For the Love of Music, Buy the Old Apple TV


The new Apple TV (s aapl) is bright and shiny and full of Netflix (s nflx) and TV rental goodness, but I still love the old Apple TV. It won’t be getting any new tricks even via software update, but here are a few good reasons you may want to think about getting the old dog instead of a brand new puppy.

You Want to Save Money

The old Apple TV with 160GB hard drive is only $149 on clearance, down from $229. That price is $100 less than the iPod Classic, also with a 160GB hard drive. If you want to connect an iPod Classic to your TV or even stereo, you have to buy the component or composite cable ($49), and if you want to pause your music to answer the phone while sitting on the couch, you’ll also need the universal dock with remote control ($49).

Buying the 160GB Apple TV will actually save you $200. Yes, yes, it’s $50 more than the new Apple TV, but even still, it’s a bargain home theatre component.

You Want Single-Device Usability

To play anything on the new Apple TV, you have to stream it (there’s zero local storage, remember?). If you want to put on some music, you have to turn on your computer, grab your iPad, etc. With the classic Apple TV, your music is already there. Just turn it on and pump the jam. 160GB holds fewer movies than music, but at 1GB or so each, you can still get plenty of movies on the device before you need to start streaming from a computer.

You Have an iPhone

Apple’s Remote app for iOS is the perfect way to control your Apple TV. Instead of scrolling through the list of artists, albums, etc. on the screen using the little plastic remote, you can jump right to the music you want, navigating visually. You can even use it to type into search fields for YouTube (s goog).

Yes, I realize this works with the new Apple TV, too, but it definitely isn’t a knock against the old one.

You Have an Older TV

If you have an older AV receiver or TV, you may not be able to even use the HDMI output from the new Apple TV. The previous Apple TV has component video output in addition to HDMI, so you won’t need to get a special converter cable.

You Like to Tinker

The previous Apple TV has a pretty active community involved in hacking around with it to add features. It’s fairly simple to use a patchstick to enable filesharing, install Boxee, add a weather channel, use an external USB drive and other such things. I have a pretty large collection of movies in iTunes, so I made my Apple TV into a 1TB monster that can hold my entire library (currently at 700GB).

You Love Music

I know everyone gets all excited about the video features of the Apple TV, but I’ve told more than one person that the real reason to get an Apple TV is to play music through your stereo. It’s an iPod for your TV. I still can’t get over having 2000+ albums at the touch of a button. Of course, I grew up buying vinyl LP’s and making mix tapes on 1/4″ magnetized tape.

I graduated to a 400 disc CD changer at some point, but the previous Apple TV is the best way to play music on your stereo that I’ve ever used. A Sonos system would be nice, but the Apple TV is a lot cheaper, and works with any iTunes DRM-protected video content that you have.

You Don’t Have a Netflix Subscription

For a lot of people, the convenience of being able to play your music library without turning on your computer will be enough to offset the loss of Netflix and TV rentals, but it’s hard to sell Netflix as a feature to people without Netflix subscriptions.

What do you think? Will you buy an old Apple TV or wait for the new one to ship in a couple of weeks?

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Kerrin biddle

I visited an apple shop and the gentlemen told me honestly that the old apple tv is better than the new item…hence why it is more expensive. It appears to me the new product is pay as your use. So in the long term it will be a more expensive option.

Jacob Beard

It may be “better” in terms of local storage, but assuming that you link either to your iTunes account, there is no cost differential. In fact renting shoes for a $1 less means that its likely to be cheaper for many. With the legacy AppleTV you had to buy the shows to watch them (except renting movies of course). So I think that one would rethink that. I bought my AppleTV when they were at “full price” so dropping $99 bucks for a new one seemed very cheap and painless to me. Last time I spent $99 and got an Apple product, I think it was a iPod Shuffle :)


The new Apple TV just needs to get amped with a Stoage drive (500GB/ 1024GB) and maybe full HD upscaling and maybe a Blue-Ray drive. Or you can just get a MacMini with a Magic Trackpad as a remote.


I was debating buying one of these discounted 1st Gen Apple TVs versus the new one with Netflix. Please be clear … are you saying the older Apple TVs will not be able to play HULU, NetFlix or have the AirPlay feature? I think buying the 1st Gen Apple TV would be worth while if NetFlix and AirPlay worked on it. I was planning to order one of the 1st gen models this week, but now your article has made me think twice. Please be clear as to whether you have any information about whether Apple plans software update/upgrades for these older models that will allow Airplay and Netflix.

Weldon Dodd

Some public comments indicate that there will be no future updates to the old Apple TV. AirTunes (music only) should continue to work.

Weldon Dodd

Nice to see some love for the old Apple TV here. Just wanted to let everyone know that the price has been lowered in the clearance store to $129. Quite the bargain, I think.


