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

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Comments

  • Reply 41 of 77
    spindriftspindrift Posts: 674member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by filburt View Post


    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.



    I don't know why you are trying to be so obstinate about this. From the sounds of things you don't even own an AppleTV, so how can you speak with authority on this?



    You might have a movie file with a Dolby Pro Logic soundtrack. DPL I supports the matrix-encoding / decoding of 4.0 channels of audio into a stereo source. Note that this isn?t a four-channel soundtrack, but a stereo soundtrack, with a set of 4.0 audio information matrix-encoded into the stereo track. The four channels you get are Left, Center, Right and Rear (where Rear is a mono ?surround? channel for a rear speaker).



    Play a DPL I track through a 2-channel device, and you?ll hear the audio, just in 2-channels only. Play it through a DPL I-savvy amp, and the 4 tracks will be un-matrix-encoded into their four separate channels.



    This is what you get from iTunes movies.



    But if you have a movie file with a Dolby Pro Logic II soundtrack. Note that similar to DPL I above, this isn?t a six-channel soundtrack. Rather, it is a stereo (2.0) soundtrack, with a set of 5.1 audio information matrix-encoded into the stereo track. The six matrix-encoded channels are made up of five normal channels (Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, Right Surround), and one LFE (Low Frequency Effects) channel.



    Play it through a DPL II-savvy amp, and the 6 tracks will be un-matrix-encoded into their six separate channels.



    All my Handbraked movie files have all 6 channels encoded.



    [QUOTE]What are you going to argue next? That 6-bit LCD is capable of rendering high quality audio suitable for photographers?QUOTE]



    Now that's just petty. (Now I assume your reference to audio in that statement should actually refer to video).



    Quote:

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



    Yes I know that. I was however referring to the THX certification. I accept that that is not clear from my statement.
  • Reply 42 of 77
    gregalexandergregalexander Posts: 1,383member
    My quibbles...



    1) Dolby Digital surround should be passed through, when it's available.

    2) Apple should sell HD shows (and rent HD shows)



    BTW: As others have noted, slideshows do play with the proper music and transitions. They do not "fit to music" correctly though (so they may finish too early or late), which is a pity - the advantage is that you can scroll back or forwards in the slideshow while the music continues.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bubba451 View Post


    I had been considering an AppleTV until I actually tried one at the Apple Store. You're being generous about the video quality, which I found to be downright embarrassing. I put up with SD DVDs on my HD set. The quality of iTunes video content when viewed on an HD set is way below that bar.



    HD material, such as some of the free downloads on the net, look great.

    The iTunes store sucks in this regard.



    Pity there's no "HD sampler" podcast subscription which finds HD material from wherever on the net
  • Reply 43 of 77
    parkyparky Posts: 383member
    I love my Apple TV and use it all the time to watch :-



    EyeTV recorded programmes

    Ripped rented DVD's (deleted after being watched)

    My iPhoto collection (which the reviewer got toally wrong and seems to have missed the slideshow settings menu option completley)

    Playing music

    Podcats



    Ian
  • Reply 44 of 77
    carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GregAlexander View Post


    My quibbles...



    1) Dolby Digital surround should be passed through, when it's available.



    Quite right sir!



    Fortunately the AppleTV modification community has also made progress in this area.

    The plugin AppleTVFiles working with the Perian 1.0 codec has an option to pass through the Dolby Digital soundtrack to the optical out.



    C.
  • Reply 45 of 77
    robbyxrobbyx Posts: 479member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by filburt View Post


    A 5-page review and not a single mention of Apple TV missing multi-channel audio, subtitle support, chapter menu out-of-the-box? A device destined for home theater not having multi-channel audio does not deserve "Pros: HD ready, with support for high quality digital audio."



