Apple TV 1080P Review (2012)

If you look at the new 3rd generation Apple TV as an iPad accessory that also lets you watch streaming content, then it’s nearly a five-star product and the one of the best iPad accessories you can buy. If you see it as a set-top box for viewing streaming content that also works with the iPad and iPhone, then it disappoints a little.

The new Apple TV boasts only one useful upgrade, a faster processor that lets you play higher resolution 1080p video instead of the 720p video the previous generation Apple TV had.

Everyone will ask, if its worth upgrading from an older Apple TV for 1080P. Absolutely not!

If you waited and didn’t get the 2nd gen model but wanted to, then get the new Apple TV. At only $99, it’s not a bad deal for iPad users who would like to share their screen to a TV or projector. The Apple TV makes a lot of sense for iPad users who also enjoy Netflix, iTunes video and music, watching YouTube videos, NBA, MLB, or NHL sports. It’s not a worthwhile buy for people who don’t have an iPhone or iPad and only want to stream Netflix or watch home videos and/or ripped DVDs.

The only user who will see a difference worth upgrading for has a monster display and a love for near Blu-Ray quality movies.

Apple TV 3rd Gen Hardware

The Hardware

If you’ve seen an Apple TV 2nd gen model, then you’ve seen the new Apple TV. They look exactly alike with only the small print markings on the edge with all the connectors showing the difference. It has all the same connections, HDMI, micro-USB for updating software, the power cord connection, an Ethernet port and an optical audio port.

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Comparison between Apple TV 2nd gen and 3rd gen

The Apple TV gives you great hardware. It takes up little room and the connection are tight but not too hard to connect. With strong wireless, you can stream and download content quickly.

The power cord is thin and doesn’t get tangled. You don’t get an HDMI cord, which you must have. If your TV doesn’t have a free HDMI port, then you will either need an adapter or a new TV.

A lot of people don’t like the remote with the Apple TV. I don’t understand this, except that it’s a bit small making it easy to lose. You can’t type things like search terms or user names/passwords with it, which is true of most entertainment device remotes. If you have an iPhone or iPad, get the Remote app and you can use it to type into the Apple TV interface and to control your Apple TV.

Apple TV Remote and Power cord

An Awesome iPad Accessory

For those who bought the new iPad 3rd gen or have an older iPad, the Apple TV serves a wonderful function. It becomes a portal for your iPad to a larger display. Hook up to your HDTV or a high-end video projector, and it becomes the link to play video games, view streamed movies or TV shows, or do presentations for work, school or in my case church.

Some of the great things you can do with an Apple TV and your iPad include:

  • Stream video via AirPlay
  • Play games with the game shown on the Apple TV and your iOS device becomes the controller
  • Stream music or podcasts
  • Make wireless presentations
  • Show apps via AirPlay so you can do training, teaching or just for fun

A Decent Video Streaming Box

As a video streaming box the Apple TV is only okay. You now get 1080p and I tested it by watching the 1080p resolution version of Hugo from iTunes. The content looks beautiful on my nice 1080p Samsung TV, but is it $99 better than the 2nd gen Apple TV? Absolutely not! It isn’t that much better, and many people won’t notice the difference.

Apple TV now has 1080p

In Hugo, many scenes include snow flurries or dirt particles floating in the air. I think they put these in the film for the 3D version, which I saw in a theater. On the old 2nd gen Apple TV you can see them, but they pop on the 3rd gen Apple TV. If that kind of thing’s important to you, then go for the upgrade.

Unfortunately the Apple TV limits what you can watch. It has most of the popular movies available for rent, usually $5 for HD versions. You can now buy movies for around $20 for the 1080p version. Only a few TV networks let you watch their shows, which Apple can’t control. Because you don’t get apps, there’s no hulu or Amazon streaming, like you get with competitor Roku.

If you primarily want a great set-top box, then go with the latest Roku XS, which also has 1080p and offers a wider variety of content. The Apple TV hardware looks nicer and takes up less space, but not much. They cost the same, but Roku gives you more. You can add apps for Amazon, hulu, all the sports leagues except NFL, and more. You can also connect a USB drive to a Roku box and play most media files including movies, music and pictures. Also the Roku remote is better.

Unmet Potential

Apple TV 5.1 Interface

I get disappointed comparing the Apple TV to Roku. The Apple TV could be so much more. Apple has an awesome collection of apps that would be great on an Apple TV. Aside from the video apps available, like hulu, ABC, TNT, TBS and more, you also get a bunch of cool games. Using your iPad as a controller would be so amazing. You can share the screen and play a few games, but having apps on the Apple TV would open up so many opportunities for developers and users alike.

Apps are coming, at least in a limited way. Apple reorganized iOS for the Apple TV to show a grid of apps instead of the previous tabbed interface. This makes it look more like your iPad or iPhone. The new interface works so much better. This system of organization makes me think Apple plans to add apps, maybe in iOS 6. If Apple does add an app Store, then Apple TV will take over the streaming set to box market.

Apple TV Comparison Top

Recommendation

So who should buy an Apple TV 3rd gen?

  • iPad or iPhone Accessory – People who want to use the Apple TV as a portal to their TV for viewing content or streaming audio should go get one, with one exception. If you have a 2nd gen model, don’t bother.
  • Set-top Box Streaming – If you primarily want a great video streaming box, get the Roku XS instead. It has more to offer now. Until Apple adds an app store it’s too far behind.
  • iTunes Media Lovers – If you have all your movies, music and TV shows in iTunes in the cloud or on a computer on your home network, then you should get the Apple TV, unless you have the 2nd gen already.

