Is Apple TV the Stupidest Apple Product Ever?

by Chris Howard Aug 20, 2008

Mum said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." However, Hadley says "500 words per week please." So I'll say, you're never going to hear the expression "Apple TV killer", because everything already kills it.

Apple loves to be pig-headed about things. For example, a multi-button mouse only took 20 years, and we're still waiting for a decent camera on the iPhone. We all know it's the Apple-way or the highway. Well this week, I took the highway.

I was in the market for a PVR. Naturally I decided to check out the AppleTV to see what it is - and isn't.

What it is: A vacuum cleaner for your wallet. wink

What it isn't: A PVR, nor is it even a challenge to PVRs.

Now I know you all knew that, but it bears mentioning again because spending so much money on a one function device that is superceded by PVRs anyway, seems a tad insane.

The Apple TV is a means to play downloaded movies and TV shows. That's all. No DVD player, no hard disk recorder, no TV tuner. It's just a media player. Kinda like a big iPod really.

Who really needs that? Hands up all those people who don't want to play DVDs and don't want to record TV. Hmm, no hands.

Some will argue the Apple TV shouldn't be compared to PVRs as they serve different functions. True enough from the Apple TV's perspective, but not from the PVR's. Apple TV won't be making any sort of blip in PVR sales, but PVRs will certainly be limiting Apple TV's sales

With the Olympics on, now is an apt time to consider Apple TV versus PVR. Has Apple provided any Olympic coverage? Has it provided the coverage you wanted to see? Nope. So you still need to fork out for a VR - which then makes yourAppleTV redundant.

Many programs each week are not available on iTMS. Sport, news, documentaries, dramas, comedies, soaps, current affairs. In fact, a lot of everything. It'd be lucky if 2% of what's on telly each week is available on iTMS.

Now look at this from the Apple TV's blurb:

Get TV shows you love — without countless channels you don’t need. Buy commercial-free TV episodes directly from Apple TV and watch what you want, when you want. Browse hundreds of shows, then click once to buy episodes for just $1.99 each.

Apple, that blurb convinced me more than anything not to buy an Apple TV. It's asking me to buying an expensive piece of hardware to then pay for TV shows I currently get for free. All for the advantage for receiving them without commericals and not having to worry about setting up my PVR to record. Whoopity doo.

Also, I have a Mac, it can download the same programs as the Apple TV, which I can then watch on my Mac or TV. So again, why do I ned an Apple TV?

But again I still will need a PVR to record all the programs Apple can't supply.

So I'm really struggling here to see who would by an Apple TV? People who can't be bothered pressing record? Or can't be bothered pressing fast forward during the commercials?

Movies are a better use, but again I don't need the Apple TV to access them, I can still download them through my Mac.

Oh, and for the price of the Apple TV with160GB, you can buy a very good PVR - such as a Sony or Panasonic - with greater capacity. As it is, I purchased a PVR with 160GB for half the price of the 160GB Apple TV. And it plays and records DVDs.

The cost of movies and TV shows is not an advantage either, with them being the same or dearer (more expensive) through iTMS.

One other possible argument for the Apple TV is it is the future. A future where we will download all our movies and TV shows. But with such a limited selection, especially of TV viewing, and exisiting systems so entrenched, the Apple TV is just too far ahead of the game.

In fact, the Apple TV is so far ahead of the game that it's out of the game. The DVD is here for a long time yet, watching TV over the TV networks is here for a long time yet. The limited convenience of the Apple TV is not justifiable.

I look forward to the Apple zealots trying to justify the Apple TV, and when they can't find any justification, resorting to calling this the stupidest article ever. Because they've got as much hope of justifying the Apple TV as they have of explaining what's outside the universe.

The Apple TV is a waste of money. It's plain stupid. Sorry, Mum.



