Apple TV Photo Stream
Another iCloud based service available on the Apple TV is Photo Stream. This stores selected photos from your Apple devices in the cloud, making them available to all your devices at once, including the Apple TV.
Just login to the service and you are given instant access to your pics. It's an easy to use service in terms of the Apple TV but Photo Stream itself is a strange beast. What you can and can't upload, and from what device, is very limited. Want to upload old pics from your iPhone? Uh uh, no can do. Only new snaps are sent to the virtual heavens.
Apple TV Home Sharing
As mentioned above, you can access your locally stored music from another computer running iTunes, but you can also access your photos, podcasts, movies and TV shows purchased through iTunes. It is a brilliant interface for doing so, and is especially good for browsing your pictures, as you can tell iTunes to share your entire photo collection – holiday slideshows, here we come.
Apple TV Apps - Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr et al
As well as its own services, which are completed by access to Podcasts, internet radio and your MobileMe account, Apple has built into the Apple TV access to some third party apps. The full list out the box on our UK version is: Netflix, MLB.TV, Trailers, WSJ Live, YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr.
Not all of these services are ones we use regularly, but we tried YouTube and Flickr apps and found - particularly when using the onscreen keyboard on an iPhone - it's satisfyingly easy to quickly search for a relevant video or photo. Trailers is also a brilliant extra, letting you watch the latest HD trailers for all the upcoming blockbusters – great for keeping up to date with film goings on, and killing the odd spare few minutes.
Apple TV Interface
One thing we haven't yet dealt with is the Apple TV interface. As you'll have seen so far, the general idea is to keep things super simple with large, easy-to-see grids of icons and a minimal number of menus to drill down to the content you want.
The homescreen displays a few promoted shows, and just below them the Apple TV's four main sections – Movies, TV Shows, Music and Computers. Below these are the various apps/sections, which - once you've scrolled down a row - expand to fill the whole screen. It's all very quick and easy.
Jump into any section and the layout is generally one of three different styles. There's the Movies style with rows of themed content, the Computers view with a list on the right and large thumbnails on the left, and the Photo Stream style which is simply a massive grid of images. All suit their purpose well and we had few moments of frustration with it being too simple or indeed complicated.
The Apple TV is a divisive product. On the one hand it's a beautifully simple and easy to use yet powerful media player that's reasonably priced for all it can do – and the elegance with which it does it. But, on the other hand, it's incredibly limited in how you can use it. You have to be fully invested in the Apple ecosystem in terms of the devices you own, and be willing to buy your TV shows and movies through its online portal. Overall, though, if you are decked out with Mac this and i-that then for £99, this is a great way of getting that content locked up in your computers, tablets and phones onto your big screen.