The New Apple TV: New Users Might Love It, Old Users Might Hate It

I've been a fan of Apple's "hobby" Apple TV since day one! I've got more than a couple of them around the house. 🙂 When Apple had their annual iPod event this past September it was rumored that we might see a smaller, more affordable Apple TV and the rumors were true. Apple introduced a much smaller and more more affordable Apple TV. This new box is sooooooo tiny. It's also less than half the price of the model it replaces. As we know, that's rare for Apple products. When the announcement happened I was traveling on business, so I had to rely on various web reports during my breaks to follow the news. The one thing I kept trying to figure out from the scattered reports was, "what did this new one offer that my existing one didn't?" After all we're used to new technology having more bells and whistles to make you want to upgrade. I kept seeing the reports on size, price and Apple's new TV show rental prices as well as Netflix and AirPlay streaming, but that was it. Yes, that was it! This new Apple TV seems to take away as many features much as it adds. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of Apple TV and I think they will sell more NEW Apple TVs than ever before at the new price point, it's just that I'm not compelled to run out and replace the rest of my existing ones. Let me tell you why…


What you get

Like I said, it's SMALL and it runs much cooler than the previous model. One of my Apple TV's is located in a cabinet (this is the one that the new one replaces for me) and I often wonder if the heat build up will fry it? So I'm pleased to see the new one take up less space and run cooler. You also get the new shinny silver aluminum remote. I didn't even take mine out of the box because my Harmony One Remote works just fine with this new model too. On the back you'll find an HDMI port, Optical Audio, Ethernet (there is also built-in 802.11n WiFi) and a USB service port. There is one LED indicator on the front and the power supply is built-in so there is just a power cord and that's it. Nice!

Once you have it setup this is where you'll find the biggest differences from the old to the new. 


Out with the OLD Apple TV

The original Apple TV with current interface above


The New Apple TV is all about Streaming!

There is no user accessible internal storage. Rumor has it that there is 8GB of flash memory, but I imagine that it's reserved for buffering streaming content. So unlike the previous models there is no way to store TV shows, movies, podcasts or music on the device itself. You'll either have to stream it live from the internet or a Mac/PC on your network (see AirPlay below).


In with the NEW Apple TV

The NEW 2010 Apple TV above


As a matter of fact Apple has made it clear that it's all about streaming in the new menu structure. YOUR content is now buried under "Computers" instead of being mixed in with the other media choices like TV shows, Movies, etc. Also since there is no storage, there is no requirement to "Sync" with a computer. Unlike the previous model, this new one relies on iTunes Home Sharing if you want to stream your content to the device from your computer. So as long as you are logged in with your Apple ID on your computer and your Apple TV, your content will appear under the Computers section. This is not the end of the world, it will just take some getting used to for previous Apple TV owners. New Apple TV users won't think twice about it.

It seems so un-Apple like to not see any imagery from your library on this screen above

Once you drill down into your computer you will then see your content stream by as usual.



Rent vs. Buy

Renting makes sense and that's what the 2010 Apple TV is all about. There is NO option to "Buy" content directly from your Apple TV. This will be another thing that existing users would have to adjust to. You can rent movies and TV shows (currently only from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America). TV shows are only $0.99 to rent the HD versions as opposed to buying them for $1.99 for the Standard Def version or $2.99 for the HD version. I really really like this model because the only reason I ever bought TV shows in the past was because there was no option to rent them. I usually only watch them one time after buying them and only buy them because I forgot to TiVo them. As far as movies go, I also rent 99% of the time and this has not really changed on Apple TV. The only thing you can't do is BUY a movie (or any other content) on Apple TV. You can still buy iTunes content on your computer and stream it, but not directly from the Apple TV itself. While many would argue that if it's (a movie) good enough to buy, you probably want the Blu-ray version anyway. Nonetheless, I'm still surprised that Apple doesn't at least allow a "Buy" option of any media they sell and have that content download on your computer instead. Clearly this is possible via Home Sharing since both devices are tied to the same account. So why have to get up go over to the computer to buy something and then go back to the Apple TV just to watch it or listen to it? This would be especially useful for things like music and music videos. By the way, there is no option to access the iTunes store from a Music perspective at all on the new Apple TV. You can only access the music sitting on your computer. 