  • Umm, You might need medication.  Your random, disjointed attempt to compare two different product types reeks of the loose associations typifying Manic Depressive illness…  Take your lithium and go buy a Tivo since that’s what you wanted all along.  And what does your mum have to do with it?  Okay, I take back the MD comment, lets add schizophrenia on top.  No, this is not a stupid article, just pointless….  I’m thinking you’d buy a car and wonder why anybody would want one since you can’t haul a load of mulch and lumber in it…

    And to think I wasted 5 minutes of my life…

    HeyBill had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 1
  • I guess you do not fully understand how the AppleTV works.  Do you even own and use one?  I have had mine since the month it was released and have since updated it to version 2.0.  It is a joy to use and we use it everyday.  There are high def video podcasts from National Geographic, NASA, etc.  You can rent HD movies (you cannot do this from your computer).  You can view MobileMe and Flickr galleries of your friends.  You can view YouTube videos.  You can use AirTunes to stream music to AppleTV.  Now you can even use your iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote control to control AppleTV.  It is a great little device that works in a way that is pretty new.  It is not a replacement for your cable TV.  It is a new way to consume media.  With just a remote you can operate it in a way you cannot do with a normal computer.  Also, since it has digital outs and HDMI, you can integrate it in your home entertainment environment.

    Siva Subramaniam had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 1
  • So, because the AppleTV is not what you were looking for (a PVR), it sucks and is ‘plain stupid’? Wow. That’s simply great. I’m not an Apple ‘zealot,’ but I am a happy AppleTV owner. I was not looking for a PVR, I was looking for an “iPod for my TV” - which is what the AppleTV is. The AppleTV was never marketed as a PVR, makes no claims to being a PVR, and if someone is expecting a PVR-like device when they buy one, they clearly did not do their research. This may come as a shock, but I even knew it wouldn’t replace my DVD player when I bought it.

    For me, it’s very useful:

    * I put all the kids videos and music on it - they love having all their favorites in a simple menu, immediately accessible; and I like not having to worry about them scratching their DVD’s and CD’s all to hell.

    * I sync our pictures to it - a process which could not get any simpler. It’s much nicer to view our pictures on the 53” TV then on the 20” iMac, and easier to show a group of visitors.

    * I watch iTMS video downloads on it. Again, the screen size is nicer, and it’s easier for the family cuddle on the couch then on the office chair. I’m not going to hook up the computer to the TV, it’s in a a different room.

    * It’s quiet, it’s unobtrusive, it does exactly what it is designed to do very well, and it’s very easy to use. The AppleTV offers me a level of convenience and ease of use that is unmatched by anything else I know of.

    * I use it’s ability to stream video podcasts off the net from time-to-time which delivers plenty of news, comedy, and current affairs for the amount of time I have. There’s far more content on the iTMS store that I am interested in then I have time for.

    Does the AppleTV do everything? No. Do I wish it did more? Maybe, a built-in DVD player would be ‘nice,’ but I already have a few of those, and I think it would be interesting if Apple put out an SDK which allowed people to make apps like on the iPhone. Does it fulfill my needs and expectations? Yes. Does this article support the theory that bloggers are not journalists? Yes.

    The AppleTV is worth every penny I spent on it. It’s plain smart. Sorry, Chris.

    awmyhr had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 2
  • Actually, the Apple TV is a huge sleeper product, that right now seems to be in beta somewhat.  It needs a little bit more to be as huge-or-bigger than the iPod.

    Overall, for what it does, it’s great, especially when I ripped my entire DVD collection using HandBrake.  The picture quality is as good as DVD.  It’s like a visual iPod for the home entertainment system with access to retail and rental movies.

    Plus it synchs my audio playlists and is a great DJ when having a party.

    But your right, it’s a half-baked product.  It needs a bunch of things, like:

    - a larger hard drive:  I can only get around 60 movies on my available 140GB.  Thats ridiculous.  I don’t want to leave my Mac running AND the AppleTV to have access to my entire collection.  I want my entire collection available immediately.  Lets have build-to-order option of larger hard drives up to and exceeding 1TB.  Bigger if possible.

    - a bigger system buffer, preferably using Solid State memory:  The thing has these pauses when changing between menus, movies, synching.  It’s a lag that tells me the product isn’t ready for prime time.  I can’t imagine Joe Blow using this with these lags.

    -  background synching:  I hate seeing that synchronization screen.

    - auto-restore:  sometimes, for no reason, the AppleTV gets unbound from my Mac.  When this happens, the whole pairing and re-synching process starts over.  Huge delay.  I want to smash the thing when it delays me like that.  The average grandma is never going to be able to do this over and over.

    - Digital TV tuner:  OK, lets dump the stupid box and remote from the cable company one-and-for-all.  What idiot designed the cable remote anyway?  You need a PhD just to figure it out.  Theres no reason why Apple can’t make an agreement with Comcast, Armstrong, Time-Warner, and get the box to do all of the things that the Cable box does.

