Steve Job’s “hobby” device has received an update and redesign, but is it for the better? Apple unveiled its new, slimmer Apple TV during a press conference at the beginning of September, and announced that it will launch at $99. What did Apple sacrifice to hit that price point? That’s what we’re going to find out. Below we breakdown each important aspect of the new Apple TV and put it head to head with the last-generation model to help you decide if the new Apple TV is really for you.
Current Generation: The new Apple TV supports 720p resolution, which may have been fine and dandy two years ago, but Apple is setting up this device to age quickly by not offering 1080p capability, especially when almost all its competitors offer full HD.
Last Generation: The device will play content up to 720p, and supports output resolutions up to 1080p with upscaling. Playing back 1080p video is possible by hacking the device with XBMC and a Broadcom Crystal HD graphics card, but it can’t play 1080p out of the box.
Current Gen: Local storage is a thing of the past on the Apple TV, as Apple now expects you to stream everything to the device. While having no local storage definitely isn’t a positive, streaming is the way of the future. But are consumers currently ready for it now?
Last Gen: The old models started off with 40GB, but were later expanded to 160GB. That amount may not keep you afloat forever, but it offers the option of storing a good chunk of content locally, giving you the option of using the device disconnected from a network and the Web. Hackers can also expand it even more by swapping in larger drives.
Current Gen: Apple has ditched the standard USB 2.0 slot for a microUSB port. Like the previous-generation Apple TV, the port is only designated for service and support by authorized service professionals, so the change really isn’t relevant to the common user. However, some speculate that Apple chose the less supported microUSB to limit hacks to the device, which could be an issue for tweakers.
Last Gen: Out of the box, the USB 2.0 port was worthless to users, as it was limited to maintenance and service needs only. A hack eventually allowed users to expand their storage via an external drive through the USB port. Hackers also used the standard USB connection with USB patchsticks to enable custom modifications, such as installing XBMC or Boxee media center software, which come with broader support of codecs, allowing users to play a much larger variety of video files.
Current Gen: Larger aluminum remote with better build quality and more comfortable fit in the hand.
Last Gen: Plastic and tiny, not very comfortable to hold or use, and easy to lose.
Current Gen: 80 percent smaller than the previous generation.
Last Gen: There’s no denying that it’s much bigger than the tiny new model, but is size that big of a concern for something you’re going to stick in your home theater cabinet next to a giant receiver and gaming console?
Current Gen: The new Apple TV adds Netflix support, which may be its biggest advantage over the previous generation. If you want to watch tons of content on the Apple TV without having to take out a second mortgage, Netflix is the most viable option, with thousands of titles available for streaming and subscriptions as low as $8.99 a month.
Last Gen: The original Apple TV supports Flickr and YouTube, both of which carried over to the new version as well.
Inputs and Outputs
Current Gen: HDMI, optical audio, microUSB, and Ethernet
Last Gen: HDMI, component video, optical audio, analog audio, USB 2.0 and Ethernet
Current Gen: $99
Last Gen: $175 to $200 (Amazon)
At $99, it’s hard to complain too much about the new Apple TV. However, we would have liked to see a little more advancement in the device, even if it tacked on a few extra dollars. Leaving out 1080p seems like a glaring mistake. If you look at the hardware side by side, the new model is actually a step back, unless you factor in its smaller size. It has no local storage, fewer outputs, and no 1080i support. At this point, it all depends on how you will use the device. If you are an avid Netflix user, and don’t mind streaming all your local content from your computer, the new Apple TV is the easy choice. However, if you will use the extra storage and outputs, don’t might the larger size, and someday might like to install XBMC or Boxee, the previous generation might be worth considering for an extra $75.
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