    It's my understanding that Apple TV does support multi-channel audio. HandBrake offers several options when ripping (including Dolby Surround and Pro Logic II). It's as much about what Apple TV supports as what your receiver supports. Apple TV also supports AAC 5.1, but most receivers don't (yet) support it - and that's not really Apple TV's fault.
  • Reply 46 of 77
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,728member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by robbyx View Post


    It's my understanding that Apple TV does support multi-channel audio. HandBrake offers several options when ripping (including Dolby Surround and Pro Logic II). It's as much about what Apple TV supports as what your receiver supports. Apple TV also supports AAC 5.1, but most receivers don't (yet) support it - and that's not really Apple TV's fault.



    Nope. As standard, the AppleTV will only output two channels. That means the only surround you can get is pro-logic.



    By the way, Pro-logic II is not, as someone suggested earlier, 5.1 matrixed into two channels. The encoding is still the same as Pro-logic, the difference is in the decoding. It just uses clever maths to derive 5.1 channels out of 4.0 channels. However, there still is much less information in the stream than a dolby digital stream.



    The AppleTV "supports" AAC 5.1 in as much as you can transfer/stream files with AAC 5.1 audio tracks, but what you get out of the AppleTV is still only stereo.
  • Reply 47 of 77
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by robbyx View Post


    It's my understanding that Apple TV does support multi-channel audio. HandBrake offers several options when ripping (including Dolby Surround and Pro Logic II).



    That is just fancy stereo with fancy decoders to fake surround.



    Quote:

    Apple TV also supports AAC 5.1



    Has this been confirmed anywhere? Apple doesn't specify it.



    Quote:

    but most receivers don't (yet) support it - and that's not really Apple TV's fault.



    I think it would be Apple's fault for trying to push a format that no one else has even considered using in any way that I remember. There is no transmission or media format that I'm aware of that uses AAC5.1, which is why receivers don't decode it.
  • Reply 48 of 77
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    By the way, Pro-logic II is not, as someone suggested earlier, 5.1 matrixed into two channels. The encoding is still the same as Pro-logic, the difference is in the decoding. It just uses clever maths to derive 5.1 channels out of 4.0 channels.



    DPL2 does not derive 5.1 channels out of 4.0, it tries to derive 5.1 from stereo (or 2.0).



    http://www.dolby.com/consumer/techno...ologic_II.html
  • Reply 49 of 77
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,728member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    DPL2 does not derive 5.1 channels out of 4.0, it tries to derive 5.1 from stereo (or 2.0).



    http://www.dolby.com/consumer/techno...ologic_II.html



    Hmmm, yes, well, I was just looking this up and it looks like I was wrong.



    Pro-logic II decoders can "up-mix" stereo or original pro-logic to 5.1. Obviously, in this case, the resulting 5.1 cannot possibly compare to true 5.1.



    However, Pro-logic II did also introduce a new encoding method that can matrix 5.1 into a stereo signal. However, again, there must be limits on the dynamic range of the signals involved. Full dolby digital is still superior.



    In addition, to get the full 5.1 out of Pro-Logic II, the source must have been encoded using a pro-logic II encoder. Apple claim that the movies on iTunes use Pro-logic. Presumably, that means I not II.
  • Reply 50 of 77
    filburtfilburt Posts: 398member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post


    I don't know why you are trying to be so obstinate about this. From the sounds of things you don't even own an AppleTV, so how can you speak with authority on this?



    Digital audio is digital audio. Whether I use Mac mini or Apple TV, they will sound IDENTICAL. Are you trying to imply that Apple TV somehow delivers SUPERIOR audio for same digital audio file than Mac mini (Toslink)?



    And yes, as I said earlier, I used Handbrake to rip DPL II audio from DD 5.1 (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest). And yes, my Parasound preamp has DPL II among many other audio decoders.



