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Apple TV 2012 - Photo Stream, Home Sharing and Interface

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


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.

Apple TV Photo Stream

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 Home Sharing

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.

Apple TV Youtube

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 Flickr

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.

Apple TV Home screen

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.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8


March 8, 2012, 2:44 pm

"Using either a mobile iOS device or a Mac PC you can very easily stream your videos, or even play games."

Unless you know differently, I don't believe you can stream from a Mac using OS X Lion - this is a feature coming in Mountain Lion. Also, given how their advertising strives to separate "I'm a Mac" from "I'm a PC", not sure how Apple would like your reference to a "Mac PC"! How about "Mac laptop or desktop"


March 8, 2012, 2:45 pm

Also, typo: "...if you're happy to stick to the Apple way, **it'll should** do you proud"


March 8, 2012, 3:19 pm

Nope, you're right. Have made it clearer.


March 8, 2012, 3:19 pm

Cheers, fixed.


March 8, 2012, 4:35 pm

Pity Sky decided to disable airplay on their Sky Go app.
It is the only app I have that doesn't support Airplay or HDMI out. :-(


March 8, 2012, 6:49 pm

I'm guessing DRM is in place for iTunes video content over AirPlay and HDMI (using HDCP), but perhaps there isn't a mechanism for the Sky Go app to use that.


March 8, 2012, 7:53 pm

It's tempting, especially with the 1080P support. What really attracts me is the chance to buy individual TV shows I've missed. At the moment my only options are to torrent the series I've missed or get them on Blu-ray, with myself obviously opting for the latter.

Is it worth £99 just for the ability to catch up with the Doctor Who (& and other TV series) episodes I missed last season? Plus the selection of movies on demand too. Hmm.


March 8, 2012, 8:27 pm

Netflix account any good for you?


March 8, 2012, 10:08 pm

Yes, thanks for that, that's another option. I'm just unsure how big Netflix's collection is, as they don't let you see their library until you sign up with them (although I could take advantage of the month's trial).

That leaves me with getting a device to watch Netflix on as my current media player and TV don't support it. In that case, the new Apple TV still looks attractive as it supports Netflix, and I can access its library if Netflix doesn't have the TV shows I want available.

A Scotland

March 8, 2012, 11:15 pm

Netflix has a woeful collection of mostly dated stuff. You get what you pay for though and it is very cheap. I think you pay about the same for one new movie on Apple TV as you would for a month's unlimited access to the Netflix catalogue.

Airplay mirroring aside, I am still not sure the Apple TV is going to be relevant for anybody with an console or a smart TV that have been providing these services for some time now.


March 8, 2012, 11:36 pm

It's an interesting point raised. Putting discs and dodgy downloads aside, for all the ease of use AppleTV provides, are people already too used to cheaper services available on many more devices?


March 9, 2012, 12:14 am

>> for all the ease of use AppleTV provides, are people already too used to cheaper services

Like you say putting illegal downloads aside, as of course you can still stream your illegal downloads to an ATV, what services are cheaper?
eg, I've got an XBox 360 & the original ATV, and from my experience they appear to be the same price. And I would assume the same for PS3.

I think if you already have a substantial collection of Music/Videos on an iTunes account I think it's a no-brainer, I assume this is Apples main audience anyway.


March 9, 2012, 12:35 am

@Ed - Yes, that is quite interesting - given the choice would you choose an inferior though cheaper service vs Apple's walled garden and ease of use. Also, there's the whole recurring monthly fee (Netflix) vs the pay-as-you-go (of iTunes) debate.

What I'm annoyed at is there's no iTunes/Amazon MP3 equivalent for movies and TV shows. Surely, there's demand for somewhere you could buy movies & individual episodes of shows, that was possibly DRM free, and had the range and depth of the iTunes music store except for movies/TV Shows. Netflix could be that place if it was as comprehensive as its American counterpart. It's why I'm considering the Apple TV despite its limitations.


March 9, 2012, 3:54 am

@Pbryanw - Definitely give the free month trial try with Netflix. Whilst I agree with A Scotland's sentiment (the collection is limited, especially newish films), I find that it's coverage of TV shows is excellent. Probably because I haven't owned a TV for years.

I've had a great time watching series like Weeds, Misfits, The 4400 and a load of films I missed watching years ago - and it's all so cheap at a six quid a month, with true multi-platform support and in HD. I really find it a superb service. I have it running on my TouchPad (CM9), Android phones, iPod touch, PC, Laptops, media players...you name it.

Maybe a Western Digital TV Live Streaming Media Player would be better for your needs? Cheaper than the Apple TV, plays more formats and supports BBC iPlayer and Netflix. Just a thought.


March 9, 2012, 9:41 pm

Thanks for the post, unfortunately I already have a media player (which just plays movies from my Hard-Drive and offers few extra features) so I'm still looking for that magic box that'll have VoD from all the major TV channels and Movies and TV shows on demand. I did previously have the original WDTV Live but that kept on crashing on me - from the sounds of it, the new version is much improved and could be a possible upgrade in the future.

I might also wait for YouView, if that ever gets released, and see how the initial reviews for that are. It sounds like it could possibly be the magic box I'm waiting for, providing it turns out ok after its long gestation.

And if Netflix becomes available on my TV, I'll give the free trial a go (there's nothing to lose is there). I've heard its TV show collection is its strongest feature (as you pointed out). Anyway, plenty to think about...


March 22, 2012, 5:21 pm

"Android/Linux/Symbian/Windows Phone devices need not apply."

You can transmit video, photos and music from Android devices using DoubleTwist AirSync http://www.doubletwist.com/...

Linux AirPlay support also exists, for example in Totem Media Player.

Not sure about the other two.


March 22, 2012, 7:31 pm

Ah, I must admit that service had passed me by. I'll test it tonight and update the review.


March 22, 2012, 9:12 pm

I've got a 1st Gen AppleTV, love it. Well, I love Plex on it...

But, more importantly, good choice - Gojira are amazing :D


March 22, 2012, 10:19 pm

As a media streamer - this is pure Apple:

Stylish, expensive, doesn't do much.

However, being Apple, whatever limited functions it does do, it does brilliantly.

As a media streamer, there are far better products out there for less money. However, if you have an iphone or ipad, you need to get one of these - becuase or AirPlay. This is one killer feature.

If you already have the older version, don't bother upgrading - the only difference is the 720p and 1080p. To be honest, most TVs have decent upscaling so the difference is not noticeable.


March 23, 2012, 5:48 pm

\m/ Gojira - Yama's Messengers \m/

Great track.

Miyako O'Conner

December 13, 2014, 4:49 am

Great article Edward. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Apple TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

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