Some time spent with Apple TV -- an in-depth review

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Comments

  • spindriftspindrift Posts: 674member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by filburt View Post


    Fake/virtual/matrix 5.1 (or 7.1) channel audio does not equal to "high quality digital audio."



    Yes it does. Although it may not be true Dolby DTS, 5.1 or THX the high quality audio comes down to the codecs (and bitrates) used to convert the media and the hardware used to decode and play it. Yes I agree that AppleTV can't provide great audio all by itself, but it has no problems serving it. I would gladly let you come over and hear my setup and I would almost bet my AppleTV that you would find it very difficult to tell the difference between my AppleTV content and a THX certified DVD.
  • spiffy1spiffy1 Posts: 35member
    nice review, but blows off using AppleTV to record "streaming media" off the airwaves (e.g. free HDTV). It would be nice to see an add-on to use a HDTV tuner like EyeTV ( http://elgato.com/index.php?file=products_eyetvhybridna ).
  • caliminiuscaliminius Posts: 944member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    Yes it does. Although it may not be true Dolby DTS, 5.1 or THX the high quality audio comes down to the codecs (and bitrates) used to convert the media and the hardware used to decode and play it. Yes I agree that AppleTV can't provide great audio all by itself, but it has no problems serving it. I would gladly let you come over and hear my setup and I would almost bet my AppleTV that you would find it very difficult to tell the difference between my AppleTV content and a THX certified DVD.



    I have to say your argument is nonsensical. You must either a) have a really crappy surround receiver/speakers or b) have really bad hearing if you consider the matrixed surround from AppleTV (or any matrixed surround) to be equal to discrete 5.1 (or 6.1 on some DVD's) surround. I feel pretty certain I could easily tell the difference between discrete 5.1 from a DVD and matrixed 4-channel AppleTV.



    On a totally different topic, I love how this article is attributed to a random ID (x3nc0re 548) when it's pretty clearly by the same guy who writes the RoughlyDrafted blog (I'm not going to dignify that site as a news site). Notice all the links to RoughlyDrafted blog entries scattered throughout (and links to his other review). I guess he didn't like his regular site being called a Mac fanatic crap fest (I didn't use those words but it's what I meant) in the other review's comments. Notice how he excuses pretty much all the (many) faults of the AppleTV with the argument that they could be fixed by Apple with a software update. But with Apple's level of secrecy the user will have no idea if or when any of those updates will be coming until they land on the AppleTV for updating; at least with the PS3 and XBox 360 which the ATV was briefly compared with, the users are told what features are coming and when.
  • mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,649member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    Yes it does.



    No, really, it doesn't.



    Dolby Digital takes 6 completely independent sound tracks (front left, front right, front centre, rear right, rear left, bass effects), samples each one individually at 48 kHz/16 bit quantisation, then compresses the whole lot into one 448 kbps (ish) stream.



    As it ships, the AppleTV does not do Dolby Digital. Whilst the optical output jack is presumably capable of passing Dolby Digital, the software does not support it. Instead, you get Dolby Pro-logic support. This is two independent audio channels with surround-sound information (centre channel and mono rear channel) "hidden" within them.



    There is no way that Dolby Pro Logic can approach the performance of Dolby Digital. Dolby Digital gives you:



    Centre channel with higher dynamic range

    Independent rear left and right channels, each with more dynamic range than the mono channel provided by pro-logic

    A dedicated bass effects channel, that pro-logic lacks entirely.
  • spindriftspindrift Posts: 674member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by caliminius View Post


    I have to say your argument is nonsensical. You must either a) have a really crappy surround receiver/speakers or b) have really bad hearing if you consider the matrixed surround from AppleTV (or any matrixed surround) to be equal to discrete 5.1 (or 6.1 on some DVD's) surround. I feel pretty certain I could easily tell the difference between discrete 5.1 from a DVD and matrixed 4-channel AppleTV.



    False! As Dwight Schrute would say! I credit the excellent sound that I get from my AppleTV to my rather nice and certainly not cheap NAD/Kef AV setup. My amps digital audio processing is fantastic and the argument that I was raising is that AppleTV is capable of outputting "high quality audio". I never tried to imply that its matrixed output is as good as Dolby DTS or THX, I was mealy stating that with a good setup, the audio experience is very pleasing and most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.



    Now I understand that on paper my comments may sound ludicrous, but how may AppleTV owners have you heard complain about the audio quality? Most of the slack comes from those simply looking into the stats or viewing the crappy demos that they have in the Apple retail stores.



    Quote:

    Dolby Digital takes 6 completely independent sound tracks (front left, front right, front centre, rear right, rear left, bass effects), samples each one individually at 48 kHz/16 bit quantisation, then compresses the whole lot into one 448 kbps (ish) stream.



    As it ships, the AppleTV does not do Dolby Digital. Whilst the optical output jack is presumably capable of passing Dolby Digital, the software does not support it. Instead, you get Dolby Pro-logic support. This is two independent audio channels with surround-sound information (centre channel and mono rear channel) "hidden" within them.



