Top Ten Reasons You Don’t Need Apple TV (Yet)

Top Ten Reasons You Don’t Need Apple TV (Yet) 1

Today, Apple officially kicked off its Apple TV publicity campaign, providing review hardware to friendly members of the press and enabling selected journalists to publish early reviews. The goal: to try and build enough positive buzz to sustain the newest member of the Apple family despite some mainstream skepticism about its prospects for success.

To provide a bit of balance for all the hype you’re likely to hear over the next several days, we bring you this: a list of the top ten reasons you might not need Apple TV, at least yet. Some are obvious, others aren’t, and all are counterpointed to present both sides of the debate. We’ll leave it for you to decide which side you’re on: will you line up for Apple TV, or sit this one out?


(10) You have a fifth-generation iPod with video and a $20 bill in your pocket. If you have a full-sized iPod with a video screen, you’re in luck: a lot of Apple TV’s functionality is already sitting inside your iPod, just waiting to be used with literally any TV you own. All you need is a $15-20 iPod AV Cable from one of more than ten vendors, and you can play music, photos, and videos directly from your iPod, with up to 80 Gigs of storage space. Counterpoint: You’ll have to give up Apple TV’s on-TV menuing and use the iPod’s screen to select content, but a DLO HomeDock Deluxe or a Griffin TuneCenter will get you most of the way there for $150 or less.


(9) You don’t have a high-definition TV, or don’t use one as your primary set. Apple mandates that you have a widescreen television capable of at least 480P resolution, which means that you’ll almost certainly need to have a high-definition set in order to even use Apple TV. If you don’t have one of these TVs, or don’t keep it in a room where you most often watch videos, Apple TV might not be right for you. Counterpoint: Like it or not, HDTV’s the future. If you don’t have one (or more) yet, you will. But until then, perhaps Apple TV can wait.


(8) You have a large movie collection that isn’t in one of Apple TV’s two supported formats. For years, video files have been popularized in all sorts of file formats – DiVX, MPEG-2, WMV, and various types of AVIs. Apple TV won’t play most of them, and it won’t play your DVDs, either. Assuming you live in a country where DVD ripping is legal – take one step back, American readers – you’ll most likely need to use special conversion tools and spend a couple of hours per DVD you want to convert into an Apple TV-optimized file. Do you really want to invest that time in this format? Counterpoint: The latest Apple TV variant on Apple’s H.264 video format offers nice, high resolutions, so maybe it’s the right time to start converting your movies – unless you need 5.1-channel surround sound.


(7) The iTunes Store doesn’t sell movies or TV shows in your country, or there’s nothing you want to buy. A year and a half have passed since Apple introduced fifth-generation iPods, and yet there are no movies or real TV shows available in the international iTunes Stores for purchase. While American customers now have an outstanding variety of iTunes-ready TV shows to choose from, most movie studios have failed – at least, thus far – to join with Apple for digital distribution of their new releases. Buying into Apple TV right now is a leap of faith that Apple will continue to win new partners, and most international customers have only music videos or video podcasts to download. Counterpoint: Anyone who bet against Apple’s growth in music would have been wrong in a huge way – there’s a reason Apple’s faithful remain faithful.


(6) You want to protest Apple’s pricing and bundling policies. When Apple announced its wireless AirPort Express device with AirTunes (remember that?), many people thought that $129 was a stretch for wireless audio streaming. At $299 – two and a half years later – Apple TV may strike you as a big stretch for wireless video, photo, and audio streaming, especially if you think you’ll need more than one for your house. Plus, you have to buy the video and audio cables yourself, since Apple doesn’t toss them in like most companies. Would holding back your $299 teach Apple a lesson about pricing all of its products so that average people can afford them? Counterpoint: Probably not. Apple always tries to skim the market, and they’re counting on early adopters to cough up the extra cash that mainstream buyers won’t. If you’re not buying today, Apple probably doesn’t care too much.