Netflix, YouTube, Flickr, MobileMe & Radio

I'm not only happy to see Netflix integration here, but I'm very pleased with the way it's been integrated. There are two ways to stream Netflix to a device/computer. You can "register" a device like a TiVo HD or Wii for example, or you can just log in to your Netflix account with a computer and stream. The problem is that you can only register a limited number of "devices". So you may hit your limit if you have more than a few rooms with TVs. Luckily Apple integrated Netflix using a  "computer"  like log in approach. This means that as far as Netflix is concerned you're logging in with a computer like device and therefore you're not going to hit the limit as you don't have to "register" the device. It was great seeing my Instant Queue and being able to do searches to watch movies. I already had Netflix streaming via TiVo HD, so I wasn't all that thrilled when it was announced, but I do like the Apple TV implementation better. Apple TV also allows you to stream videos from YouTube. You can also log in with your account. Strangely though, once I logged in I could only access my Favorites, but not "My Videos". They made it really easy to see your online photos and online photos from your friends. All you need to know is their Flickr or MobileMe names and you can then access any public albums and view the photos on your big screen. There is also a nice large list of internet Radio stations to stream from. Sadly if you hear a song that you want to buy, you'll have to either remember the name of it or write it down and then go to your computer/iOS device to buy it.


What about AirPlay?

Any one that says anything slightly negative about the new Apple TV is quickly reminded by an Apple Fan that AirPlay is the killer feature! So let's talk about AirPlay. AirPlay is the evolution of AirTunes and will allow not only computers to stream content directly to an Apple TV, but also iOS devices running iOS 4.2 or higher. Cool! I think this is a nice feature, but I'm just not sure how often I'd use it. In a perfect world a friend comes over with their iOS device and says "hey, let me show you this" and they stream that content directly to your Apple TV via AirPlay. Yes, that is very cool! Again, just not sure how often it will happen for most users. As far as my own iOS devices, there is rarely anything on them that isn't already on my computers. If I shot a video or some photos, I'm probably going to edit it first or retouch the photos first on my computer before showing them to people. Therefore they would be on my computer anyway, which can already stream today. Where I could see this being a big deal is in a presentation scenario, say a conference room with an Apple TV hooked up to a big screen TV or projector. Presenters could then just wirelessly stream their presentations from their iPads. So while I think the technology for AirPlay is cool, I don't think it will be the feature that pushes this product over the success rainbow. 


What you don't get

I've spent a lot of time talking about what you get and even mentioned some things that have gone away along the way. So just a quick recap for an existing Apple TV owner, what you don't get – from a hardware perspective: there is no hard drive, no component video or RCA audio ports. You also can't buy any content directly from the device. So if your TV doesn't have HDMI or your receiver doesn't have Optical Audio, you're not going to like this new box. Luckily any TV sold today meets these requirements.


Use your iOS Device as an Apple TV Remote

Apple has updated their FREE Remote App to work with the New Apple TV (it works with Macs/PCs too) and in the process they made it a Universal App that takes advantage of the iPad. It's GREAT and very useful anytime you need to do on screen text entry (user names, passwords, searches, etc.) because you can use your device to type it in wirelessly.

You can download Remote for Free here from the Remote


The Bottom Line and Why you'll either Love it or Hate it

New users that have never had an Apple TV will undoubtedly love the new model. It provides a low cost way to stream content from your computer and the internet (YouTube, Netflix, Flickr, Radio & MobileMe).  If you want to know just how inexpensive this new model is, let's draw a quick comparison Apple sells Apple TV complete for $99. TiVo on the other hand charges $90 just for their external 802.11n network adapter! Do the math here on parts.

Existing users: I can't really tell you to run out and buy one. If your existing Apple TV is up and running and you're happy with it, there wouldn't be much of a reason to buy this new one. The only reasons would be to get TV show rentals (as far as I can tell Apple has made no mention of doing any software updates to allow existing users to "rent" TV shows), AirPlay and a smaller cooler box. 

For me Apple TV doesn't replace the existing ones I have. It's great for new owners, but I'm not quite ready to give up my storage and buying abilities just yet. Also for most people looking to cut the cable/satellite bill Apple TV will be a great option if and when more television networks come online for rental prices.

Speaking of which, as cheap as $0.99/episode sound, Amazon (on TiVo HD) already SELLS shows for that price. So Apple still has some price work to do here.