    Please don't lecture me on how DPL II works. One of my college thesis was multi-channel audio codecs. DPL II is not a discrete audio codec format. It merely attempts to derive multi-channel audio through 2-channel source -- it does much better job than DPL, but it is dramatically different from DD 5.1, which IMO, is only a so so multi-channel digital audio codec to begin with. No audio enthusiast would call DD a high quality digital audio codec, let alone DPL II.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by robbyx View Post


    It's my understanding that Apple TV does support multi-channel audio. HandBrake offers several options when ripping (including Dolby Surround and Pro Logic II). It's as much about what Apple TV supports as what your receiver supports. Apple TV also supports AAC 5.1, but most receivers don't (yet) support it - and that's not really Apple TV's fault.



    Apple TV supports AAC 5.1 but folds 5.1-channel into 2.0 (for DPL/DPL II style decoding). It is possible that through firmware update, it will output AAC 5.1 or multi-channel LPCM through HDMI. Until then, Apple TV is a poor choice for home theater audio enthusiasts.
  • Reply 51 of 77
    robbyxrobbyx Posts: 479member
    Interesting thread. I'm learning a lot. :-)



    So, if Apple TV's audio options are so weak, what's a better box? I've tried several other network media players and they're all pretty dreadful. I've got a JVC Kuro-Obio box, but I've never really taken to it. The UI is horrendous. But, it offers a lot more than Apple TV...



    Curious as to what other people are using, like, don't like?
  • Reply 52 of 77
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,728member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by robbyx View Post


    Interesting thread. I'm learning a lot. :-)



    So, if Apple TV's audio options are so weak, what's a better box? I've tried several other network media players and they're all pretty dreadful. I've got a JVC Kuro-Obio box, but I've never really taken to it. The UI is horrendous. But, it offers a lot more than Apple TV...



    Curious as to what other people are using, like, don't like?



    I haven't got one, but I think the best thing out there at the moment is the Pixel Magic HD mediabox. No wireless though, and it's pretty expensive :-(.
  • Reply 53 of 77
    carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by robbyx View Post


    Interesting thread. I'm learning a lot. :-)



    So, if Apple TV's audio options are so weak, what's a better box? I've tried several other network media players and they're all pretty dreadful. I've got a JVC Kuro-Obio box, but I've never really taken to it. The UI is horrendous. But, it offers a lot more than Apple TV...



    Curious as to what other people are using, like, don't like?



    The AppleTV hardware is not weak. It will happily output a 5.1 digital stream down its optical output directly to a AC3 or DTS amp.



    Out of the box the AppleTV only plays MP4 video. An MP4 container, as I understand it, cannot have a AC3 or DTS audio stream.



    However mods are appearing for the AppleTV on a daily basis. The active modding community is one of the real killer features of the AppleTV.



    Here's a thread which might interest you.

    http://forum.awkwardtv.org/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=127
  • Reply 54 of 77
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,271member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by syklee26 View Post


    this is NOT competitively priced. 40gb is too small.



    If it had router functions then it would be competitive. Not right now.



    Depends on how you define "competitive" if you're comparing ATV to some mythical box you've dreamed up in your head then of cours it's not going to be competitive. However if you compare ATV with the other client/server solutions out there you see that it's very competitive with devices like the Netgear 8000 and Slimdevices Slimbox.



    Routing functios would just compete with the Airport Extreme. Why would Apple want to tread on other product line? Plus it would have made the cost of ATV higher. 40GB is too small if you have the need to store everything locally. However. the ATV is meant to stream content which means the 40GB is for local cached content and room to buffer.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Apple should dump AppleTV instead of the Mac mini. It's a turkey now, and it'll remain a turkey for years to come.



    Instead, Apple should put those billions to work and buy out TiVo, or simply license the FrontRow interface to the cable companies for their boxes. That would be a hell of a better way to reach millions of consumers with Apple's "core" competency.



    I disagree. The ATV does exactly what it's supposed to do. It plays your iTunes audio and video content. It plays back your photos. Blame the movie studios for lack of HD content because you know Apple is working on it. I'm going to move to an ATV system and I've never met one dectractor that had a good argument against the ATV. Since it runs OS X I think it improves greatly with a Leopard based core next year.



