Version 2.0 of the Apple TV software—also known as Apple TV Take 2—was released on February 12, 2008, and includes a large collection of new features and enhancements to old features. We’ve documented many of them in our previous What to Expect from Apple TV 2.0 article, but uncovered additional details in the final software release today. Here’s what’s new:
(1) Set Aside 30 Minutes for the Installation: Though your speed may vary based on the type of broadband Internet connection you have, the free software update should require 20-30 minutes from the start of downloading to the finish of installation and rebooting. Go into Settings from the Apple TV’s main menu, select Update Software, and give the system 7-10 minutes to locate and finish downloading the 2.0 update from Apple’s servers. Over the next 10-15 minutes, the update will appear to restart your Apple TV around six times, three with both Apple logos and progress bars, and three with only Apple logos.
(2) New Intro Video: Apple TV 2.0 has a new introductory video that differs from the one shown on versions 1.0 and 1.1 of its software. The video changes the “wall of videos” theme from the old video—the subject of a lawsuit from an artist who demonstrated that the video copied from his work—into a moving blob of videos that are transmitted in a beam of light into an Apple TV device.
(3) 75 HD Rentals Available at Launch: The software launched with access to 75 different high-definition movie rentals, ranging alphabetically from “300” and “2010: The Year We Make Contact” to “The Whole Nine Yards” and “Year of the Dog.”
(4) Not All HD Videos Offer The Same AV Encoding: HD video rentals do not uniformly guarantee the same AV experience. Some of the videos, such as Transformers, feature Dolby Digital audio encoding, while others such as “Two Weeks Notice” do not.
Apple TV’s screens for HD/SD movie rentals, HD-only, and SD-only rentals
(5) Some Videos Are HD Only: Surprisingly, though many of the HD movie rentals are also available in standard-definition (SD) versions, others, such as 2010: The Year We Make Contact, are not. Consequently, you may have two rental choices for a given movie—$2.99 or $3.99 for an older film, $3.99 or $4.99 for a new release—or just one. We expected that there would be some standard-definition films that didn’t have HD versions available, but not that some videos would be HD only.
Apple TV’s Grid, Horizontal Cover Flow-ish, and List-Style iTunes Store Interfaces
(6) Different, Updating iTunes Store Browsing Interfaces: Apple TV 2.0’s iTunes Store video browsing interface uses a mix of Apple TV 1.0-style scrolling lists, and a new interface that places cover art on the screen in either full-screen grids or horizontal lines. The horizontal lines try to mimic Cover Flow from iTunes, iPhone, and the iPod touch, but use far more black space on the screen, making the effect subtler and hard to initially notice. Apple can update these listings automatically, as they’re served over the Internet, and can conceivably correct interface spelling mistakes like “Cops & Robberts” under Top TV Shows, as well as add items, such as NBC’s currently missing listing under TV Networks.
(7) Photo Directories by Number: Photos in your library now benefit from a parenthetical list of how many images are found in each directory—a feature that also lets you know quickly how many images are in the directories of Flickr and .Mac users you browse.
(8) Flickr and .Mac Contacts Require Precision: Accessing Flickr and .Mac contacts isn’t as easy as we might have hoped—perhaps for privacy reasons. If you don’t get the exact name correct when entering a Flickr contact, you have to go back and keep trying until you get it right. Capitalization thankfully doesn’t seem to matter, but there’s no search feature or other way to locate a contact you know is in Flickr but doesn’t seem to appear when you enter the name.
(9) Internet Streaming Screen Savers: You can now set your Screen Saver to stream photos from any of your Flickr contacts or .Mac Web Galleries rather than using photos you’ve synchronized from iTunes, or the ones Apple has included along with Apple TV.
(10) Hidden iTunes Features, Unlocked: Updating to Apple TV 2.0 unlocks features included but previously hidden in iTunes 7.6, including a choice between Automatic Sync and Custom Sync, AirTunes streaming to the Apple TV, and the ability to transfer rented movies from iTunes to the Apple TV for viewing. Automatic Sync lets iTunes choose which audio and video to sync to your Apple TV, giving priority to newer items, while Custom Sync gives you the choice of audio and video to sync, giving priority as space allows to movies, TV shows, music, then podcasts. AirTunes treats Apple TV like an AirPort Express, enabling it to wirelessly receive audio sent directly from an iTunes-equipped computer, and perform it on a connected audio system.
We’ll have more on Apple TV version 2.0 in the near future. The software will, according to Apple, soon be pre-installed on 40GB ($229) and 160GB ($329) Apple TV hardware sold by Apple Stores and other retailers.