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If Apple was a superhero it would be called 'The Polisher'. That is the key skill Steve Jobs has instilled in his company and to such a degree rivals rarely match it. The problem is polish can't fix everything...
The latest case for the prosecution: Apple TV. In the run up to Apple's second generation product hype was abound that 'iTV' would be essentially a screen-less iPod touch with HDMI output, running iOS and featuring full integration with the all conquering App Store. In reality we got a tiny new form factor with an enhanced UI and reduced price tag. It was, quite frankly, underwhelming. It is also stunningly well polished.
As with all Jobsian products, unwrapping Apple TV is a pleasure in itself. The box is minimalist, it slides open seductively and the presentation is fantastic: the device positioned snugly at the top with the power cable and instructions kept neatly below. HTC has learnt a great deal from Apple in this regard, but Apple is still the packaging king.
It is still the design king as well. If you thought the new iPod nano was small compared to its predecessor, then the Apple TV will have you shaking your head in disbelief. At just 99 x 99 x 23mm the second generation unit is less than half the size of its 200 x 200 x 28mm forebear. At 270g verses 1.1Kg it is also vastly lighter. In fact it's little bigger than an ashtray. The matte black finish of the top and bottom also contrast beautifully with the glossy sides and the power, HDMI, micro USB, optical out and Ethernet ports look as if they were carved in by a skilled sculptor.
Setup is polished too. Simply plug in the power, connect the HDMI cable, turn your TV to the correct input and the setup wizard will guide you quickly and smoothly through the setup process. This detects your network if you use WiFi (it is obviously automatic via Ethernet), logs into your iTunes account and discovers media via Home Sharing - be it on other computers or a NAS with iTunes server (as long as a computer connected to it is switched on).
Menus are slick and intuitive with four main categories: 'Movies', 'Internet', 'Computers' and 'Settings'. Movies links to standard and high definition films available for rental in iTunes (£3.49 HD, £2.49 SD, previews are restricted to SD) and theatre trailers (both SD and HD). Internet links to YouTube, iTunes' podcasts, MobileMe, Flickr and iTunes' radio stations. Computers shows the individual computers sharing your iTunes account with direct access to their iTunes content. Settings gives access to parental contracts, screen saver settings, media playback preferences (subtitles, repeat, playlists, etc), Airplay and putting Apple TV to sleep. And... and... and that's it.