What I would have liked to have seen is: Hulu integration! After all if it's an internet streaming device connected to my TV, why not allow me to stream Hulu? Oh yeah, that whole iTunes store thing. I forgot. How about some basic things that could come from the internet instead then? Things like a "my page" that would have my local weather forecast, sports scores, favorite RSS feeds, twitter feeds, facebook status updates, all at a glance? Think Flipboard for Apple TV. Maybe even, dare I say it, the people I follow on Ping?  This is something that could be integrated in as a screen saver. There's a lot that could be done with an internet streaming device that wouldn't totally wreck Apple's iTunes store model. While we're at it. If this thing does really run iOS, then Apps would be a natural. However, for that you'd need some kind of user storage. Oh yeah….

Luckily most of the things I'd like to see can be added via Software Updates. So here's for hoping!

You can get the Apple TV here for $99

28 Replies to “The New Apple TV: New Users Might Love It, Old Users Might Hate It”

  1. Hi Terry, Thanks for reviewing this , you covered everything for sure! Can you hook up both systems to the tv..(different inputs)..I like the streaming of the new box, but having both systems hooked up would give you Netflix (new apple tv) and the storage (old apple tv)….When you want to stream with Netflix you would go to Input 4 for example, and when you want to watch something you have backed up on the old apple tv, you would go to input 5 for example…..Or, could you keep the existing old apple tv and use another streaming device like Roku if you wanted……essentially, is it feasible to have both systems???

    1. Hi Sandra,
      Yes, you could have 2 ATV’s connected to the same TV on different inputs. Or you could use your old one and a Roku. Totally up to you.


    2. Thanks Terry! Yes, i will use the old ATV to watch shows i have season passes for and i can use the new ATV mainly for Netflix, but also I will be able to use the AirPlay on Ipad etc….(stream shows to Ipad) ..i will be able to get on my stationary bike and watch content while i exercise!)….I also agree, the old ATV is quite hot!

  2. I use mine mainly for streaming movies I already have and watching podcasts and so far its been rock solid. One thing I haven’t been able to do is get iTunes Extras to work. They just don’t show up in my computer library. Anybody else?

  3. I had multiples of the first generation iTV and replaced them with the new models … was a no-brainer. The one problem with the original was the HEAT. I also had one of mine in an enclosed cabinet, and with a Tivo, Replay and Receiver the heat buildup was enormous — but I loved the access to my iTunes library, so just left the door ajar.

    The new model runs cool, and makes it much easier to browse the several iTunes libraries around our home. No complaints about it what-so-ever. I can only see it getting better and better as Apple adds additional features through software updates (the guts of this thing are plenty good to run apps just as an iPod touch or iPad does).

    This product is a winner and Apple will sell many of them.

  4. Thanks for the good review, Terry!

    Wow… it’s really a bummer that you can’t watch Hulu (even though lately I’ve had a hard time finding full episodes of stuff I want to watch – watch a 2 mintue teaser clip of a show? – why on earth would I waste my time on that? life is too short… anyhow…). The lack of basic web access is a huge bummer. I’ve got an iPhone 3Gs and a cable modem, it just seems like I should be able to use the Apple TV to surf the web. It’s an “Apple TV” for goodness sakes! It leads one to believe you’re getting an Apple computer for your TV. I guess not. It’s basically a YouTube and Netflix portal.

    A couple questions:

    One thing people have always raved about is how nicely the Apple TV displayed photo slide shows. Does the new one do it as well as the old one (once the rigmarole of tethering to your home network is complete)?

    Is audio sent out of the HDMI port? I only have one optical audio input on my receiver, and I use it for my TV. If there is no audio sent out of the HDMI then I can’t use the new Apple TV.

    This just seems like a lot of hub-bub to put up with to get Netflix and YouTube on my TV. I’ve already got the mini-display port on my new MacBook Pro plugged into my TV, and I already do this. The new Apple TV would allow me to do this in a more lazy, wireless, don’t get up off the couch kind of a way- which is nice. And of course with the lovely Apple user interface. I’m just not sure if it’s worth $99. Eh… it probably is worth it. I just wish it did more useful stuff.

    I’m on the fence. Bummer. I wish it was an exciting no-brainer.

    1. Yes, you can audio over HDMI or Optical.
      Photos still look great and that was one of the main reasons I bought the original ATV when it first came out.

