Apple TV is a digital media, set top box from Apple that uses your homes internet connection to bring more live & on demand entertainment services to your television. If you have used iTunes on your computer before to buy songs, rent a movie, watch a documentary, listen to podcasts and so much more, then think of Apple TV as iTunes for your TV. The only difference is you might not recognise it from your laptops version of iTunes as it uses and iOS (iPhone, iPad) type interface.

Form factor

It is a small, black rectangular box, with rounded corners and the Apple logo on the top. Connection ports are available on the rear end of the device for connecting the device to power, the internet (optional via ethernet cable), HDMI and or AV cables to your TV. The device also comes with the conventional Apple Remote which can be used to control your Apple MacBook laptop.

Tip: If you have both the Apple TV and a MacBook laptop, the remote will annoyingly control both devices at the same time.

Software

While we did mention that the software of the Apple TV is similar in interface to that of the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, there is also a difference in the Apple TV’s software from these other devices.

Firstly you will not be able to install apps as you would on your iPhone or iPad, however Apple does include any new apps to be automatically installed on the Apple TV with each software update.

Secondly you will notice that apps you find on the iPhone or iPad, that are also on the Apple TV navigate very differently. The workflow of each app on the Apple TV has be redesigned to work better with the screen realestate of a television.

Unique Features

So what would encourage you to buy the more expense Apple TV, in terms subscription plans & services costs, compared to other cheaper products on the market that do the same thing as a media set top box? You cannot talk about the Apple TV without having talked about the Air Play feature.

The Apple Air Play feature allows you to share any content to your TV from an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or MacBook laptop, that is connected to the same WIFI network. That description doesn’t even begin to do justice to the full possibilities of the feature and is delivered in true Apple style, with a very simple setup process i.e. just connect to the same WIFI network and that’s it. Arguably the best feature would have to be the playing games from your iPad on to your TV using the Apple TV.

This is where that Apple premium begins to be justified, coupled with the ability to sync all digital purchases you make on one Apple mobile device to the Apple TV.

Conclusion

Yes the Apple TV is a digital set top box, however it isn’t just another one on the market. It is one that has redefined that market by doing even more than expected. After using it for about a year now, and seeing more and more apps or services added to it, I do think it is value for money. This gives me more and more of a suspicious that the Apple TV of the future won’t just be a digital media center, but one inside the form factor of a television set (whatever that will look like in the future). See our review of the Apple TV for more real world issues, benefits and our final rating.

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