Apple TV (2010) Review

The second-generation Apple TV integrates Netflix and drops in price, but still offers little flexibility beside competing boxes.
The second-generation Apple TV integrates Netflix and drops in price, but still offers little flexibility beside competing boxes.
The second-generation Apple TV integrates Netflix and drops in price, but still offers little flexibility beside competing boxes.

Highs

  • Extremely competitive price point
  • Best Netflix integration of any set-top device
  • Tiny, dead quiet
  • Simple to set up

Lows

  • Can only rent, not buy, from iTunes
  • Poor out-of-box file support
  • Lacks legacy connectors for older TVs
  • Only 720p resolution
  • No USB input

Looking for the latest Apple TV? Make sure to check out Apple TV Review (2012).

apple tv review second generation

Introduction

Steve Jobs doesn’t have many failures to mar his comeback at Apple, but if most Apple aficionados had to find one, we’re guessing it would be the little white box known as Apple TV. The first version arrived with a fizzle back in 2007, largely panned for its high price and low functionality. Apple has steadily sanded off rough edges year after year, though, and in 2010 Apple TV underwent a metamorphosis, entering a cocoon and emerging smaller and cheaper than ever. But does the latest version of Apple TV finally deliver on the promise Jobs pitched three years ago, or is Apple still struggling to break onto the big screen?

Design

“Unobtrusive” would seem to be the operative word for the redesigned Apple TV, which shrinks to such tiny proportions that it’s apt to almost disappear in home theater cabinets designed for the hulking, heat-gushing equipment of yesteryear. At only 3.9 inches square and just under an inch thick, you could easily pocket the device, though we’re not sure how much utility that particular trick actually serves, unless you’re the migratory breed of college student who moves his A/V equipment around twice a year. Its all-black design — and cables — melt into the darkness of an A/V cabinet, with only Apple’s signature white LED signaling that it’s even on. Sadly, the remote requires line of sight, so zip tying it to the back of your TV or burying it deep in your A/V cabinet isn’t an option.

The case itself seems to be constructed from the same polycarbonate Apple favors for just about everything, although cast in jet black rather than the traditional milky white. As usual, tolerances are tight and the entire package feels brick-solid — as it should, considering there are no moving parts — not even a fan.

apple tv review second generationAround back, Apple offers an ultra-minimalist selection of ports: HDMI for video, optical digital audio, mini USB for service, an Ethernet jack for connectivity (although it has 802.11n Wi-Fi too), and a standard two-prong power jack that accepts the type of cable you might normally find running into a laptop AC adapter. The included one has an unusual look and feel that reminded us of the cord on a table lamp from the 1970s. Not that you’ll do much looking at it anyway.

The remote has become a sliver of aluminum somewhat reminiscent of last year’s iPod Nano; slim but solid and eminently holdable. It bears only a five-way directional controller, menu button, and play-pause button, which together provide everything you need for the Apple TV.

Features

Apple TV started as a simple — some might say too simple — mechanism for getting iTunes content from computers to TVs. It’s evolved since then, but not that much.

This year, Apple added Netflix streaming to the device, which lets owners dive into a library of more than 15,000 streaming movies and television shows for as little as $8.95 per month. It can also handle content from YouTube, MobileMe, Flickr, and a large variety of streaming radio stations, plus MobileMe.

apple tv review second generationThe Apple TV also takes a step backward this year. Unlike last year’s Apple TV, which had internal storage to accommodate downloaded content, Apple has shifted the 2010 model to an all-streaming design. Pull it from the Internet, pull it from your computer, just don’t expect to pull it from the box itself. Unlike just about every other streaming player, the Apple TV also lacks a USB port to play content from thumb drives and portable hard drives.

The Apple TV’s limited output options may be one of its most notable shortcomings. While competing models like the WD TV Live Plus and Roku XD can output true 1080p, the Apple TV only handles 720p. So much for leveraging the full quality of your $3,000 TV. Perhaps even more significantly, it will only output via HDMI, not through any legacy connectors like component, composite or S-video. Ironically, the same cut corner that clearly helped Apple stick to its lean $99 price point also severely limits its appeal for the budget-oriented crowd; your TV will need to be no older than seven years, at the most, to even work with an Apple TV. There goes any chance of hooking it up to the hand-me-down bedroom TV or basement clunker.

Computing

The May 2019 update for Windows 10 is live. Here’s how to get your hands on it

Launched this week, Microsoft's May 2019 update for Windows 10 releases a slew of new features, primarily simple and powerful security tools, for home and enterprise users. You can get your hands on these tools by installing the new update…
Computing

AMD or Intel? We take a look at the pros and cons of both processors

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.
Computing

The 2019 MacBook Pro is an impressive performance update, but not much else

With increased competition from Windows laptops, Apple could do with refreshing its MacBook Pro line. Fortunately, it looks set to do that in 2019. Here's everything we know so far.
Deals

Dell Memorial Day sale demolishes prices on XPS laptops, 4K TVs, and monitors

The 2019 Memorial Day sales have already begun, and Dell has hit the ground running: The Dell Memorial Day Sale is destroying prices on laptops, TVs, and monitors, with discounts that can save you thousands. Read on to see the best deals.
Deals

Dell drops big savings on Alienware monitors, headsets, and gaming keyboards

Although known for its beefy PCs, Alienware also makes some great gaming accessories. A handful of them are on sale right now, too, so if you're upgrading to an ultrawide monitor or you just need a new mouse and keyboard, check these out.
Computing

One of these monitors will look great next to your new MacBook Pro

Apple doesn't make its beloved Cinema Display monitors anymore, which makes finding the best monitor for the MacBook Pro more difficult. In this guide, we break down some of our favorites and offer something for every size and budget.
Deals

Best Memorial Day sales 2019: Best Buy, Walmart, and Home Depot drop discounts

If you're looking to save big on some shiny new stuff for Memorial Day 2019, we've gathered everything you need to know into one place. Find out where to save the most money before the summer hits its stride.
Computing

Acer’s new Swift and Nitro laptops are now powered by the latest AMD chips

Ahead of Computex, Acer has announced a pair of updates to a couple of its most popular budget laptop lines. Both the Nitro 5 and Swift 3 will now be powered completely by AMD silicon in the form of Ryzen 7 Mobile.
Deals

Lenovo Memorial Day sale drops price of ThinkPad X1 Carbon Laptops by almost 50%

The ThinkPad is an icon in the laptop world and the X1 Carbon has been a favorite of ours for years. If you’re looking to score one for less than a grand, Lenovo has the 5th-gen Thinkpad X1 Carbon on sale right now for just $849.
Computing

B&H cuts the price on this 27-inch LG monitor — save up to $90, today only

B&H's DealZone sales offer deep price cuts on some quality products, but they only last for a single day. This means you'll need to act quickly to save nearly 50% on LG's 27MK430H-B 27-inch Monitor with FreeSync -- making gaming on this…
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans to enjoy.
Computing

Amazon drops killer deals on certified refurbished MacBook Pros for today only

Amazon is offering discounts of up to $320 off on four refurbished 2018 MacBook Pros as part of its current Deal of the Day promotion. Interested customers can snag two different MacBook Pros with 256GB of SSD storage for $1,330 each.
Product Review

Can the Samsung Space Monitor save you from your cluttered desk?

High-concept monitors can sometimes over-complicate thing. Samsung's Space Monitor, however, tries to fix that problem by lifting the monitor off and away from your desk.
Computing

The Dell XPS 13 headlines the best laptop deals for May 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we have you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.