      1. Thanks! That’s good news. I know that the original MacBooks that supplied HDMI through the mini-display port did not include audio, which was then added in the next generation (making my descision to buy a new Apple notebook a lot easier 🙂

        I’m about 90% sold on the new Apple TV now. The more I think about it, I’m the type of person who isn’t a fan of managing media libraries. Not being responsible for keeping tabs on another hard drive is a selling point for me.

  5. Why compare the price of the Apple TV to TiVo when the Apple TV doesn’t do the #1 thing people by a TiVo for – namely, as a DVR?

    I enjoyed the article though; owning both an Apple TV and a TiVo doesn’t seem like a horrible idea to me. (I currently don’t own an Apple TV; my PS3 suffices for now, though it’s a pain sometimes :))

    1. Thanks Terry for your in depth look at the new Apple TV. Your site is one of the top places I visit to read up on the latest gadgets hitting the streets.

      Having said that, I too question the comparison to Tivo.

      ~”Also for most people looking to cut the cable/satellite bill Apple TV will be a great option if and when more television networks come online for rental prices.”

      With the new feature set from Apple (or lack thereof if you had the old one), it’s really apples and oranges (no pun intended). When you add up the fact that you have to go elsewhere to get episodes from all the rest of the channels you won’t get and you can’t store them for any realistic amount of time of the new Apple TV, the features and costs associated with TiVo speaks for itself.

      1. Hi Chris,
        I don’t think TiVo has anything to worry about here. I certainly have no plans of giving up mine.
        The comparisons I made here are in two areas:
        1) some people are looking to ditch cable/satellite and could do over the air HD for most stations they watch and ATV would be a nice supplement for rentals and streaming the content that it streams.
        2) I made the price comparison only to point out that you do get a lot for $99 since TiVo charges $90 just for a 802.11n network adapter and ATV has both Ethernet and 802.11n built-in. To me TiVo is gouging a bit here.
        Nonetheless I love my TiVo AND the Apple TV that sits on top of it. I have no problems owning both devices and using them for what they good at.

  6. Terry,

    I have a question about the remote app for the iPad/iPhone.
    I have an old Apple TV and have purchased a new one. I also have a large iTunes library on my iMac computer. When I bring up the remote application I see the new apple tv and I can control it, however I can not see the iTunes Library via the remote app (even though I am logged in using home sharing and from the new apple tv have access to my iMac iTunes library).

    However the weird thing is, if I start up my laptop (MBP) and start up iTunes, when I am running the Remote app on the iPad I can see the contents of the MBP library (very small itunes library with a few movies and few songs) tied to the Apple TV, but as I said earlier cannot see the iMac library contents. I am wondering if this may be an issue with the iPad remote app not working completely with large iTunes libraries. Was curious if you are having the same symptoms on your end ….

    Thanks in advance


  7. For me the Netflix is the big advantage, and the reason I went with it. I have one minor complaint that you didn’t mention. I always used the album art for my screen saver; I would sometimes glance up and spot a cover that reminded me of something I hadn’t heard in awhile. Didn’t mean I would listen to it right then, but I usually would remember to listen within a day or two. Not a big thing, but I miss it.

    I have another complaint that isn’t quite so minor, but it might not be the Apple TV’s fault, either. For some reason the FiOS remote that I had programmed for my old Apple TV won’t program for the new one. When I try to program the left it goes half-way and resets. I did get it programmed all the way one time after a few tricks but then a day or so later it lost the programming. I suspect it may be the remote which has been a bit flaky of late; I’ve ordered a new one and we’ll see what happens when it arrives.

  8. Terry, I also love the Apple TV and have several around the house. I have been waiting to buy a third unit for some time, holding out for the new model. Almost everything I watch is syncd from my iTunes and I have a Wii that handles Netflix streaming.

    I’m debating if I should buy the new version or the old version (from Apple refurb store) for $50 more. I like how the old one handles the iTunes content than what you showed in the article (mixed in with Movies, TV Shows, etc vs. under Computers) but buying old tech is not something I typically do.

    If you had to buy the new model’s functionality or the old model’s functionality, which would you prefer? Thanks

    1. That’s a tough question. It’s easy to say stay with the old one if you already have one. However, if I were buying now for the first time I would probably still have to say go with the new one and the reason is that Apple will likely not do anymore software updates of the old one. So with the new one it’s likely to continue to get better (just as the original model did). Also the new one is smaller and does run much cooler. So I’d go with a new one unless I could score the old one really cheap!

  9. I got my new Apple TV yesterday and was very disappointed that some of the features in the old Apple TV are missing and/or broken.

