09 January 2007

Ten Reasons AppleTV is Lame

Today Apple announced, among other things, it's AppleTV product. As a media junkie I was really looking forward to this. But after the announcement I am so underwhelmed, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to bother buying one. As promised, here are ten reasons why this device is just lame.

  1. It doesn't work without a computer. This is not component for your home theater, it's an accessory for your Mac. Without a computer, it's a $300 doorstop.

  2. Apparently it doesn't include cables of any kind (except power). How's that for great out-of-the-box experience? You can't even plug it into the TV without buying "accessories".

  3. No composite output, so you can't hook it up to older TVs.

  4. No 1080p output, so you won't get the optimal experience on brand new HDTVs.

  5. No Firewire input. Forget about hooking your DV camera to this thing.

  6. Tiny hard drive. My iPod has more storage than this thing. I carry 50GB of media around in my pocket, with a built-in player for all of it. I have 300GB of hard drive filled with content, and more coming in every day. I'm supposed to be excited by 40GB? Not enough. Not nearly.

  7. No Blu-ray.

  8. No HD-DVD.

  9. No DVD player!!!

  10. No CD drive!!!

What the hell were they thinking? How do you make a media gizmo like this and NOT put a DVD player in it? It's so simple and so obvious! Okay, a hi-def drive belongs at a higher price point, but regular DVD drives are cheap and absolutely vital to any home theater. It can't play my DVDs. It can't play or rip CDs. It's got 720p output, but iTunes doesn't have any 720p content for sale so what good is that?

AppleTV just is not a revolutionary product. In fact, it's a step backward. It's like a crippled iPod. Take an 80GB iPod with the Universal Dock, remove the screen, remove the battery, remove half the hard drive space, add a power cable to make it immobile, add an HDMI port that doesn't support 1080p, add 802.11 wireless. That's your AppleTV. You know what? Don't bother. Take your iPod with Universal dock, and just hook that to your TV with the handy s-video or composite connector. You'll have to sneaker-net to sync it, but you get the bonus of a mobile media player.

For my money, the mac mini still makes a much better media box. It has a bigger hard drive. It has (optionally) a dual layer DVD drive for playing and burning music and movies. Firewire input for your digital video camera. Front row software for a ten-foot interface. It doesn't have HDMI out, but it does have DVI and optical audio outputs, which do the same job with some extra cable.

After all the anticipation, the AppleTV was a big let-down for me. I say take your $300 and get a new iPod instead. Or a bigger hard drive. Or a Wii.


bwana said...

Looking for Mac related posts, I found your site through del.icio.us for sites that are tagged with "mbwideas"

While I agree with your fundamental criticism of the AppleTV as it has been presented thus far, you aren't acknowledging that the iPod itself needs a computer to organize its contents and to create the data which fills it. In essence, the AppleTV follows this design philosophy as well.

My bigger complaint is that AppleTV apparently strictly uses iTunes to determine content, and there are a number of formats that iTunes just doesn't play nicely with. A Mac Mini can run Mplayer and VLC, basically covering all media bases. And, hey, you'd have another Mac, instead of a media box.

Like you, I'll probably be getting a Mac Mini, then using it to drive any content.

Unknown said...

Brian, Thanks for the comment. You're right about the iPod of course. I guess it's just a matter of expectations. I expected (and wanted) something more than an iPod with HDMI from AppleTV. I was looking for a component that would fit nicely into my home theater, and this just wasn't it. I'm hopeful that Apple will give me what I want in the future. In the mean time, I continue to consider whether a PS3 or Xbox 360 would do the job. Have been unwilling to take that plunge so far, but my mind is not yet committed.

squarism said...

I would cut out half of these reasons. The good half are valid.

Cut out:
1. Everyone has a computer, you're on the web posting about people not having a computer. Assume anyone reading has one. The Xbox 360 can directly download from the store, great, the AppleTV could eventually do that too.

4. 1080p. 1080p is hard, try playing a full 1080p h.264 stream on your most powerful computer. My AMD fx-57 loses frames. My dual core mac mini loses frames. It's pretty hard for a computer to do. It's a lot of information and requires something along the lines of 4.4 gbps. Considering even 802.11n does 300mb on paper, there's just no freaking way anyone is broadcasting, streaming or otherwise not handing you a large format disc. For a while, we will go to store and buy a physical disc of 50gb.

5. Firewire. True. But I sync to iPhoto anyway. That's what iPhoto is for. So I sync and then Apple TV will pick it up.

7-10. It's not a disc player. I already have a DVD player (which plays CDs), so does everyone else from 2001 when they bought a PS2. Bluray parts would make the Apple TV cost too much while Sony holds an artificial pricing monopoly for pushing the PS3. Sure, I'd like to have a disc drive for free but it's $300 and bluray players go for $900 right now.

The remaining points you mention are valid imo. USB expandability might happen later in which case we could augment the 20gb. Composite out is a waste of electronics considering the market. People who just have a standard def TV aren't the target market.

Furthermore, I'd add more software related issues that Brian mentioned. VLC support would be awesome. That way, I don't have to convert, import or repurchase things I already own in different formats. I'd agree with Brian on the Mini in the living room except I see a wireless keyboard on the couch as evidence of convergence failure.

Anonymous said...

Has this yet been improved upon by any of the points made in your post?