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I've been a fan of Apple TV since day one. I have multiple Apple TV units throughout my home and I love them. I was excited to see an updated model come out as the hardware hasn't really changed in 4 years. Although I wasn't able to watch the Apple September 1st keynote until days after, I did read the reports around the web. So I had an idea of what the feature set was. on day one The one thing I was trying to figure out was what did it offer that my existing Apple TVs didn't? Unfortunately the answer is not much. Hardwarewise the 2010 Apple TV has less ports and no storage. However, it does have a faster (A4) processor and can play 30fps 720p HD video as opposed to the 24fps 720p limit of the older unit. Softwarewise the 2010 Apple TV supports Apple's New TV 99¢ Rentals and existing Apple TV's don't. It also supports Network streaming. Apple has made no announcement regarding any software updates for the existing Apple TVs. By eliminating ports and an internal hard drive as well as making it about a quarter of the size, Apple was able to lower the price to $99 (down from $229). Although a lower price is always welcome, this is one of the first times that an upgrade comes out that makes me think the older model I own is better/more capable! 


Renting vs. Owning

It's very clear that the new Apple TV is all about renting vs. owning content. While you can still buy content on your computer or iOS device and stream it to the New Apple TV via AirPlay, you can't "buy" any content directly on the Apple TV itself. Since there is no hard drive built-in if you want to access any of your own content such as music, movies, TV shows, photos, etc. you'll have to leave your computer on. For many users that will be a turn off. With the Old Apple TV, you have the luxury of storing content on the Apple TV built-in hard drive AND stream content from your computer or the internet. With the New Apple TV it's streaming ONLY. With the New Apple TV you can now rent TV shows in HD for only 99¢. I certainly appreciate this because unlike a movie, it's rare that I'll want to watch an episode of my favorite show more than once. So why pay $1.99 (or $2.99 in HD) to own it? The only problem is that even at 99¢, Amazon sells the same shows for that price. Apple now rents shows from ABC and FOX.

TiVo HD On Demand Selection

I have a TiVo HD and can buy the shows there for the same buck. as well as stream content from Netflix and Blockbuster. Still for the flexibility of being able to rent and watch on a computer, iOS device or Apple TV, I'd probably give that dollar to Apple.


Missing Video/Audio Ports

The new Apple TV loses component video and RCA audio ports. It has HDMI and Optical Audio only. This actually makes sense. If you go out and buy any TV today it will have one or more HDMI ports. If you buy any audio receiver today most likely it will have one or more optical audio ports. This covers all but one of the TVs in my house. 


Upgrade or downgrade – the Bottom Line

If you already have an Apple TV, there would be little reason to swap it out for a new one. You would have a smaller box, TV show rentals and Netflix streaming, but you would lose the extra video/audio ports and internal storage. If you don't currently  own an Apple TV, the $99 entry price is much more attractive than before.


Why is Apple TV still a "hobby" for Apple?

in my opinion I think the problem with the Apple TV is that it doesn't totally replace your other set-top boxes. People either pay for cable/satellite or they want free over the air/internet content. While you could certainly plug in an Apple TV and still get over the air HD broadcasts, you wouldn't be able to get any FREE internet content (besides YouTube and Podcasts) such as Hulu, Pandora, etc without some sort of hack. During the keynote Steve made a point to say that "people don't want a computer on their TV." I agree with this to a point. I think that the reason people do connect computers (like the Mac mini) to their TV is so that they can not only access paid content from iTunes, but also the vast number of FREE internet video options out there. It's unlikely that Apple TV will ever be able to compete with this because it goes against the iTunes revenue stream. Also unlike the Mac and the iOS devices Apple hasn't done a really good job promoting Apple TV. When was the last time you saw an Apple TV TV spot? Most people I know have no idea what Apple TV is? So as long as there isn't a big push from Apple and the public still views this as an "add on" instead of a replacement, the Apple TV may never go beyond Apple's "hobby."  Learn more about Apple TV here.

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4 Responses to Is the New Apple TV an Upgrade or Downgrade?

  1. Ken Berger says:

    Silly the improved streaming from iOS devices is the key. I bought one to add to my apple tv!

  2. Scott Siegling says:


    I think potential reason to upgrade would be snappier UI performance. My AppleTV gets bogged down and performs very slowly at times — I’m hoping that as an iOS device the experience will improve a lot.

  3. Bill Carver says:

    It’s definitely a downgrade. However it’s also a much needed downgrade in price and more in line with what “normal people” would want to have for their television. The Apple TV prior to this version was simply too much and it didn’t offer anything compelling to the average person including myself. I don’t generally purchase movies and I certainly don’t want to watch youtube on the big screen. I can think of nothing less useful than that. However the new price point and the rental model is a dead on hit with the ability to stream my content from my ipad or iphone will be great and it will make a great netflix instant player.

    Finally if you don’t watch television much, but only a couple series, you may find this less a less expensive option than having cable in the first place. A combination of the new Apple TV and ATSC over the air television may work perfectly and set you free from that cable bill once again.

  4. Jack Beckman says:

    The iOS streaming is the only reason I even considered it – but then I realized that anything on my iOS devices is already on one of my computers – so the existing Apple TV works great for that.

    I think you can still rent from the old Apple TV in addition to buying, but since I also have a TiVo, I’d just buy from Amazon instead.

    I think Bill has hit the nail on the head – for those without the current version, this is probably a better deal – if you don’t have an Internet connected TV, and don’t have a TiVo or something like it, this might be good. But for me, with a TiVo already and the old unit, it’s just nothing I’m interested in.