    I expect that Apple will soon upgrade their "n" capable wireless gear to Draft 2.0 and performance and reliability will improve. If someone can find me something better that plays back my iTunes content and photographs better for $300 then please let me know. My future setup is going to be an Airport Extreme with a USB HDD attached and an ATV.



    My hope for the future is that the ATV vers 2.0 supports 1080p video and higher bitrates (we need at least 10Mbps).





    I'm not sure many of you fully realize the potential of ATV. I see a bunch of people quibbling about the lack of HD content or Composite inputs and other stuff that is fairly trivial IMO. That ATV is going to become more and more powerful with each new OS incarnation. I've already seen Apple demos that leverage Spotlight and Bonjour to find and playback pieces of content.



    There's nothing really stopping Apple from being able to create a mesh network of sorts with multiple ATV connected to audio devices and using software to split areas of your home into Zones. There have already been patent lingo that suggests that an iPhone could function as a controller of sort. Multitouch could be huge in designing a system.



    Apple's goal is going to be to sell multiple ATV into homes. The inaugural launch is simple and the need is only to seed some players into homes. Come'on folks..it's a mini computer. Eventually you'll be accessing the internet and iTunes directly from an ATV. You'll have parental controls (there will probably be a Master ATV that can be designated) and a bunch of other goodies coming.



    The ATV is brimming with potential ...yet many cannot see the forrest through the trees.
  • Reply 55 of 77
    vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by filburt View Post


    Apple TV supports AAC 5.1 but folds 5.1-channel into 2.0 (for DPL/DPL II style decoding). It is possible that through firmware update, it will output AAC 5.1 or multi-channel LPCM through HDMI. Until then, Apple TV is a poor choice for home theater audio enthusiasts.



    Its hard to seem authoritative when you can't even click a link and try a step by step HOWTO to prove or disprove that you can get discrete 5.1 out of an AppleTV...so who cares what your school paper was about?



    Why is this still even a discussion? It may be annoying at the moment to get AC3 5.1 out but it certainly shouldn't be hard to download the sample AC3 THX leader to prove to yourself it can be done.



    Link



    Vinea
  • Reply 56 of 77
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    The ATV is brimming with potential ...yet many cannot see the forrest through the trees.



    I think that's fine, but I take that as an argument to not buy the current iteration, but to wait until they make their alleged vision a reality and see how that works. The product has potential, but there is no guarantee that any Apple-approved updates will be made available to the existing units in the field. I know it can be done, but the tech landscape is practically littered with products that had built-in firmware/software upgrade potential that was not exploited by its maker.
  • Reply 57 of 77
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,223member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aresee View Post


    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 -



    Hmmmm.... I've got a $300 Apple gift certificate sitting around desperately looking for a purchase! But @TV is not on my my list.



    Why? Read all of the above (and other similar posts elsewhere in this forum). You pay $300, and then, in order to get some decent functionality, you have to fuss around with Handbake, Perian, mods, Patchstick, opening it up (or maybe not), EyeTV, VisualHub, and on and on......



    I hate to say this, but except for the external design, this crippled product looks like something that MSFT might have designed. As was pointed out earlier, they should junk it, and resurrect the Mini as @TV with all of this functionality built-in.



  • Reply 58 of 77
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,271member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by parky View Post


    I love my Apple TV and use it all the time to watch :-



    EyeTV recorded programmes

    Ripped rented DVD's (deleted after being watched)

    My iPhoto collection (which the reviewer got toally wrong and seems to have missed the slideshow settings menu option completley)

    Playing music

    Podcats



    Ian



    You sound like you're using the ?tv like I will. If you like to consume a variety of media it's IMO a solid start to delivering easy playback as a STB device.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    I think that's fine, but I take that as an argument to not buy the current iteration, but to wait until they make their alleged vision a reality and see how that works. The product has potential, but there is no guarantee that any Apple-approved updates will be made available to the existing units in the field. I know it can be done, but the tech landscape is practically littered with products that had built-in firmware/software upgrade potential that was not exploited by its maker.



