Apple TV Take 2 Disappoints, Yet Shows Promise.

In exactly one year (February 17, 2009) the FCC requires all analog television broadcasts to cease. Respectively all broadcast from that point forward will have to be digital. While this is not a significant change to the way we watch TV, it does open many doors. Digital TV allows for high definition, as well as surround sound and multi casting. But what’s really interesting is that a year out from this monumental change the game is changing.

Enter the Apple TV take 2. First, the Apple is not a replacement for broadcast, it truly works with it. It’s more of a replacement for the DVD player, and in many ways is much more practical than a Blu-ray player. While I believe that there will always be a need for physical media, most users will be completely satisfied with an Apple TV. Unfortunately there are still many drawbacks.

When the Apple TV Take 2 was announced I was really excited. I love to watch movies, but usually once. The entire rental system is exactly what I was looking for. Now while I realize that there are many other option out there, there is something about the ease of the Apple TV. For example Netflix is a much better priced solution, however it has two major drawbacks. One, you have to plan ahead, and two, you pay even if you don’t watch any movies. I’m a busy person, and may not get a chance to watch movies more than once or twice a month. So this does not make it a practical solution for me. Needless to say it was the movie rental capabilities that sold the Apple TV Take 2, at least for me.

I patiently waited for the update to come out. However, I did get a little impatient. I ended up downloading one rental before the update came out. I was working late at the office on a Friday night. Wanted to go home relax and watch a movie. I assumed that I could download the file on my work machine, then take it home and transfer it to my Apple TV. I was wrong, oh how I was wrong. I also assumed that I could transfer it to my iPhone, again wrong. So my first experience was very negative, and in fact I still have not been able to watch my first rental. It looks like I will have to watch it on my computer, which is exactly what I don’t want to do. I tried once at a hotel when I was out of town, but you need an internet connection to start the movie, which was not available at the time. Needless to say I gave up at that point.

So the update finally came out. I downloaded it the first chance I had. Initially it looked very exciting. First thing that I did, was try to watch my first rental, again no luck. Then I tried to rent another movie right from the box. I had an issue that said I needed a valid address. Wasn’t sure what that was all about, but turned on the computer and logged into my iTunes account. Then everything worked okay. Took about 20 minutes of download to start the movie, which seamed really slow especially for a SD title. But the experience after that was good.

The video quality was exceptional. Remember I only downloaded a standard file, not HD. I would love to test HD, but there is a very limited selection of movies (while there are a lot) and there is currently nothing that I want to see. My guess it that I will need to start the download quite a while before I want to start the movie. Which brings me to another drawback.

Evereything must be downloaded, which in turn creates a major delay. Patience’s is necessary here. It’s much like the web, but not something that is expected on a TV. But this is the beginning of a great way to watch content. I’m very disappointed with my first experiences. But I can see how powerful the potential is. There will be some minor wrinkles to work out, but the future is exciting.

Currently, I find that I don’t watch live TV. Everything is off of the DVR, or if I do watch live, it’s sports or news. The Apple TV does not currently fit into this scenario currently. There is DVR software for the Mac, which can integrate to the Apple TV, so I am curious to she how this might play out. Honestly, it’s still a lot of extra work right now, but I see a lot of potential.

One unexpected, but very appreciated feature with the Apple TV Take 2, is he ability to use AirTunes. At first I didn’t think that I would use this, as I never did with my Airport Express. But I found that I can work on my computer, and simply select the Apple TV in iTunes. Then all I have to do, is turn on my audio receiver. Very easy, very. While the ability to play my entire library of songs from the Apple TV itself is great, I find that there are many times I’m on my computer and don’t want to have to turn on the TV.

So, the Apple TV Take 2 is awesome. In the end the rental structure is a little difficult, but considering I’m able to make a secure purchase from my TV, I’m okay with that, however, if the experience is always that difficult I will not use it. The delay in watching previews is not good, but a faster internet connection may remedy that. This is definitely a major improvement, and will satisfy most of my needs. However, I’m technically competent and for those who aren’t might find this a bit over their heads. It is easy to use, but trouble shooting is not. More movies, longer rental periods, and less hassle with transfers will improve this box immensely. It’s a great second start, but not all the way there yet.