    There is no way that Dolby Pro Logic can approach the performance of Dolby Digital. Dolby Digital gives you:



    Centre channel with higher dynamic range

    Independent rear left and right channels, each with more dynamic range than the mono channel provided by pro-logic

    A dedicated bass effects channel, that pro-logic lacks entirely.



    Yes I understand that, however Dolby Digital through a high end amp, cable and speakers will sound a lot better than DTS through a crappy system. This is the point I am trying to make.
  • areseearesee Posts: 776member
    You know the one thing that makes me think that Apple has a hit on their hands is the large number of shills that come out whenever the ATV is mentioned. These people must really be afraid of something -
  • carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    Yes you do! You can't enable SHH without access to the HDD. I have successfully upgraded my AppleTV HDD and patched it for SHH (you need the sshd file from your OS X usr/sbin/ folder) so I can speak with authority on this.



    One thing I like less than a bad review are people pretending to know better!



    I have enabled SSH *without* cracking the case.



    C.
  • spindriftspindrift Posts: 674member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carniphage View Post


    I have enabled SSH *without* cracking the case.



    C.



    Care to spill the beans? I don't know of anyone who has been able to do this without doing a full OS X install first.
  • carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    Care to spill the beans? I don't know of anyone who has been able to do this without doing a full OS X install first.



    The magic word is "Patchstick"
  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    Care to spill the beans? I don't know of anyone who has been able to do this without doing a full OS X install first.



    Obviously Carniphage would rather be a taciturn douche instead of actually supplying info and links.
  • vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Your description makes it sound like it is still matrix surround, which is basically faking 5.1.



    Google is your friend.



    http://web.mac.com/ragboy/iWeb/TheGarcias/Dad's Blog/9E500240-D005-499D-9E44-74B50E96FE4E.html



    I haven't tried it (no apple tv yet) but there's nothing about the hardware that wouldn't support discrete surround given the toslink and hdmi outs. Apple would be iffy to add support natively given they do AAC on itunes and no receiver can decode a 5.1 aac bitstream...which means that to offer it really only supports ripping DVDs.



    Once a more streamlined software package is made eventually than what's in the blog above then sooner rather than later you can play your ripped DVDs with discrete surround without jumping through hoops.



    Vinea
  • carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Obviously Carniphage would rather be a taciturn douche instead of actually supplying info and links.





    To master the art of AppleTV hacking, the pupil must study the ways of the Unix Command line, SSH, dd, Fugu and so on. It's not a path to tread lightly.



    To put is bluntly, if they can't master a quick Google search, they are screwed.
  • dancm2000dancm2000 Posts: 81member
    At the same time however, there's already a large population of users who find iTunes downloads useful, and haven't yet invested in a $1000 Blu-Ray player and $35 movies, and haven't signed up to pay $100 or more per month to get HD cable in the markets where it is offered. Those tens of millions of users are Apple TV's current market



    vs.



    There is no DVR support, but of course Apple TV is not intended to be a way to record content for cable TV users. Most cable TV users already have a DVR anyway.



    Pulling HDTV out of the air with a standard antennae is the single best way to watch HDTV. And its free! The only thing I miss with that set up is live cable broadcasted sports in HD. I can deal with that for the cost savings. The only thing I cant live without is HD-DVR. Yeah, most cable TV users have DVR. But just as you said, the tens of millions that make up Apple TV's current market aren't paying $100 a month for CableHD, which means no HD-DVR either.



    There is a definite market for a box just like the Apple TV that can also record HD signals received via antennae. In fact I wont buy an Apple TV until that occurs. I'd rather drop the extra scratch on a Mac Mini and EyeTV and have something that is actually useful for the majority of the programming that I watch.



    People wont change for a new way to do the same stuff. People change for a new way to do something better than what they do now. The iPod was a new way to listen to music in a better way. It wasn't just a slick interface for a mini Disc player. The AppleTV needs to be a new path to an upgrade of content. That new content is HDTV. And I agree with your argument that the target audience doesn't want to spend $100 /month on HD Cable. But EVERYONE wants DVR. HD DVR capability can make Apple TV the new way to do something better than what most people already have.



    ...



    And you're wrong about convergence. My MacBook, along with every MacBook in my small circle of friends, sits next to a comfortable chair or sofa.....in the same room as the TV.
  • vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Obviously Carniphage would rather be a taciturn douche instead of actually supplying info and links.



    Oh cool...if I don't have to open the box I'll be more inclined to get one...



    I guess I can't google either...but I was waiting till I got a ZFS based NAS...yeah...that's my excuse...



    Vinea



    Edit: still a work in progress since you need a boot.efi from the aTV which isn't freely distributable. The patchsticks in the wild are illegal at best and trojans at worst. Some folks have evidently bricked their aTV using these patchsticks



    However, once a freely distributable patchstick is done it should be fairly striaghtforward (no ssh or unix voodoo) since you should be able to load new plugins remotely via the gui.



    http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/Patchstick/Testing
  • carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vinea View Post


    Edit: still a work in progress since you need a boot.efi from the aTV which isn't freely distributable. The patchsticks in the wild are illegal at best and trojans at worst. Some folks have evidently bricked their aTV using these patchsticks



    http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/Patchstick/Testing



    The in-the-wild patchstick image is definetely illegal. Which is why the patchstick creator is so angry about its distribution.

