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Hands-on: Apple TV provides simplicity and 'wow'

Simple setup, easy to use

By Ryan Faas
March 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple TV has suffered from being Apple's "other product," the new product that isn't the iPhone. But make no mistake: Apple has put a lot of wow into this device that brings media stored on your computer to your TV.

The first thing you'll notice is Apple TV's small size; it's about 8 inches square by 1 inch high. The second thing you'll notice is that it's easy to hook up and start using. Then, you'll notice the quality of the user interface. Like an iPod, the Apple TV interface is designed to locate almost all your content with just a few clicks. But the Apple TV interface goes beyond simply being easy to navigate, and that's where the wow factor comes in.

All in all, if you are a dedicated iTunes user, Apple TV is a simple, powerful way to play media stored on your desktop on your widescreen TV. Here's our hands-on experience.

Apple TV
Image courtesy

Getting started

When powered on the first time, a simple on-screen series of menus walk you through basic setup issues, such as choosing a language, naming the Apple TV unit and choosing a wireless network. Apple TV supports 802.11b/g/n wireless networks, although it won't stream media over slower 802.11b networks. It also supports Ethernet connections.

When setting up the network, you can use standard wireless security protocols such as WPA. When you connect to a secured network, a virtual keypad appears on-screen to type the networks pass phrase using Apple TV's remote. If Apple TV is connected to a wired Ethernet network, it will automatically detect and use that network.

Apple TV sports both HDMI and digital component video output and is designed for use with widescreen TVs meeting the EDTV and HDTV standards. It supports a range of resolutions for TV output and will auto-select an appropriate resolution when connected with HDMI.

However, when connected to a TV using component inputs rather than HDMI, Apple TV defaults to its lowest resolution. That's because component connections cannot provide information to Apple TV about the resolutions that the TV supports. You can, however, choose a more appropriate resolution manually. For audio, Apple TV includes both a digital TOSLINK port and analog RCA stereo ports. These can be used for connecting to either a TVs audio inputs or to a home theater receiver.

Video is supported at the 320x240 and 640x480 resolutions originally used by Apples video iPods, as well as the high definition 720p resolution. It does not, however, support 1080p, an omission that has drawn some criticism. Apple TV does a solid job of displaying video at each resolution, though 320x240 video tends to display at somewhat lower quality.

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