While Apple executives have continued to call the Apple TV a hobby, over the past couple years, the company has dedicated a fair amount of resources to it. The Apple TV 2 was a major upgrade, and Apple has added a good number of features to that media player through software updates.
The third-generation Apple TV unveiled Wednesday shows Apple is taking its hobby just a little bit more seriously, thanks to improved video support and an overhauled interface. But there are still plenty of questions about the latest edition. Here's what we know so far.
What's new about it? Does it finally do 1080p?
The new Apple TV looks exactly like its predecessor, and is housed in the same tiny, black enclosure. The big hardware change for the new the Apple TV is inside: Instead of the Apple A4 chip found in the previous Apple TV and the iPad 2, the new model hosts a single-core A5 chip. The improved horsepower finally allows the Apple TV to support 1080p video output.
On the software side, there's a new user interface with large, iOS-like buttons instead of textual menus for the major content categories. There's also a new Genius feature that suggests movies based on movies you've already watched, and Photo Stream images are pushed to your Apple TV without any manual intervention.
1080p sounds very cool, but I don't have a very fast Internet connection. It's going to take me forever to download a 1080p video!
Fear not, for with the latest Apple TV software update, the Apple TV's Settings screen lets you choose the resolution of your video downloads: 1080p, 720p, or standard definition. Apple recommends a broadband connection of at least 8 Mbps to comfortably download 1080p content. If you have a slower connection, you'll want to choose 720p or standard definition.
iTunes 10.6, released Wednesday, has a similar Preferred Video Version option that lets you choose from High Definition (1080p), High Definition (720p), and Standard Definition.
Given that the Apple TV is running a version of iOS, can I finally run apps on it?
Unfortunately, no. The new Apple TV provides largely the same features and content options as its predecessor, just with a new interface.
Has Apple added any more "channels" or media options? Can I finally stream video from Hulu or Amazon Video, or audio from Pandora?
Another "unfortunately, no" here. The Apple TV's non-Apple content providers remain (in the U.S.) Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr, and the Wall Street Journal Live, along with sports content from MLB, NBA, and NHL. (One minor change is that you can now sign up for Netflix directly from the Apple TV.)
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