    I would therefore not condone its use as a means of unlocking the Apple TV.



    C.
  • spindriftspindrift Posts: 674member
    Well I stand corrected! I guess I missed Patchstick, but hey, I needed to upgrade my hard drive anyway!
  • spiffy1spiffy1 Posts: 35member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dancm2000 View Post


    [I]



    Pulling HDTV out of the air with a standard antennae is the single best way to watch HDTV. And its free! The only thing I miss with that set up is live cable broadcasted sports in HD. I can deal with that for the cost savings. The only thing I cant live without is HD-DVR. Yeah, most cable TV users have DVR. But just as you said, the tens of millions that make up Apple TV's current market aren't paying $100 a month for CableHD, which means no HD-DVR either.



    There is a definite market for a box just like the Apple TV that can also record HD signals received via antennae. In fact I wont buy an Apple TV until that occurs. I'd rather drop the extra scratch on a Mac Mini and EyeTV and have something that is actually useful for the majority of the programming that I watch.





    I completely agree, per my previous, less in-depth post... nicely put.
  • stan timekstan timek Posts: 2member
    I think the article does do justice to the Apple TV - as a release 1.0 product it serves its function very well. Could it support more codecs out of the box? Sure - does Apple own them? No. Can Apple offer support for Codecs it doesn't control? No.



    If you hack your box and add things to it - you're more than capable of figuring out what happened when stuff goes wrong.



    As it stands the Apple TV serves its intended audience very well. The biggest complaint is the lack of HD content on the iTunes store. Look around, there is HD content encoded for H.264 available today. Some of it is available through iTunes (hint: check some podcasts). The studios are gonna need some time before they offer their material in HD for the Apple TVs - but we'll get there. Just look at the success of iTunes in the music space, HD will happen but even the music world had to have some time to come around to Apple's then new toy.





    Stan Timek

    www.pollywogtheater.com

    www.HD4AppleTV.com
  • zagmaczagmac Posts: 72member
    AppleTV is perfect for what I want it to do. With an entire library of music (both ripped from lifelong CD collection and bought from iTunes) sitting on my computer but useless in my home theatre, I think I'm part of the AppleTV target audience. I can now very seamlessly pipe music through my system. I know there are other ways to do this, so I'm not staking a claim that AppleTV is "best". But it was small price to pay for such an elegent interface and being easy to use (I've only been using Macs 4 years, but isn't that the reason we all pay more for what we get?). In fact, I "wasted" $150 on a DLO dock that may have served similar purpose, but required me to remember to bring my iPod to the living room, deal with seperate remote (I control AppleTV easily with my Harmony 880-BIG plus in the overall experience), etc.



    As an HD viewer who hates watching regular tv now, I'm also pleasantly surprised that the video is ok for me. I haven't even considered watching an "epic" movie on it, but using Handbrake I now have a huge collection of TV DVDs I can watch-quality is every bit as good as when I plug the DVDs in directly. Comedies are also just fine. I'll save Gladiator for when I make the move to Blueray (oh God I hope that's the right choice and I don't get bashed for wanting one of those...) and just keep enjoying what works best right now.



    Sure, there are lots of things to list that could be better. Hopefully, most of them will come in time. Some I am passionate about (strangely, I can't shuffle my iTunes-purchased music videos during a party-I have to select them one at a time) and some I am not (better photo viewing options would be nice).



    I just wanted to share a perspective I'm not sure I see in the threads since I think the folks like myself out there (who have an interest in making the most of their Macs but don't have the smarts/time to know as much as most of the posters) come to read these to learn a little, but aren't often represented.



    Bottom line: If you disagree with my thoughts, please don't get offended or think I'm trying to be "right". I'm just an average users who sees lots of opportunity with his AppleTV but is also loving it almost every day at the same time.
  • filburtfilburt Posts: 398member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    False! As Dwight Schrute would say! I credit the excellent sound that I get from my AppleTV to my rather nice and certainly not cheap NAD/Kef AV setup. My amps digital audio processing is fantastic and the argument that I was raising is that AppleTV is capable of outputting "high quality audio". I never tried to imply that its matrixed output is as good as Dolby DTS or THX, I was mealy stating that with a good setup, the audio experience is very pleasing and most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.



    I don't need to come over as I have a pretty good home theater system as well (Parasound/Mirage). I also have Mac mini hooked up to my system (via Toslink), so I know how Dolby Pro Logic II and other matrix algorithms work to simulate 7.1-channel audio from 2-channel source. Switching back and forth between original DVD and 2-channel Handbrake rip, I can hear DRAMATIC differences. Perhaps getting 7.1-channel from 2.0-channel qualifies as "high quality audio" to someone like you, but to me, it's very 80's. What are you going to argue next? That 6-bit LCD is capable of rendering high quality audio suitable for photographers?



    FYI, THX is not an audio format so I am not sure why you are bringing it up as a comparison.
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