If you have just bought yourself a shiny new Retina Display touting new iPad 3, chances are you may be thinking conventional TV is a bygone, what with its measly 1080p resolution. But, if you're interested in sharing your multimedia with persons other than yourself, the new Apple TV is surely the way to do it.
Apple TV Design and Connectivity
Starting from the top, the Apple TV is Apple's solution to a media playing set-top box - if you will, a Cupertino version of the hugely popular Western Digital WD TV and Popcorn Hour series and media playback-touting Blu-ray players. However, unlike those boxes, the Apple TV's main task isn't simply playing back the files you already have - whether stored on a local hard drive, Blu-ray disc or a networked drive - but rather to stream content from online and directly from your other Apple devices. While you can use iTunes on Windows for this, Android/Linux/Symbian/Windows Phone devices need not apply.
Given this basic remit, the Apple TV doesn't need pack itself full of features and so is a very small and simple device. Its dimensions are just 98 x 98 x 23mm – smaller than a tin of shaving soap – and it weighs a mere 270g. It's the sort of device that's so small it's almost in danger of being pulled around by the cables plugged into it.
Thankfully the power cable, which comes beautifully curled up in the box, lies nice and flat so shouldn't cause problems, and if you stump up for an Apple HDMI cable (not something we'd recommend, being as you can get much cheaper ones) it likewise doesn't come out the packet bent and twisted ready to wreak cabling havok.
Also in the box is the wonderfully simplistic, elegant and solidly-built aluminium remote. Sporting only 7 buttons (including the four directions on the D-pad), it isn't best suited for typing in emails and passwords, but once past the Apple TV's initial setup you should seldom have cause to do such things. Moreover, you can use the Remote app on your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices to control the Apple TV. Just swipe up and down and tap the screen to move around the menus, and use the onscreen touch keyboard for typing. What you can't do, however, is connect a keyboard, whether Bluetooth or wired – the Apple way is all very well but, really, no keyboard support?
Round the back are the connections, consisting of the figure-of-eight power socket (no need for a power brick), HDMI output, microUSB service port, optical S/PDIF audio output for piping audio output to an AV receiver, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. WiFi N is also built in, so you have a choice of Wi-Fi convenience or Ethernet reliability and speed. One thing to note is if for some reason your network connection authenticates through a browser login, you won't be able to get online as the Apple TV has no web browser.
As for connectivity, though, that's it. No SD slots for looking at your photos and videos straight from your camera, no USB port for plugging in a USB stick or USB hard drive, no aerial for recording TV and certainly no Blu-ray drive.
So with such a limited feature set, what can the Apple TV do?