    - DVD/BlueRay disk:  OK, sometimes I get a DVD that I want to play NOW.  I can’t unless I rip it.

    - Audio Streaming: where’s the iTunes Radio?

    - Video Streaming:  where’s the iTunes TV (for free broadcasts).  I know this doesn’t exist, but why not??????  YouTube is fun, but I want broadcast TV stations from all over the world just like the iTunes Radio.

    ronjamin had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 5
  • Whoopps, I forgot Digital Recorder of tv programs.  Why the hell not?

    ronjamin had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 5
  • My wife LOVES her AppleTV.  Why?  Because she can sit in bed, and access my entire DVD movie library with the AppleTV.  How?

    Simple.  Handbrake, a cheap $200 refurb 40gb AppleTV, and an on-sale $120 750gb hard drive.  I have 250 movies from my DVD library (which is now boxed up and no longer sitting on shelves all over the living room) ripped to that inexpensive hard drive, and shared off my main Mac.  They show on on the AppleTV’s movie list perfectly, and don’t take up ANY space on the itty bitty drive.

    You don’t have to hack your AppleTV to do this.  You just have to leave iTunes running on the main mac.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a spare Mac that I can leave attached to the TV in the bedroom all the time.  The AppleTV, however, sits there doing it’s job perfectly and silently.  Movies stream over my wireless (802.11g) network without a hiccup, and my wife is pleased as punch.

    We also rent movies on it on a regular basis.  I did the math… there is a movie place nearby that rents movies for $0.99 on Tuesdays and Thursday, so I resisted this at first.  Even on weekends, at $2.50, it seemed better than the Mac.  Then I thought about it.  That movie shop is a mere 2 miles away.  But I have to go there and come back (4 miles).  Then I have to return the movie. (up to 8 miles)  That’s nearly a half gallon of gas.  At today’s prices or around $4/gallon, I just spent an extra $2 to rent that movie.  Not to mention a bunch of my time.  On Tuesdays and Thursday (assuming the movie is in stock on this popular day) that means easily 30-45 minutes of my time (between travel, standing in line, and returning) plus $3 in costs, to rent the movie on the cheap day.  On a weekend, closer to $5.50, perhaps more.  Suddenly those $3-5 movie rentals on the AppleTV (with zero effort on my part) begin to look a LOT more reasonable.

    Is it perfect?  No.  Could it be better?  Sure.  Does it do everything I want it to?  Absolutely.  I have a DVD player, but it rarely gets used now.  I also have a hi-def DirecTV DVR that gets used heavily.  But for movies, I use my AppleTV, and I am extremely happy with it.

    compudude had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 4
  • “But your right, it’s a half-baked product.  It needs a bunch of things, like:

    - a larger hard drive:  I can only get around 60 movies on my available 140GB.”

    I’m with ronjamin pretty much across the board.

    I wouldn’t say it’s a stupid product, but it’s certainly overpriced for what it does. 

    I’m not the least bit interested in buying DRM-ridden crap from iTunes, but I am interested in a good media extender.  My Xbox360 is filling in that role for now, and it works great, but it only streams instead of syncs, which makes it vulnerable to wi-fi interference, like when we run our microwave while trying to watch a movie.  Really, that’s the only selling point for me with the AppleTV, but it’s a pretty good one.

    I’d really like to see user-extensible storage.  That would go a long way to making it worth a purchase for me.  Also, adding the Netflix streaming, which probably isn’t going to happen.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • For what it’s worth, for anyone willing to hack the AppleTV (which takes some… but not too much… ability to follow some technical step-by-step instructions), extra storage can be attached directly to the ATV, rather than streaming.  Once hacked (a few steps up front, then never worry again) it’s also very easy to add support for many different video formats, rather than just QuickTime.

    For me, streaming worked so well I didn’t bother hacking it, but that had been my original plan.

    compudude had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 4
  • “For me, streaming worked so well I didn’t bother hacking it, but that had been my original plan.”

    So does the AppleTV NOT sync (copy files to the drive) and simply streams files to it from your iTunes?  If that’s the case, then there’s no reason at all for me to buy one.  That’s disappointing.  Or can you set it up to do one or the other?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • AppleTV can be set to sync (limiting you to available internal hard drive space, unless you hack and add an external) or stream, or a combination of both (sync specified, stream the rest).

