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Product Review: The New Apple TV

February 23rd, 2011 - 8:45 am

We’re big Apple TV fans here at Casa Verde. We have three of the old models, one for each TV. Sure, they get too hot and lose their iTunes streaming connections way too often, but they make it easy to sort through our ripped and purchased collection of movies and TV shows. And at about 3,000 TV episodes and nearly 1,400 movies (yes, I have my own private Netflix), it’s important to be able to get to what you’re looking for quickly and easily.

So I ordered one of the new models from Amazon and my initial impression is: One step forward, two steps back.

The pros: Tiny, won’t overheat, rock solid wifi connection, responds to the remote control very snappily — like mind-reading fast. Love the Netflix connection. Great for iTunes rentals. Super easy to set up. And the aluminum remote is a delight to hold, even if I still hate the duplicated Select button.

The cons: Using the goddamn thing.

The original Apple TV was a stripped-down Mac with a hard drive and everything. So when it loaded up your media library, it stayed loaded until you exited or rebooted. With our massive library, it took about two minutes to load all the info wirelessly, but at least you didn’t have to wait through that again for a few days.

The new Apple TV is a stripped down iPad. And with only 8 gigabytes of memory on board, cruising through your movie genre folders is one endless “Loading Media Library” message after another. It’s essentially unusable for family that owns lots of media.

Sorting through TV shows is another disaster. Previously, each TV show was a folder. Use the remote to select the folder and Apple TV would take you automatically to the oldest unwatched show. Or to the oldest show, if none had been watched. New Apple TV displays each and every season of each and every show as its own folder. So if I want to scroll down to watch the latest Justified, instead of scrolling past about 40 shows, I now have to scroll past 119 seasons of shows. And then wait for the “Loading Media Library” rigamarole to finish as it gathers the info for the Justified folder. And, no, you can’t change the sort options.

Unacceptable.

Oh, and a nitpick. The indicator light on the front of the unit flashes to confirm remote control clicks. But either the light is too bright or the contrast with the black of the unit is too high, so it catches your eye every time you click. For a company which prides itself on staying out of the users way, that little light is a distinctly non-Apple like distraction.

If the TV sorting and indicator lights were the only problems, I’d keep mine and wait for the inevitable software update. But that 8GB of memory is an unfixable hardware limitation — and it makes it unbearable to get to what you want to see.

Verdict: Apple TV is great for streaming Netflix and iTunes rentals, but otherwise it’s a pretty epic fail.

I’m sending mine back.

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