    1) You cannot control volume from the remote or the remote app when listening to music or audio podcasts on the Apple TV.

    2) You can no longer create a list of favorites for internet radio stations. Try scrolling through tons of internet radio stations (if you pick the right genre) every time you want to get to your favorite station(s). Nor is there any search function. Internet radio stations on your computer (and playlists containing them) are no longer supported either.

    3) In music, if you select a genre (say classical) and then select “all albums” you are now taken to all albums in all genres. Not real helpful if you are looking just to peruse the albums in a single genre instead of searching through artists. The same is true for the Remote app on the iPad (though, happily, not on the iPhone).

    4) While you can select which playlists on your computer in iTunes to share, Apple TV now ignores this. You get all your playlists including those in folders in one long flat list.

    5) I initially thought the addition of badges to Podcast Favorites indicating new unwatched podcasts was a plus, but they don’t seem to reset after watching them and there is no way to mark an unwatched podcast “watched” if you don’t want to be reminded to view it. Being able to rearrange favorite podcasts is a real plus though.

    I won’t argue that the new Apple TV is more technologically advanced than its predecessor. Nor am I too concerned about the shortage of TV rentals, as I am sure that will improve. I look forward to trying Netflix soon. And I am excited by Airplay on my iPad coming in November, not too mention the potential for Apps down the road.

    But for now, as a perhaps atypical owner, who uses it mainly to play music from a very large, multi-genre library as well as from a handful of internet radio stations, and for video podcasts that have supplanted a lot of my previous cable TV viewing, the new Apple TV is a surprising step backwards. Hopefully these things will be fixed in the next software upgrade.

    1. Hey John, Have you tried also using the remote app to link to your music collection directly on your computer? It would remedy many of the issues you mentioned

      It’s an easy switch between the apple TV and the iTunes – it simply picks-up where you left-off.

      Our home network is based on an Apple Time Capsule wireless router and we also have a few other Airport Expresses around the house attached to other sound systems – the apple TV also lets us direct the music through the entertainment sound system. There is a part of the remote app that allows for individual volume level control of all of the expresses and the apple TV, as well as a master volume

      Both my wife and I can use the remote app on our iPhones to tag-team off (seamlessly) controlling the apple TV and or our personal and shared iTunes libraries (Remote app connected to either of our computers) We’ve been amazed at how easy and seamless it’s been! many times one of us will be using part of the wireless network to stream music, and he other will be watching Apple TV.

      BTW – we have our favorite internet radio stations added within play list folders (Created a new play list labeled “Radio Favorites” and simply dragged the internet radio stations to it), which allow us to easily select from anywhere else – smooth! Sometimes the link expires (once in the past year for one of ours) and you simply delete it from the play list and drag a new link into the play list.

  10. I have the old ATV. What disappoints me the most about the new one is that I must now have my Macbook Pro open and running to play my music with the new one. That is my deal breaker and makes me prefer the Roku. At least it comes with Pandora and other media selections. I am surprised that is not mentioned.
    The main reason anyone is even interested in this new model is the Netflix offering. I consider myself an Apple fanboy but the more I research this ATV, the more I consider the Roku.
    Thanks for the review. Love your site!


  11. I have to amend my comment.

    Its not obvious, but you can mark a podcast as having been viewed by selecting it in the list and holding down the top button on the remote. Alternatively you can hit the little icon to the bottom left on the Remote App to get a menu with options to mark or unmark the podcast as read.

    You can add an internet radio station to favorites by selecting the station in the list view and following the same procedures above. Also not obvious. Internet radio stations that are not in the Apple TV directory, even if they have been side-loaded to iTunes still won’t play on the new Apple TV.

  12. Hi Terry,

    New to Apple TV and just getting a handle on it. Question? I have a desk top with my own itunes account, lots of movies. My wife has her laptop with her own itunes account, lots of songs. Both computers have home sharing on, but the apple tv only sees my library. Any way to get both on?


    1. I’ve complained about this in the past. Home Sharing is only one account at a time. It sucks, but for whatever reason Apple doesn’t allow 2 or more legitmate iTunes accounts to be home shared at the same time.

  13. My biggest complaint about all the ATVs was their inability to some basic iTunes-type things like…hello – shuffle TV shows or movies!
    I’d love to just put it on and have it randomly play my favorite TV shows. Does the new one do that?

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