    I bought the cheap one with smallest internal hard drive because I knew I wouldn’t be depending on it for storage.  The cheap USB external drive I use was intended to be connected after hacking.  But as I said, streaming worked so well I didn’t bother hacking.

    compudude had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 4
  • Short answer: No, it is not the stupidest Apple product ever.

    I use my AppleTV all the time for…

    1. Watching video podcasts.
    2. Watch TV shows that I’ve recorded on my Mac (via EyeTV)
    3. Watch my DVD collection (via Handbrake)
    4. Use it as a remote speaker to stream my iTunes to my home stereo
    5. Rent and buy movies directly
    6. Buy TV shows directly
    7. Have access to my entire iTunes library from the living room

    I bought the cheapest model because I didn’t plan on storing anything other than “latest” episodes of tv shows and podcasts on it.

    Michael Tomlin had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 1
  • I think the AppleTV’s value is directly proportional to the value of your iTunes library.  If you have a large library, it’s pretty awesome.

    My one reservation about AppleTV is the fact that it is an “always on” device that takes 18 Watts to drive.  I wish there was a more elegant way to power it down (other than just pulling the plug which is what I currently do). 

    That said, even when you are using it to watch movies it only consumes about 20 Watts.  Pretty amazing. 

    Compare that to the XBox360 which uses about 180 Watts.  That’s almost 10X the electricity cost (and CO2 emission).  On the other hand, the XBox powers off cleanly and conveniently from the controller and there is virtually zero “vampire” power draw.

    Ray Fix had this to say on Aug 21, 2008 Posts: 21
  • Let me get this straight. You wanted a PVR. You write for an Apple website, but had no idea Apple TV wasn’t a PVR. When you found out, it because the “stupidest Apple product ever”.

    From reading the article it seems that you’ve never used an Apple TV, have no idea what it does, yet because it’s not a PVR it’s the “stupidest Apple product ever”.

    If you read the comments I think you’ll find a pattern. Those that knew what it did and bought it for what it did seem genuinely happy. Those that want something else, or don’t want to deal with iTunes, wouldn’t be. Buying an Apple TV and being unhappy because it’s tethered to iTunes, or that it isn’t a PVR is like buying a car and wishing it was a boat.

    Apple TV does exactly what I bought it for very well. Of course, you’ve already named anyone that defends the Apple TV as an Apple Zealot, which is great for open debate. That’s the type thing you normally find at a windows site.

    Your article is not just stupid, it’s drivel. I can’t believe Apple Matters let it see the light of day. I guess it’s a quota thing, huh?

    insertclevernamehere had this to say on Aug 21, 2008 Posts: 8
  • Many good counterpoints to the article.
    I think there are 2 stand-out reasons to buy an AppleTV

    1) We bought a plasma - so for HD movies it was either
    * buy a BluRay player, or
    * buy an AppleTV
    The Apple TV was cheaper and had advantages given above

    2) Nearly every time you hear a report about what can be watched on the internet, it then says “but people rightly prefer to be entertained on their TVs, not their computers”. The AppleTV allows this for much of our computer-based content.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Aug 21, 2008 Posts: 228
  • I don’t expect anyone to agree who’s just been told the product they bought is stupid. So I appreciate those who remained objective.

    I knew before I looked it up the Apple TV wasn’t a PVR, but I hoped against hope that somehow it’d have enough features to put me in a quandary about whether to spend my hard-earned on it or a PVR.

    And, being an Apple fan, that really frustrates me, because I want to give my money to Steve. But I couldn’t this time because, as others here have said, it’s either over-priced or feature limited.

    I was amused too that a few people justified it with usage examples not on Apple’s features list, such as dumping all your DVDs to it (not that Apple would ever encourage that). Although I can do that on my PVR too.

    Is it a stupid product? Well… it’s either over-priced or under-featured, so that seems a stupid thing for Apple to do.

    So it’s stupid because Apple could have these things flying off the shelves like iPods or iPhones, if only they upped its features.

    It’s stupid because Apple is missing a golden opportunity to make inroads into the living room like it has the smartphone market.

    So, okay, the Apple TV, within its niche, is not stupid. But WHY make it a niche product?? That’s what is stupid to me.

    I’m not the first to say it, and unfortunately won’t likely be the last. I just said it less tactfully.

    BTW If you don’t want to hear Apple being criticized, try somewhere that only gives you Apple’s view - there’s plenty of Apple websites that toe the line. But at Apple Matters, we are allowed to tell it like we see it - whether you agree or not. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 22, 2008 Posts: 1209
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