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Third-Generation Apple TV Adds 1080p Video

As a teaser leading up to the main introduction of the day, Apple announced a new third-generation Apple TV at last week’s media event. The new box can play 1080p video when available and offers a streamlined user interface in the full glory of 1080p resolution. The new Apple TV is available for pre-order for $99; it begins shipping this week. A software update provides the second-generation Apple TV with the same user interface through a software update, though not the 1080p capabilities. The new model includes a single-core A5 processor, presumably to handle the additional decoding necessary for 1080p, in favor of the previous model’s A4 processor.

The third-generation Apple TV can act as a destination for streamed music, photos, and video, and AirPlay mirroring remains available from the iPad 2 and just-announced third-generation iPad, and the iPhone 4S. Interestingly, the Apple TV specs note that mirroring the third-generation iPad is done at 720p resolution, even though both devices are capable of pushing 1080p.

iCloud integration is present, so you can access your iTunes playlists from iCloud, and your photos in Photo Stream. Speaking of iCloud, iTunes in the Cloud now supports movies, so you can re-download most movies you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store on any device, including the Apple TV. We say “most” because Fox and Universal aren’t participating due to contractual obligations to offer availability windows to HBO.

Although the Apple TV runs iOS under the hood, its interface is still entirely customized, and bears little resemblance to iOS on other devices. Despite the rumors, there’s no indication that voice interaction via Siri has been added — that will have to remain rumor fodder for future models. New to the interface are Genius-based movie recommendations based on what you’ve seen, presumably only for movies in iTunes.

The interface changes largely revolve around the Apple TV’s main screen, where the Cover Flow-like preview at the top is fed by icons for Movies (from the iTunes Store), TV Shows (also from the iTunes Store), Music (from iTunes Match), Computers (your Mac’s iTunes library), and Settings. All other content sources for the Apple TV — Netflix, Vimeo, Flickr, and so on — appear below as app-like icons; selecting one drops you into that source’s own screen. In essence, Apple appears to be relegating non-Apple services to a secondary status, albeit without reducing navigability.

One tip: press and hold the remote’s Menu button to jump quickly back to the main screen, where you can press and hold the center select button to put the Apple TV to sleep. (When we’re done watching, Tonya and I always power down the Apple TV and the television to reduce power consumption and wireless network usage from the streamed photo screensaver.)


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Comments about Third-Generation Apple TV Adds 1080p Video
(Comments are closed.)

Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-07 11:57
> iCloud integration is present as well, so you can access your iTunes playlists from iCloud, and your photos in Photo Stream.

Mine only seems to download my Photo Stream when I manually visit the Photos area; someone mentioned automatic downloading today, which seems like a no-brainer. I want the screensaver to stay current, and I never want to visit the Photos area manually.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-07 12:59
A good question that will require some testing.
Guy McLimore  2012-03-07 12:23
I'm wondering if there is any advantage for me in buying a new Apple TV. My HDTV is only 720p anyway. I'm buying a new iPad as soon as the store opens... But is there any reason to buy the new Apple TV?
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-07 12:34
I can't see a reason. The only functional difference is 1080p. The rest will apparently be available through a firmware update to all the 2nd gen hockey puck models.
cporter  2012-03-08 09:58
Having updated our ATV2 last night, I'm not entirely convinced by the new UI. My gut feeling is that navigation between items will be less straightforward (and I'll no longer have the graphical view of Netflix recommendations at the top of the screen). That said, I haven't spent any time with the new interface, so should reserve judgement for now.

After the update completed and the TV was displaying the new icon-based UI my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter went over and tried to swipe across the TV screen to move the icons. This after limited iOS exposure (I only got my iPhone a month ago, and she's not really meant to play with it...).
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-13 05:45
Yeah, I'm not entirely sure I like the new interface better either, but I can't say quite why. It doesn't really seem to be any slower or more clumsy, just a little different on that main screen.

It is interesting that your daughter reacted so strongly to the app icon look.
Benjamin Lowengard  2012-03-13 04:07
When you power up the AppleTV- it takes a minute or two to come up fully. So if you keep yours off like i do,
be patient turning it on. This is a feature of the new software I'm afraid.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-13 05:50
A minute or two, really? It's not instant to come out of sleep, but I usually press a button on the Apple TV's remote before I press the power button on the TV's remote to turn it on. Usually, by the time the TV has come on and I've sat down, everything is ready.

I just timed it at 5 seconds to come out of sleep in several repeated tries. If you're actually powering down by unplugging it or using a switch on the power cable, that might be longer.