Putting a bit of Apple in your TV

First things first — Apple TV is NOT a television, contrary to what a surprisingly large number of people think (you cannot blame them, really, with a name like that). What it is though, a small box that you can attach to your HD (High Definition) or HD-ready television and access select content from the Internet and content stored on other devices, over Wi-Fi. In some ways, then, it is more of a media streamer than one of those Smart TV boxes that are the range today, which let you go online on your TV, browse the web and do a whole lot more.

So, one might wonder, what is so special about Apple TV? Well, that would really depend on the number of Apple devices that you have at home. It can work with a PC, any Apple computer, and any device running iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch). And it is a bridge between those devices and your television, provided you have a Wi-Fi connection handy. Mind you, it is quite an amazingly designed bridge, shaped like a square with smooth edges and less than an inch tall. It is compact enough to fit into the palm of your hand and at around 300 gms, light enough to slip into a bag.

Accompanying it is an equally compact remote made of aluminum, it seems right out of the iPod family, with very few buttons — it just has direction keys with an enter key between them, a menu key, and a play/pause key. The box itself has an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, and an optical audio port, and comes with Infra red, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. What is not included in the box, alas, is an HDMI cable, without which Apple TV cannot connect to your TV.

No, there are no USB ports into which you can stick flash drives, nor memory card slots. It may boast an A5 single core processor at its heart, but the Apple TV lays no claims to being a smart box.

The Apple effect hits you the moment you try to set up the device. We had it up and running in less than a minute, literally. All you need to do is connect Apple TV to your television using an HDMI cable and then connect it to the Internet using either a WI-Fi connection or plugging in an Ethernet cable. Log in to your Apple account (the same one you use on iTunes), and you are ready to roll. The interface is dead simple, and is icon based like your iPad or iPhone.

You can check out YouTube content, view your Photostreams (if you use them), see what's the latest on Flickr, view trailers and podcasts, purchase and rent films and music from iTunes, and that's not all — you can also view content from your iOS devices and your computer (works best with Macs, of course) using AirPlay.

So you can play Temple Run on a larger screen, browse the Web, or take a close look at your photo album, listen to the songs you have stored on your device. You can also display everything that’s on your Mac OS computer on a larger screen. The remote works brilliantly and is simple to use, but if you are not content with that, you can also convert your iPhone or iPod touch into a remote using Apple's Remote app — we would advise you to do so, as typing text using the remote to hop from letter to letter can be tedious. What's more, in some games like Ducati Challenge, you can even use your iPad or iPhone as a controller as the action unfolds on the bigger screen!

And it is this part of the device that we think is its biggest strength — the ease with which it works with the iPad and iPhone. You can actually carry the Apple TV along with you, connect it to an LCD and make a presentation from your tablet within minutes. All you need is Wi-Fi connectivity, Similarly, you can shoot a video and quickly view and edit it on a large screen. Pretty cool, we think. As far as using the device to go through the likes of YouTube and Vimeo or renting and watching films from iTunes, your experience would depend on the quality of your broadband connection. We would advise steering clear of HD content as that can take a while to stream, and in the case of films, the buffering can grate a bit (we were using a two mbps connection from Airtel). But if all you are looking to view are short clips and podcasts, the device works just fine.

Critics will harp at the fact that you cannot download apps to it or browse the Web on it, like Android Smart TV boxes. With no access to channels like Hulu and NetFlix, the online experience on Apple TV in India is limited to the likes of YouTube, Vimeo, WSJ Live, iTunes films, music and Podcasts. Still, its sheer ease of use and seamless connectivity with other Apple devices makes the Apple TV a very handy gadget for any one in the iOS/Apple environment. The fact that it can also stream content from some external storage devices like the Seagate Wireless Plus adds to its utility.

Yes, it is limited and does not do as much as some Smart TV boxes out there, but what it does, it does very well indeed. A must-have for iOS junkies. Others can pass.

Apple TV: A5 single core processor, HDMI, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Infra Red, Bluetooth, Apple Remote, iTunes, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr.
Price: Rs 8,295 

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