Thursday, March 29, 2007

An Ipod It Ain't

Apple is one of those companies that you either love or hate. They have die-hard fans that will defend them to the end, and harsh critics that wouldn't piss on Steve Jobs if he were on fire. But, no one can deny the fact that they put out some nice looking products.

This weekend finally saw the release of Apple TV, once known as iTV. The box, originally promised to be released in February, quietly went on sale at Apple stores across the nation and on the website, and the Apple faithful started snatching them up like they are the second coming. But looks aside, just how useful is this thing anyway?

Before purchasing this box, you need to ask yourself a few things. Do you use iTunes religiously, purchasing both music and movies, and shun all other online services? Do you like having only a few options available to you (the as simple as possible approach)? Is Apple white your favorite color? Do you wish you had a black turtleneck collection? Answer no to any of the above, and this thing is a pass.

Apple TV is essentially just an extension of iTunes. To use it, you must have iTunes running on a computer at all times, and you must have your entire library of music and movies accessible to it, which means that if iTunes won't play it, Apple TV won't play it. Also, you have to have a widescreen TV to use this. Despite that, the HDTV support is fairly limited right now, as all the movies on the iTunes store are optimized for the video iPod. I'm sure that will change in time, but for now, you're limited to grainy movies and a few trailers.

The interface is slick, but simple - power tweakers need not apply. Of course, that isn't Apple's target audience. They're looking to get Joe Sixpack to purchase this device, and to that end, they've managed to make something that's accessible to just about anyone that can configure a home network.

My verdict? Do you really care? Odds are you've already made up your mind on this box, perhaps on hype alone. The truth is, this is a decent unit, but for the price, you're not getting much. I'd say wait for the Netgear Digital Entertainer if you're looking for more flexibility and support, or an Xbox 360/MCE combo if you like a somewhat "walled garden", but are itching for some HD content now. In the end though, it all comes down to one question - are you a Mac guy, or a PC guy?

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