keep you glued to the living room, there are plenty of video apps that feature Airplay capability such as Squrl, Vodio, Fanhattan and Plizy. These apps for the iPad and iPod offer you more ways to search for online video, and using Airplay, you can 'throw' the content onto your television to get the big-screen experience.
All prices as of December 2013.