    Naturally...you buy when the value equation meets your own particular needs. My needs dictate that I want a device that will playback my purchased and ripped iTunes music first and foremost. Video is second though I have an HD DVD player so I don't pine for 720p bitrate starved video like others are. Then I'd like to view my photographs on my TV as well. The extra stuff will be cream on the top if it ever comes to fruition.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post




    I hate to say this, but except for the external design, this crippled product looks like something that MSFT might have designed. As was pointed out earlier, they should junk it, and resurrect the Mini as @TV with all of this functionality built-in.





    I don't follow your logic. Because a product doesn't offer you all the codec support that your particular needs require doesn't make a product "crippled" a "crippled" product generally denoted as one that has intrinsinc support for a feature yet that feature is turned off by the vendor. What Perian and other hacks do is extend the ?tv's quicktime frameworks to support other 3rd party codecs that don't come native to Quicktime anyways for the most part thus Apple has crippled nothing here. I'd have to add Perian or some other codec to my QT framework stack if I wanted full support. Since the ?tv is a CE device meant to simply plug and play this isn't offered yet but what "is" offered is the ability to playback ALL iTunes content.



    If you cannot see the difference between a computer (Mac mini) and a CE playback device (ATV) then the imperfection is within your logic and not the product. ?tv is not aimed at being a geeks tool. It's aimed at being the type of device that is uncomputerlike and easy enough for my grandmammy to setup and use. Calling the ?tv "crippled" is a vacuous and specious as an argument. Claiming that it's something that Microsoft would have designed (knowing that Apple doesn't actively prohibit hacks) smacks of the act of desperation in actually finding a valid talking point in your argument.



    The ?tv is a consumer device that can be hacked by those inclinded at their own risk. Apple has never promoted it as anything more.
  • Reply 59 of 77
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,728member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vinea View Post


    Its hard to seem authoritative when you can't even click a link and try a step by step HOWTO to prove or disprove that you can get discrete 5.1 out of an AppleTV...so who cares what your school paper was about?



    Why is this still even a discussion? It may be annoying at the moment to get AC3 5.1 out but it certainly shouldn't be hard to download the sample AC3 THX leader to prove to yourself it can be done.



    Link



    Vinea



    Vinea, you misunderstand. We are talking about the default, out-of-the-box behaviour of the AppleTV.



    Personally, I can see incredible potential in the AppleTV, the frustrating thing is that everything bar the software is there, and Apple could easily implement everything, right now, that would make the AppleTV perfect.
  • Reply 60 of 77
    vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    Vinea, you misunderstand. We are talking about the default, out-of-the-box behaviour of the AppleTV.



    Personally, I can see incredible potential in the AppleTV, the frustrating thing is that everything bar the software is there, and Apple could easily implement everything, right now, that would make the AppleTV perfect.



    Given that we're talking about handbrake ripped DVD's there's nothing out of box about this discussion. Within those parameters if you want discrete 5.1 audio it is possible with aTV.



    Within the out of box solution you get...iTunes...with all the current limitations. That the hardware is spec'd above the current "out of box" offerings either means Apple screwed up or that iTunes will at some point go 720p + 5.1 discrete surround.



    aTV isn't compelling to me until iTunes offers 720/24p movies with 5.1 or better audio AND apple offers a media center Mac or iNAS with ZFS. That won't happen till Leopard...so right now aTV is gen 1 and IMHO great for the folks that have an immediate use and desire but not likely to change home media. But really...its a software change.



    Although if my kid ruins another one of my DVDs I may change my mind about when I should start ripping DVDs and getting some kind of MCE whether XBox, PS3 or aTV.



    Vinea
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