(5) Apple TV doesn’t have a DVR – or you already have one. TiVo – and other digital video recorders – enable you to record everything from TV shows to movies directly off of your existing cable or satellite TV service, at a single monthly price that lets you record as much as you want. Some, like TiVo, even let you export recordings directly to the iPod, and none require you to wait until the next morning to watch yesterday’s shows. Minus a DVR, Apple TV is little more than a box you have to pay per episode or movie to fill, unless you’re buying it for the photo and music features. Counterpoint: Point to a DVR where you can buy an entire season’s worth of episodes to watch before they’ve aired – Apple’s just signed up at least two shows, albeit small ones, to make that happen. And if you’re willing to pay for them, you can be guaranteed to get the entire season at close to DVD-quality resolution – without waiting for the DVDs to be released. Apple TV might be the wave of the future.


(4) It doesn’t have a DVD or other hi-def disc player. All of the major studios support DVD for TV and movie releases, and either HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc for high-definition video releases, but Apple TV doesn’t – it’s made solely for digital downloads, which are currently lower-resolution than even an old-fashioned DVD. For that reason, it won’t replace anything in your existing home AV setup – it sits alongside your current gear. Counterpoint: HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc haven’t taken off, and if fast DVD hardware converters appear (and/or video disc ripping laws change), there may be no need for discs at all.


(3) You’re budgeting for another Apple purchase, like a Mac mini. With the $499 iPhone, new iPods, and full-fledged computers like the $599 Mac mini out there, you have plenty of other ways to spend your cash on Apple products, and probably more compelling ones. Many readers think the similarly wireless-ready, more powerful Mac mini offers a much better value for home AV users – it certainly offers more hard drive space and the ability to play back any video you may have, including digital files in any format, as well as DVDs. Counterpoint: Unless you’re planning to buy a 30GB iPod, nothing Apple’s releasing is going to be much less than a $299 Apple TV, and you’ll have to shell out a lot more for one of those fancy Mac minis.


(2) You want to hold out for a version with higher resolution or more hard disk space. If it’s a good Apple product, the company always releases a better one later, and if it’s a bad product, it quietly disappears from store shelves. Even if you don’t like the current Apple TV, you’ll have to concede that an updated version is likely to eventually follow, with enough horsepower to support even better video quality, and/or store more content. As nice as the first-generation iPod was, most people would laugh at paying $399 today for its 5GB disk drive. Counterpoint: Apple could update some of Apple TV’s features in firmware, or release inexpensive add-ons to enhance its capabilities. Who’d be laughing then?


(1) You want to wait until the reality distortion field dies down. It’s a common occurrence: Apple has the amazing ability to get people really excited for a new product release, compile positive quotes from its favorite journalists, and inspire lots of impulse – but luxury – purchases. Waiting a little while for a more balanced perspective may help you make a smarter purchasing decision. Counterpoint: Part of the fun of being an Apple fan is getting caught up in the hype and lining up for something that, only yesterday, you didn’t know you needed. Like a new Apple Store 15 minutes from your house. Or maybe an Apple TV.

Readers, what do you think?

  1. I still wonder if AppleTV is able to send music to an AirPort Express device (or more realisticaly , tell iTunes to). My speakers are plugged to one, and I don’t see why I couldn’t benefit of the ease of use of an AppleTV for my (quite large) music library. Video is interesting, right, but then?

    On the contrary, with a MacMini, There is no question to ask about it, as my library is stored on a server via AFP.
    Although it is twice the price of an AppleTV, that single feature is, to me, a key for declaring a winner in the “MacMini VS. AppleTV” fight.

  2. Guess we fell into most of the counterpoint categories. Ordered ours last night and we received notice that it is shipping this morning.

    The actual reason is that we are diehard 24 fans and we’ve become addicted to downloading each show and watching it on our kitchen LCD hooked to our MacMini. We would MUCH prefer to be able to watch it downstairs on our large screen and now will be able to.

    It’s really all about content and convenience. iTunes carries 24 (we may try Lost out now, also) and AppleTV means we can now watch our show where we really want to watch it – on the couch vs. at the kitchen table.

    You might ask, why not Tivo? The answer, I think, is the iTunes interface. We already use iTunes for all of our music management. Adding video management to that interface is a no brainer for us – we know how to use it and we like it.

