Blog Post

Life With Apple TV: The First 48 Hours

Remember how I said “I Want My Apple TV”? Well, it came. And I’ve been trying it out all weekend. After a false start on Friday, where I had tried to connect an HDMI cable from the Apple TV device to my TV set, only to find out the TV set didn’t have an HDMI connector option, causing me to go to Best Buy and pick up a set of audio and video cables, we got things going Friday evening, and have run the device through its paces.

And just for The Apple Blog, I have pictures of the device in action. Keep in mind I’m an amateur photographer at best, so any lack of quality in the photos is not the responsibility of Apple Computer, The Apple Blog or any other multinational corporation, but instead my own. Any concern over lack of quality in my TV shows and music choices is another matter. Feel free to dump on me in the comments.

First, I was most surprised by the Apple TV’s size. I had naively expected it was the exact same form factor as our new Airport Extreme. I had this image in my head of piling an Airport Extreme, and then a Mac Mini and then the Apple TV, one-two-three on top of each other, but the Apple TV is considerably larger in length and width.

Second, after connecting the Apple TV to power, audio and video, I selected it from my TV’s display option, chose English as the language, and saw its startup. I then connected to my wireless network.

Third, I was presented with the Apple TV as a device in my iTunes library, much like an iPod. After entering in a 5 digit code, which allowed me to connect to the Apple TV, I set up the synchronization options in iTunes, and it began syncing. Not the fastest in the world, as my PowerBook isn’t yet 802.11n enabled, but quick enough that I fairly rapidly had TV shows and music on the device. The only catch was that any time I chose to watch a show on the Apple TV, it would stop syncing. The best way to fill up the Apple TV fast, I learned? Leave the laptop open, stop using the Apple TV, and go do something else for awhile. After all, the data is impacting my network, and trying to surf the Web while syncing would be slow and make the laptop run hot.

But once all the media was on the Apple TV, it has been incredibly easy to use. The clarity of the videos and photos is better than I had expected, even with it converting iTunes video to a 42″ plasma screen. Only in some background elements of TV shows would I see any blurriness. Also, once the data was on the Apple TV, I didn’t need to keep the laptop open for streaming or anything else. The data was all local.

The Apple Remote may seem small enough to lose in a pants’ pocket or offer a choking hazard, but it does exactly what is advertised. Up/down, left/right, play/pause and menu. Nothing fancy. With it, I was able to select playlists, show photo albums, with accompanying music and skip backward within shows if I missed a line. Unlike our TiVo, however, skipping backward can take off 10 seconds to 4 minutes, depending on the length of the show. It’s not something I’ll be using to go back a sentence or two, for example.

But, as promised, I wanted to share with you what the Apple TV looks like in the wild, in a real person’s home, and not an Apple demo scenario, so I took a bunch of photos, for most aspects of the Apple TV. Enjoy. If you have requests I missed, put those in the comments too.

Apple TV Photos:

Via iTunes



TV Shows



  • Apple TV > Screensaver > Albums
  • Apple TV > Screensaver > Albums (Mid-Rotation)
  • 21 Responses to “Life With Apple TV: The First 48 Hours”

    1. Yeah, if anyone gets an answer I’d love to know as well. I can’t believe that apple would be so short sighted as to make it synch one way only. That would make the developers look exceedingly stupid.

    2. Desmondo

      Buy a few more AppleTV’s for the kids room? Wow, lucky them!

      I can imagine I will get one of these soon, but there just isn’t the delivery at the moment via the Internet in terms of subscription TV or TV shows for Euro iTunes. When there is the delivery it may well be so horribly DRM’d that it won’t work on non Windows devices.

      Saying that, I was very impressed when I went to my friends house – and he was very smugly running his new AppleTV complete with all his playlists he had just set up with The Filter.

    3. Stephen Roberts

      I wish there was a bit more flexibility to syncing. It works, but I just wish it was more like a smart playlist for movies and TV shows (like being able to keep all of some shows and only unwatched for others).

