This is the essence of the Apple TV. The hardware requirements inlcude a TV or display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a digital input, so you can forget about an oldy worldy CRT telly with a 4:3 aspect ratio and just a couple of Scart connectors round the back - at least not without a hefty addition hardware cost for a suitable adaptor.
Apple's Apple TV: lots of hardware, small box
Apple doesn't supply any cables with the TV unit which is annoying, but a full set of HDMI, component, RCA and optical cables would add about £50 to the retail price so we picked up the phone and got TechLink to send us one of its WireCR range of HDMI cables.
There's no software in the package as you need to download the latest version of iTunes, but realistically the majority of prospective Apple TV customers already use iTunes to sync their iPod.
You control the Apple TV with a remote that looks like an original iPod Shuffle or, indeed, like the one you get with an iMac or MacBook. When you connect the Apple TV unit to your home network it pops up as a device in iTunes and you key in the five-digit code displayed on the TV screen to authorise the link.
Apple's Apple TV: grainy YouTube Flash videos blown up to 720p, anyone?
Syncing content from iTunes generates a second five-digit code, presumably to double-check your content isn't being snaffled by another member of the family who also has an Apple TV. We were surprised to see that iTunes reported a total of 11,730 items on our hard drive and saw that it syncs in a specific sequence starting with movies, then TV, music, podcasts and photos. We saw that the 160GB drive has 144.63GB available capacity which is considerably less than we'd expect, even allowing for formatting the drive and the cut-down version of Mac OS X that the Apple TV runs.
Exploring the menus unveiled a large number of movie trailers that were presumably pre-loaded on the unit. The quality of these trailers was none too impressive so we bumped up the default 720p picture setting to the maximum quality setting of 1080i. The picture improved significantly, but even so it wasn't all that great.
Stuttering D-Link? Not here!
I've got a D-link DSM-520 which plugs into my Panasonic LCD (only 26" I'm afraid). My home router/access point is a G624M, into which is also plugged a G600 ethernet/wireless hard-drive enclosure (also has access point, but I've disabled this). The latter hardware sits in the backroom, at the other end of the hallway, so only two doors & twenty-odd feet of air between the router and the media player. I get 99% flawless playback, the only failing usually being media storage, which clears on a reboot. This rarely happens.
Ripped of (via bittorrent) US shows play back perfectly, whether in XVID or DiVx, and there is rarely any sync problem. HD encodings play back at 720p, looking excellent on the 26" Pana.
As an added bonus, I can use my laptop as a server (any pc will suffice) and playback bot channel 4 and the BBC's downloadable programmes (in wmv format). Two shortcomings there; quality is poor, and there are no discernable titles for the files, meaning that playplack can be a potluck affair.
Gosh, what would I give for Apple TV with no DiVx, XVid etc!?!
Or you could just use an xbox 1
No, not an xbox 360. Get an original xbox (£25 from Game with warantee) and stick xbmc on it.
Sorted. And it does MORE than Apple TV (Divx, etc.)
call me when they can deal with 1080p...
All the rest is just mediocre intermediate format.
when they have a machine that can play back a true 1080p stream then it gets interesting...