Apple TV third-generation (2012)
Set-top stop-gap for the 'iTV'?
Review Well, at least we can get the hardware over and done with quickly. The latest Apple TV looks exactly like the old one, and it's innards aren't really any different either.
Box steady: no change to the look, little to the spec
For the record, there's an A5 processor on the inside in place of the previous model's A4, but that's effectively it. There are some small changes - there's no need to take it apart yourself, the very capable team at iFixit have already done so - but nothing that makes an appreciable difference to the user experience.
The 3G ATV's A5 chip is a single-core part, Apple having selected it over the A4 for its superior GPU. It's this that allows the ATV to play 1080p HD content, the new box's only functional improvement over its predecessor.
Not overflowing with ports, but enough to be getting on with
There's an HDMI connector to hook the ATV up to a telly, and optical audio for AV equipment. Apple doesn't bundle connector cables - you do get one of its slim, sexy metal remotes - as much to maintain the compact packaging aesthetic as a money-saving move.
Another cost-efficiency trick: incorporate a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port rather than Gigabit. But most folk will use the on-board 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter - it works in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands - and those that don't will probably, like me, use 200Mbps powerline technology to reach the router, and that runs at under 100Mbps in any case.
The remote is slick
Well, the ATV is just a £99 product...
The 3G ATV's most visible change is yet another UI. This is clearly where the ATV really is Apple's hobby project. Sure it's a set-top box for the rest of us. But it's also Apple's TV UI testing ground.
Next page: World's biggest UI beta test?
As a die-hard Apple fan...
I have to agree. It almost pains me to say so, but first time I saw the new interface I thought I'd been conned and they'd sold me some cheap Chinese knock-off instead. I almost expected some bright pink and yellow chinese characters with bluebirds and hummingbirds and shit flashing up on the screen - just like the fake iPhones.
Fucking horror is right.
I buy all my content digitally rather than getting discs so iTunes is a good place for me, my friend acquires his films in a rather more dubious fashion so has installed XBMC on his and it works a treat.
The thing I mainly use it for is streaming music to the good speakers in the house.
When having a party leaving an iPad hooked up to your remote iTunes library is brilliant as people can pick it up and change the house wide music in an instant.
iPad > iTunes Library on computer > All airplay devices in the house > win
The Usability Paradox
Transcoding everything by hand is really an absurd suggestion. At least something like Plex offers the illusion that the ATV can play everything and doesn't require you do go through a lot of upfront fuss and bother. Plex (and XBMC) also offer superior media management.
This is one part of the process that some people like to gloss over. This is where XBMC shines and most other solutions (iTunes, MCE) tend to fall down badly.
"Access LAN-linked iTunes libraries but not Nas file-shares"
Icon says it all.
Re: but only iTunes fans need apply.
True in the same way that "in 2012 Linux is a popular desktop OS" is true