      Same with pictures. Its all or nothing, and it won’t copy over a folder with links to pictures in other folders. Which has caused me to have to re-organize my picture folders. (doesn’t do to have a topless Jennifer Aniston picture come up in the screen saver mode! :-)

      Neither of these is really a “negative” just something that would have been a big positive if it did what I wanted.

      Now once I get component to composite cables, I’ll buy a few more apple tvs and set up the kid’s rooms!

    4. Is it possible to have two screens attached? I have a beamer with HDMI on which I would like to view my photos and eventually tv shows once they are available in europe as well (what’s the problem with that anyway??).

      But I don’t what to run on the beamer just to listen to some music. So my ideal setup would be to have a tiny LDC monitor connected to the RGB and the HDMI connected to the beamer.

      Both need to get the signal at the same time, is that possible?


    5. Let’s see if I can get all my comments in one post…
      Neven: I hate having many remotes, so the first thing I did was configure my Harmony 880 to work with the AppleTV. Sure the multiple buttons add clutter, but not as much as needing 5 remotes to use my entire A/V setup.

      Luca: The hard disk limitation is really no big deal… First, you can configure it to only sync what you want. Second, you can tell it to only keep unwatched shows. And third, you can easily stream from your computer, which works very well. We synced our favorite playlists (about 8GB), unwatched TV Shows, a few of our favorite movies (about 10Gb of video, total), and a few photo albums. I still have about 13 Gb free.

      Jordan: I agree…I’m very careful that all devices use the receiver for sound. That way, it isn’t an issue.

    6. To #5 and #7, aside from Apple prioritizing your data, it’s handled just like your iPod. If you have more data than is available, you can select some of the playlists to copy from iTunes, or a select number of photo albums or TV shows, etc. The Apple TV will copy over as much or as little as you tell it to.

    7. I for one am glad there is no volume control on the remote. I hate having to juggle the volume between different remotes which most of the time will sacrifice sound quality as you don’t realise the volume is around 20% on the device before turning up the TV.

      I currently have a freeview DTT box under my TV and I’m always forgetting it has it’s own volume control. When I switch to play the Wii or Xbox – I pretty much always get deafened!

      Any device that supports digital out also disables volume control, including the Macs. It’s just so you get the best volume and sound quality possible – a lot of people will be connecting this device to speaker or home cinema systems.

    8. Luca: similar to what happens when you try to put a 40 GB library on a 30 GB iPod – AppleTV will let you know that there’s not enough space. It also has a helpful note explaining that content gets copied in this order:

      TV Shows

      I wish you could re-arrange those, but oh well.

      One possibly underused option is streaming your media if it didn’t get synced. I watched two whole movies this way and after they pre-buffered (3-4 seconds), they never re-buffered or stuttered. Keep in mind that you can’t sync and stream at the same time; syncing will continue when you pause or stop streaming.

    9. Off-topic and Re: Harmony remotes, those things are hideous and complicated. I love the Apple Remote – I just wish it did what its up and down buttons are supposed to do. The solution is not to throw more buttons into the mix.

    10. Interesting. Mine is arriving in the following days.
      One question: what happens if you have more than 40GB of data ?

      (BTW: I’m going to upgrade it as soon as it arrives…)

    11. Neven, it is somewhat annoying. For me, I need to have the TiVo remote nearby, which controls the volume, the Apple Remote (for obvious reasons) and a third remote that allows me to toggle between the Apple TV, the TiVo and our DVD/VCR combo. It is a bit silly. But aside from that and the hard drive capacity, I don’t have any serious issues. It just works.

    12. A question for you and other AppleTV users – how annoyed are you by the fact that you can’t change the volume using the Apple Remote? It’s not a big deal for me if I’m sitting down to watch a movie, but a few times I had music shuffling and I found myself running around looking for the TV remote when the phone rang.

      It seems to me that there’s no technical limit to AppleTV adjusting the outgoing volume. Any thoughts on this?