    We don’t want to add a new device with a new interface to learn (and possiblly come to hate) to our lives, but we are delighted to expand the capabilities of the one we already know and love.

    It will be interesting to see how this all pans out… Thanks for the great article!


  3. Kirk – We’re testing on two HDTVs and an HD-less widescreen TV set (with component-in) as well. Absent an iTunes Video Store in France, and with none apparently coming soon (see Parental Ratings, iTunes 7.1.1), French users will have at least as many content procurement concerns as connectivity ones, I suspect.

  4. Well written guys. This article could apply to almost any gadget from a small list of tech companies that update on a regular basis. You will be saving alot of people (including myself) from an “impulse buy.” How patriotic of you! Thanks!

  5. Lack of 5.1-channel audio is a huge minus. Although many HDTV owners do not have surround sound setup, very substantial percentage of them do. Even if you do not have surround sound audio today, you may later.

  6. I do not understand why people need something to stream video or audio to their home theater from their computer. My PC is four years old now. It has an GeForce 5600 FX video card and a Sound Blast Live card in it. The total cost of my computer was about $600 Canadian when I bought it. The Video card has a DVI out (most mid to high end video cards have at least one) so I can connect it directly to the TV and I also connect through an Optic cable straight into my AV reciver.

    For $600 I can do anything the Apple TV box can do and more (like play games, watch DVDs). I guess with Apple TV you do not have a computer in your living room, but it is still an extra component. With a little research, people will find that their computers are able to do a lot more than they think.

  7. Nice write up.

    For my purposes, I don’t think I need an Apple TV in my living room just yet, since most of my iTunes content is music and not video.

    I’ve bought one or two videos on iTunes and am happy with them. I might continue buying singular episodes that I might really like, especially if I have no plans on buying complete season DVDs.

    I think full-length films at the iTunes store are rather pricey, and though I like the idea of downloadable movies, I don’t see the point of buying Pixar’s “Cars” on DVD for $15 and then downloading the same thing again on iTunes for another $15. I wouldn’t mind paying an extra fee to be able to download a film, but to do it twice is too much.

    At the moment, I simply don’t see Apple TV really fitting into my personal lifestyle. If, down the road, the unit sported a larger hard drive, offered DVR capability, or allowed legal ripping of DVDs, I might reconsider.

    Still, it looks pretty cool …

  8. Oh boy, here we go again. Wasn’t this all expectable? Here are
    5 things that are awsome about the Apple TV:
    1. you seamlessly view anything that’s on your computer on your TV
    2. you can choose the display resolution from the iTV box itself
    3. The box is wireless 802.11n (superfast)
    4. Painlessly discovers up to 5 computers in your network
    5. On screen keyboard to enter your password and stuff.

  9. Apple TV is a bit on the expensive side, I prefer the free route (yea I’m cheap like that). It may not be as good and have exactly what I want but free is good enough of a reason for me

    FreeTube – ( ) IPTV? Pretty good, mainly some indie stuff but still good for entertainment purposes

    Joost – IPTV, good but requires invite and its static videos only so not live like the first one or apple tv. If you want an invite try or beg a friend who has one to give one to you.

  10. Wonderfully written piece that presents both sides of the argument. iLounge continually throws reason on the boiling waters of hype.

  11. Brilliant article Jeremy, just what some apple zealots needed to hear for them to realize “Hey I don’t need to buy this just because Jobs tells me too.” I think I fall into number 3 as I have $600 waiting for Jobs to tell me to buy a new iPod, lol. Or maybe it is number 6 becuase I want to protest apple releasing the iPhone and holding off on what is probably a ready iPod waiting for the the iPhone to get outta the limelight.

  12. The only *real* limitation is that it doesn’t record. Every other criticism is moot IMHO.

    Even the file format issue isn’t as bad as some might think.

    And there’s lots of stuff out there on Google Video – albeit in VHS quality resolution – that can be viewed through this new device as soon as it’s downloaded.

    Most interesting will be the hacks that will be attempted – watch out for Linux, expanded codec support etc.

    A lot of people are going to like this for user-generated content – not just movies and TV. An iPod is almost the ideal replacement but for its lack of high resolution formats.

