It may look like a square hockey puck, but the little black box that is Apple TV packs a punch that has really made our family life a lot better.
(NB: all images in this post were found on Google images.)
Basically, Apple TV “converges” things. That’s techie talk for “makes our life easier by connecting our devices together.” It means that any Apple device we use in our house – MacBook Pro laptop, iPad or iPhone – can be shared onto our big screen TV in several ways.
How it works
Apple TV is like a glorified hub – pulling together all your entertainment needs into one place. You simply plug it into your TV via an HDMI cable, give it your wifi password (or plug in an ethernet cable) and it’s ready to go.
AirPlay does what it says – uses air to play stuff. It means you can shoot whatever you want (music, photos, videos) from your iPad, iPod or iPhone onto your TV.
If iOS7 is installed on those devices, you also have the option to “mirror displays”, which allows you to project your mobile screen onto your TV in real-time. This comes in real handy if you want to show your better half a map or an email or browse the internet together.
If you have a Mac laptop, you can also shoot your screen up to your TV in mirrored fashion. In addition, you can also setup “Home sharing” which means any videos you have stored in iTunes on your laptop can be fetched by Apple TV and played on your TV. That’s brilliant.
If I had an expensive sound system (which I don’t), I could also use AirPlay to fire music from my devices up to the speakers.
Like I said, Apple TV converges stuff. In a great way.
I can’t tell you how many times my son wants to watch something on YouTube or BBC iPlayer or play a mobile game but see it “big”, and with a couple of taps and swipes it all goes up to the TV, helping to pre-empt a tantrum.
Access to iTunes and apps
Apple TV’s home page is also a gateway to your iTunes library, where you can buy or rent films and TV shows, or listen to music or podcasts, in a really easy interface.
There are also great apps like the Apple Remote and XMBC remote for your iPad or iPhone, allowing them to become a TV remote control, with additional preview functionality. It means couples don’t have to share a remote (provided they are both Apple users.)
How about the competition?
Whilst Apple certainly does not have a monopoly on convergence devices, other brands or options (including rigging up a Raspberry Pi) are complicated and tedious. Apple operate their hardware and software as one, which means they have a fully integrated offering across their range. Without trying to sound like a fan boy, “it just works” as Steve Jobs famously said.
Another version of me would love to tinker, cobble together and create my own “device convergence” solution, but when you have a family and need instant sharing or entertainment options in your foyer with your TV, sometimes all you want is something that… “just works.”
Disclaimer about product reviews
The Verve Life, its authors and contributors are not paid by companies for any reviews or comments. We will happily receive press packs, review products, experiences, etc relevant to The Verve Life, just get in touch here. Any subsequent articles will be disclosed accordingly.