Are you getting an Apple TV?

  

Comments

  1. Midijamman says

    So is it safe to say that if you want to stream content from Amazon or Hulu, get Roku, but if you want to stream from media purchased from iTunes then get an AppleTV ?  It seems to me that is the major deciding factor between Apple TV and Roku.. is who you bought/buy your streaming content from…. Amazon then buy Roku, otherwise buy AppleTV. 

    I believe that the subscription model that NetFlix and Hulu are a temporary scenario and will probably go away in the long run.  The idea of a subscription model that Apple has been trying to setup when you ala-carte the channels you want to buy is the wave of the future and I also believe that eventually Roku and AppleTV will both have this feature.  

    So then the differentiator is the user experience on the device.   

  2. Tvsnob says

    I couldn’t disagree more.  720p has roughly 900,000 pixels.  1080p bumps that number to around 2,000,000.  That’s a BIG deal, and it’s definitely noticable on a large set. I have a 70″ Sharp Aquos with built-in Netflix, and I still jumped at the change to buy the 3d generation Apple TV.  I’ll be able to show photos at 1080p, and rent movies on iTunes that are better quality than what I can get from Cox Communication’s 1080i Pay-Per-View.  The Netflix menus are also soooo much better on Apple TV than what comes with the set.  For me, it was an absolute no brainer to upgrade from the second generation.

    • d-nice says

      I guess you meant CHANCE. 1.) Netflix is better on Xbox360, plus Netflix has a Very limited supply of 1080p content to offer; you can’t make content in 480i or 480p play in 1080p just because you get this device 2.)Google TV or Boxee Box does more and already uses apps and stream 1080p. Apple dropped the ball in 2010 when they released the 2nd Gen apple tv by not including their $19 HDMI cable + the option of 1080p which was the standard in 2009. Since Steve Jobs death, Tim Cook and Apple want to create a new sense of independence so instead of iPad 3, it’s the iPad. No iPhone 5 but iPhone 4s !?!?!? If they do decide to release another phone, it will be “the iPhone”. All the things Jobs was against in previous designs will now be offered.

  3. G. FRANK POWER says

    I have an apple tv 2 and have pre-ordered  an apple tv 3 . I am willing to pay for the faster processor and 1080p improvement. I watch a lot of NHL Games on this device and 1080p would make it even better on my panasonic tv. You know apple is planning an app store of some kind and are negotiating with developers for more content as well. Yes this is the best streaming device and is made with quality like the rest of apples products.

  4. Well says

    Though the new 1080p Apple TV 3 and the iTunes 10.6 enablesto play 1080p video, it only support 1080p in h.264 format.

    Apple TV still cannot import, stream and play 1080p HDvideo which is in MKV, AVI, WTV, WMV, FLV, WebM, AVCHD, MPG, DivX, MXF, and VOB etc format.

    Just google search Step by Step Guide on How to Convert1080p MKV, AVI, Xvid, Divx, MP4, FLV, WMV, and MPEG to Apple TV/Apple TV2/Apple TV 3

    you will find a step by step guide on how to convert 1080p video in
    MKV, AVI, Xvid, Divx, MP4,FLV, WMV, WTV, WebM, AVCHD, MXF, MVI, VOB,
    F4V, BIK, RMVB and MPEG to the 3rd generation Apple TV supported 1080p
    H.264 format or the 1st & 2ndgeneration Apple TV supported MPEG-4 format

  5. Randy Sandberg says

    Hey Kevin, you said “You can’t type things like search terms or user names/passwords with it, which is true of most entertainment device remotes.” I’m guessing you meant to say that typing (anything) with the Apple TV’s remote isn’t the easiest thing to do “which is true of most entertainment device remotes”. I say this because one *can* type (anything) with the Apple TV’s remote. But, I agree, the Remote app is way better for this.

    Oh, and just a side note. I have a Roku box that does 1080p as well as my 2nd generation Apple TV that does 720p. I am a Netflix junkie and have tested both of them extensively. My findings have been that the Apple product is far superior in regards to video quality amongst many other things such as the user interface. For example, in low light scenes where there is a flickering light source (such as a candle) I have observed all kinds of lighting wackiness as compared to the Apple TV.

    Anyway, thanks for the review Kevin!

  6. Anglibs says

    I don’t have a hdmi port on my flatscreen panasonic viera tv. What adaptor do I need to connect apple tv?

  7. Dolphster says

    I bought a 2nd Gen Apple TV and withn 20 days they release the 3rd Gen. Returned my first one and got the 3rd gen….what a difference! Especially for showing photos etc, the 1080p is worth the $. Faster processor and future proof when the apps come along.

    I bought a connector for my Plasma because I didn’t have an extra HDMI port…cost was $15 from Walmart online, which gave me 3 HDMI Port Switch.

    Using the Remote App is an absolute must, otherwise you’ll go crazy typing passwords, inputting searches etc.

    There are quick streaming converters for file formats other than the standard apple .mov .mp4 formats…so you can easily play the .mkv etc.

    Was so happy with the 3rd gen, I went and bought 2 more for my house…yeah, they’re worth it alright.

    Also, I take one with me for work to do presentations on the road. Most of the companies I deal with either already have a projector (which I use a HDMI to Video Plug adapter) or they have Flat-screens to connect to. Using your own Wi-Fi hotspot means I don’t even need to jump on their network to push the images to the apple TV. Freaking Awesome.

    Thank you Apple.

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