For me, the killer feature is the way Apple TV integrates with the iTunes Store. Apple has clearly used the sort of relationships and power it has gained with the success of iTunes to build a movie and TV download service that offers a lot of genuine, premium content, and at the moment the iTunes store is unmatched for the range and quality of its titles. From most of the biggest names in TV to the most recent Hollywood blockbusters (including Mamma Mia, Wall-E, Wanted and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull at the time of writing), the iTunes Store has a strong selection, and there are only two major causes for disappointment.
The first is that most blockbuster titles are available to purchase for a month or two before they're available to rent, which can be annoying when you're excited to see something new on the menu. More seriously, the pricing is a little high, with purchases coming in at £7 to £11 for standard definition only - shockingly you can't buy movies in HD - with rentals at £3.49 for standard definition or £4.49 for HD. At least you get a generous 30 days in which to watch them and a 48 hour period after the first playback in which you can enjoy them again,
TV programmes are also on the dear side, with £1.89 a show or up to £37 per series the going rate. I can just about understand this with, say season six of 24, but amazingly, there are people out there downloading episodes of the current series of Top Gear at £1.89 a pop! It's freely available on iPlayer for nowt, you dolts! In fact, it soon springs to mind that access to iPlayer and alternative TV download services is exactly what Apple TV is missing most of all. It's nice to see exclusive US content like a new series of Rescue Me arrive on the iTunes Store first, but it would be even better if we could download UK content without having to shell out a penny.
With all that said, the viewing experience is very good. Image and sound quality is excellent while standard definition material is watchable within two or three minutes of the download starting. On my poor Internet connection it's as close as I've ever seen to video on demand. On top of this, any film or programme you purchase is automatically backed up to your iTunes Library. Synch your video-capable iPod or iPhone with that and you can then watch it on the move as well.
For all its limitations, Apple TV is a strong product that does its job very well. For me the main issue bar limited file format and no iPlayer support is just expense. At £199 for the 40GB version or £269 for 160GB it's not cheap for a player that can't double up as anything else, and once temptation sets in - and it works just as well for video content as it always has for music - it's easy to rack up a whopping iTunes bill.
Oh, and one final moan. As much as I like the minimalist, minute remote control, it's actually quite fiddly and all too easy to lose.
Pros:Whisper quiet and lovely to look at
Brilliant iTunes and iPod integration
Built-in YouTube and Flickr
Excellent Movie and TV Store
High movie and TV download prices
No HD content for purchase
Lack of wide file format support