My house is reasonably large and its almost impossible to extend my wifi effectively to a room I use as a media room so streaming from a laptop in another room is problematic. I love the old Apple TV because I can carry it around, sync it to my laptop with all my downloaded files and watch it in the media room without any hassles of the wifi. I might buy the new one to use in another room but I’m keeping the old ones … shame they wont update any of the software in future, I should look into “tinkering”.


Good article. I’ve had several AppleTVs and used them daily. One is still alive, the others have died of old age.

Too bad one has to turn on the TV to listen to music to use the Apple TV. That seems counter-intuitive to me. I put my iPhone or one of my iPods into a Bose Sound Dock and that works great for me.


I’ve had the old apple tv for just over 2 years now. i am getting the new one but i won’t be getting rid of my old one until i’m convinced it’s better.

chris heinz

I have had the original AppleTV for 3 years this December. I like it a lot. When I read, I shuffle play an appropriate play list and can then glance up at the 1000s of my pictures that scroll by on the 52″ LCD.
Movies are fine. We just bought our 1st TV shows (season one of “Life”). $1.99 per episode may be worth it for 43 minutes of content with the commercials all already removed.
It also works great when we go to our house in Florida. It’s very transportable, I plug it directly into a HDMI input on the TV and have all (or 160 GB worth) of my movies, music and pictures.
I may look at hacking it rather (for Boxee and a larger drive) rather than getting one of the new ones.
On the delay, I find my Apple TV is often sluggish the 1st 2 or 3 minutes I use it. I have assumed it was PC sync operations getting caught up.


I’ve canceled my order for the AppleTV2.

My wife and I reviewed how few movies we watch nowadays – and since we already have access to 1080p downloads when we want them via DirecTV download-on-demand service for a buck more than iTunes – there didn’t seem to be sufficient reason.

Our existing AppleTV serves us well with video podcasts – sync’d when we schedule them into evening viewing.

Just thought I’d support the decision for music. It’s very much part of our lives; but, since I’m at home during the day, that recent addition of Internet Radio to AppleTV software made it easy for me to have the same station playing through the living room sound system – while running in parallel in my study/office.

No extra hardware required. Yes, there are other ways to accomplish this; but, when Apple makes it easy – we all win, again.


well as far as I’m concerned…I am not giving up my two TV’s but I am planning on getting one of the new ones…the one thing I don’t like…since I have the beta of iOS 4.2 is AirPlay…for some reason AirPlay works with my G wireless Airport Expresses but it doesn’t work with the TV’s…

which is a crock of crap…I hope they don’t hold the original TV to not get AirPlay since it already has AirTunes…that is my upset

and by the way…AirPlay on the Beta is unreal good…no lag and no dropping of the audio from video played…and it works for YouTube, iPod(video app) on iPad, and from the looks of it other apps will have the ability too…because the VLC app has the buttons for it…it just isn’t set up to work yet since it hasn’t been released yet…so AirPlay and AirPrint are sweet…

that is why I want the new TV but I will not be giving up my current ones cuz they are amazing as well


So part of your argument:

CON: “If you want to put on some music, you have to turn on your computer, grab your iPad, etc.”

PRO: Using your iPhone, iPad, etc. “you can jump right to the music you want, navigating visually.”

Weldon Dodd

True. The scenario I was imagining is one where you have an iPhone handy, but you don’t have the music you want to listen to on that device. You can use the iPhone to control the Apple TV, but you will have to limit yourself to the music on the device. If you want to listen to all your music, you will have to go launch iTunes on your computer.

Of course, a 64GB iPod touch holds an awful lot of music. Still won’t hold my entire library though.

Matt Larson

I have 2 Apple TVs and use them both daily for videos and music. The only reason I can’t agree with you (and while my 3rd Apple TV will be the new model) is that the current (old) Apple TV can get dog slow.

My family was in town last weekend and I had to apologize at the 50 second delay between hitting the play button and video starting (doesn’t matter if it streams from iTunes or is local), menus skip around, etc.

I’ll gladly save $50 and get a (hopefully) sufficiently powered box to connect to the TV.

Weldon Dodd

All I can say is that I have nothing like that delay on my old Apple TV. I have AFP turned on, SSH, an external USB drive w/ 700GB of content, etc.


Great article. I had really been leaning towards the new AppleTV, but you did make me rethink it. I don’t have (or want) Netflix, and I don’t watch Hulu. Right now I hook my iPod Classic up to the TV, exactly how you describe. And I am definitely a ‘tinkerer’!! Thanks!


You want to be able to stream Hulu Plus or Netflix to your Apple TV over AirPlay….oh wait, you can’t do that with the old one.

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