    Still, if you want a budget media server, buy an iPod.

  13. Actually, if you’re outside the US, you may not “almost certainly” need an HDTV. Here in France, widescreen has been the norm for years, first gaining a foothold in the market in 1998 for the World Cup. However, the problem arises in connecting an Apple TV to a non-HD TV. I have yet to buy one until I’m sure that a component-SCART connector will work (in France, all audiovisual devices use SCART).


  14. Overhyped and overpriced indeed! XBOX 360 already does what AppleTV does and more! And I wasn’t talking about the gaming portion of the unit. With a Windows Vista Premium or Ultimate and a tuner card, you can play music, watch photos, watch live TV, pause and rewind like a DVR, download movies from your couch (try that with the AppleTV!). And for about the same price, you get to play hi-res games on the unit. How sweet is that?

  15. IMHO, a Mac mini is much better value and is far more flexible, especially since you can access the web on it (not mentioned in this article). Add Digital audio out and this thing would be a serious contender for a home theatre/media centre! Bring it on Apple.

  16. I love the idea behind the Apple TV, but the price doesn’t work for me. I think the price is “fair,” but just doesn’t fit into my personal equation of value for this product.

    At $149, I’d think about it. At $99, I’d definitely get one.

    I’m not arguing that Apple should change the price. I’m just going to have to wait for the price of new models to come down, or pick one up used in a year or two.

  17. jSlides, I get you, but a cheap PC is not really ideal as a media server unless you take great care in selecting low-energy, quiet components. The Apple TV does more with less – more suitable due to less ‘stuff’ hanging off of it. If that makes any sense. Mies van der Rohe would probably have nothing but Apple hardware in his buildings!

    appfab, we all have our own tastes and you obviously think before you buy, but I’m guessing that many people on this forum (Windows users or not) would not want to contaminate their homes with any more Windows installations than is absolutely necessary. Nevermind the extra contamination that an XBox will bring.

  18. Excellent article!

    While TV looks compelling in some respects, I’ll wait for Version 2. It’s one of those “almost there” devices.

    Grainy lo-res video streamed to my 1080p HDTV doesn’t interest me in the least, especially since I’ve got digital HD cable and DVR which seem pretty okay. ;^)

    I also plug my PowerBook into the TV’s VGA port and can do everything I want in full-res 1920 x 1080. It’s pretty nice. Getting a Blu-ray player will be next, I suppose.

    I bought an 80GB 5.5G iPod a few weeks ago… my personal first, but I’ve gifted many! … so the iPod solution looks worthy of exploration.

    Of interest for the iPod solution is a little adaptor just announced by SendStation, the PocketDock AV. It plugs into the iPod line-out dock end and gives you a full compliment of analogue A/V cables (S-Video, composite video, L/R audio and USB). Looks nice and compact, too. And if it’s anything like their other products, it should be good quality.

  19. There is the 11th reason why you don’t need the Apple TV yet. There is a chip company in Irvine known as Quartics which develops solution which does PC2TV in any formats the PC could support. It even supports online content in proprietary formats. It also projects graphics and text very well. It is simply amazing. Need to find out which brand names are using Quartics’ solution to turn it into a consumer product like an Apple TV.

  20. It’d be great to see the updated version of this, now that the new Apple tv product is available, with many point to face/compare/put.

  21. How does the XBox 360 do all this for the same price if you have to buy Vista premium and a tuner card, oh, and an XBox!

  22. It seems that the article was written two years ago. Ever since we have learned how to better use an Apple TV. There are much more possibilities to use it as entertainment unit.
    Many points presented in this article are already redundant, for instance many people have a wide screen TV nowadays.
    There is no comparison between an iPod and Apple TV as mentioned. And thngs go on and on.
    I don’t also agree with Apple’s policy, but there is a reason for it. What you buy and use form them, it will always work as stated. I guess it is the same as buying 3rd party auto parts for BMW and then being pissed that your card breaks or does not perform as new.
    However, with Apple TV you have the option to hack into, playing movies from whatever source, replace the hard drive with a much larger one, connect an extra flash disk, keyboard and many others things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *