Jobsworth shrinks Apple TV

Makes it affordable at $99

STEVE JOBS ANNOUNCED Apple’s new Apple TV today and to say that the new model is a huge improvement in just about every way compared to the old one, would be an understatement. However, all is not well in the kingdom of Apple, as the new Apple TV still lacks features that most, if not all of it competitors offer.

Let’s start with the good news, shall we? The new Apple TV is a quarter of the size of the previous model which means it only measures 3.9×3.9 inches (or 98x98mm if you prefer) and it’s a mere 0.9 inches (23mm) tall. This means that you won’t have any problem placing it next to your TV, no matter how small your TV stand is. As predicted, the new Apple TV is using Apple’s own A4 processors and not some newfangled hardware from AMD, despite some speculation of this being a possibility. For such a tiny box Apple has at least made some smart choices.

For one, the power adapter is built in, so there’s no need for a chunky wall wart taking up space. Due to its size, Apple decided to kill off all analogue connectors, so no more component video or analogue audio outputs as per the old model. What you do get is HDMI output, optical S/PDIF and a 10/100Mbit Ethernet port. There’s also a micro USB port located below the HDMI port, but this is meant to only be for service use. 802.11a/b/g/n is also part of the package and Apple has created a new aluminium remote control that looks a lot sleeker than the one supplied with the old version of Apple TV.

Another improvement is power usage, as the new Apple TV has a mere 6W power supply, while the old one had a 48W power supply. That’s ARM vs a couple of generations of old Intel and Nvidia hardware for you. We’re sure an Atom and ION2 solution would’ve ended up somewhere in the middle, but even that wouldn’t draw as little as 6W. One new addition on the software side of things is support for streaming from Netflix and YouTube as well as Flickr and MobileMe which should at least appeal to some. As impressive as this is, there are a few things that are less so, impressive that is. Due to its size there’s no internal hard drive in the new Apple TV which means that all content has to be streamed to it. This might not be a huge issue for most as it is possible to stream from a local computer.

However, Apple hasn’t upgraded video support and it seems like the HDMI port is limited to 720p output whereas the old version could still output 1080p/i albeit it wasn’t powerful enough to play back any video content at these resolutions. There doesn’t seem to have been any improvement as to the video formats supported either, so don’t expect to play back anything that isn’t in mov, mp4, m4v or motion JPEG. Audio support doesn’t seem to have changed either and Apple even appears to have dropped support for BMP and PNG images.

Then there’s that little problem of content, Apple has reduced the price of TV shows in HD from $2.99 to an affordable $0.99, while brand new HD movies will set you back $4.99 and older movies will go for $3.99. That’s about $30 a month if you watch say two shows a day, add a couple of movies over the weekend and it’s a lot more. SD movies are $1 cheaper, but why would you want SD content on a device that’s obviously meant for HD content? We’re also wonder where the unlimited all-you-can-eat plan is from Apple, especially as Jobs stated that people want on demand Hollywood HD content and an unlimited plan seems like the perfect solution here to give people what they want.

We’ve left out one feature that will impress when Apple launches iOS 4.2 in November. It’s called AirPlay and it allows you to stream content from the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch to the Apple TV. Thanks to Apple’s software integration this looks like a very slick and easy to use feature that we’re sure that the Sheeple will love. At $99 the new Apple TV isn’t ridiculously expensive, in fact, it’s $130 cheaper than Apple’s previous versions which makes it far more accessible to those that are interested in handing over their money to Apple so they can watch advertisement free streaming video at extortionist rates.S|A

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