Why I Don’t Need an AppleTV

After a couple of months ‘tinkering’ I have finally sorted out my network, and one huge benefit is that I do not need an AppleTV.

My network is all ethernet based. I connect to the internet via a modem, which in turn is connected via cable to an AirPort Extreme. This is turn is connected via cable to the Lindy 8 Port Gigabit Switch. Connected to the switch via cable I have:

• a Mac mini
• an iMac
• a PowerBook
• a Windows PC
• 2 AirPort Express’s

I also have one additional cable just waiting for another Mac mini.

The two AirPort Express’s are connected to separate stereo systems. One is in my wife’s den and is connected to the Sony surround sound system that is connected to a Sony TV, which in turn is connected to her iMac running dual screen.

The second is attached to our B&O system which comprises of 3 B&O TV’s connected via BeoLink, a 6 CD player and 5 separate speakers. In total there are 7 B&O speakers around the apartment that will pick up iTunes from any of the 4 computers in the apartment (there are only two of us living here!)

With the addition of AirFoil we can stream music from any of the computers to either or both of the ‘music networks’ – a pretty impressive set up for a party.

But I digress.

The iMac has an eyetvhybrid connected to the satellite receiver that is connected to the Sony TV. As a result the iMac will play what is on the TV but more importantly will record what is on the TV.

At the same time the Mac mini is attached to a TVMax, which is connected to the Sky + satellite receiver that is connected to the B&O TV. So again, the Mac mini will not only pick up the satellite signal it will also record from the Sky + box.

So, is easy to get recorded material onto either the iMac or the Mac mini. This is where the network really kicks in. I am using the Windows PC fundamentally as an external drive so it has 50 + movies stored on it. The iMac has 20+ and the Mac mini 20+. It is so easy to connect from the iMac to the PC or the Mac mini, or from the Mac mini to the iMac and the PC and to play any of the content stored on the relevant computer. With the iMac connected via dual screen it is simple to watch any of this content on the Sony in the den. With the Mac mini not supporting dual screen it is necessary to physically connect the Mac mini to the B&O, but with the aid of the wireless Mighty Mouse and Keyboard it is simple enough to sit in the lounge and watch any of the content on the ‘network’ on the B&O. Of course when I can get a second Mac mini and attach it permanently to the B&O and the 8 Port Switch I wont need to physically swap the screens over – which will be bliss.

What really makes all this possible is that I don’t use iTunes for movies or TV shows at all. I only pick up movies off Sky + (UK TiVo) or occasionally DVD’s that I buy, borrow or rent. I subscribe to a few video podcasts but it doesn’t appeal at all to watch them on a big TV. They are just things that I have running in the background usually when I am browsing through stuff on the Mac, or maybe once in a while I will watch one on the 5G iPod with video. To be honest, and meaning no disrespect to any of the people doing them, I see them as a ‘fun item’ more than serious viewing.

I really don’t see me changing my mind about using iTunes for movies or TV. I will certainly try a movie at some stage, but even then as every Mac picks up the same iTunes library on the network I can access anything I have in iTunes on every Mac and it is also really easy (and faster) to move stuff around.

So for me I can live without the AppleTV. My solution was cheaper and I imagine is quicker and more flexible. Sure I don’t have the ‘cool factor’ of syncing my iTunes but I really don’t see any need for that. Over the last couple of days my mother in law has been staying with us, and she and my wife have happily watched a couple of movies in my wife’s den that are stored on the PC and the Mac mini – it works a treat, is easy to set up and I love it!

7 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Need an AppleTV

  1. Wayne LeFevre

    I’ve got to agree on this one. I don’t think my mum wants anything to do with the computer, except maybe get e-mail. One, technically someone needs to be pretty tech savvy to begin with. To have AppleTV optimal, you need an ethernet or 802.11n setup, meaning an Intel Mac.

    I would have to contend that anyone with a new gen Mac, an “n” router, and all the necessary stuff to hook up an AppleTV has the know–how to hook up a network.

    No, I would have to say Apple TV is not for the technically ignorant, it’s for the younger generation that plain doesn’t want to jump through hoops to watch their computer content on their big screen.

    My mother could care less about a 42 inch plasma, much less what she can download movie–wise through iTunes. If she wants to watch a movie, she would definitely rather go to Blockbuster and rent a DVD and pop it in and watch.

    I would sincerely have to say that the Apple TV is targeted to us. The tech savvy consumer.

  2. David

    While for you may be able to live without Apple TV could you mother, who you refer to enjoying your set up, have set up your network at her home? I hazard to say she could not. Could she attach an Apple TV to a TV with one simple HDMI cable and one power lead? I hazard to say yes, she could. The Apple TV is for people like your mum, not you.

  3. Chris Marshall Post author

    🙂 Mother in Law not mother, and no way could she set it up, or even consider using one.

    You seriously telling me that Apple’s whole strategy for the AppleTV is on 74+ woman who have no technical knowledge at all?????

    Let’s say for sake or arguement she could set up the 2 conections you mention – that just leaves her with installing iTunes, setting up an account, downloading the content, and setting up the syncing options 🙂

    I think Apple expect more people ‘like me’ to buy their products than ‘like her’. I am not aware of any articles written by her demographic extalling the virtues of the AppleTV (yet!). I am aware of a lot of ‘tech savvy’ people saying it is ‘ok’, not great, that you have to buy all the cables separately, that it has limitiations re TV’s that it will work with and content that it will show, but if you want to hack it (which is maybe ‘just the thing’ for my Mother in Law’s generation) it is pretty cool.

    I am not saying she could have set up the network I have either though:-). I was just giving an alternative option and why it works for me.

    Cheers, I love a debate 🙂

  4. Dave M.

    Chris, I fully agree! My mother wouldn’t have a clue. My father may be able to actually hook up the AppleTV to a television, but he would have to have help “buying” a television that would support it.

    That said, neither of them would have a clue how to get the content to use it.

    No, AppleTV is definitely not for folks with no technical knowledge. My “in-law’s” were given an AppleTV for their HDTV by my wife’s sister’s family. They were able to hook up the unit themselves, but needed help getting connected to their LAN.

    Getting content for the AppleTV is not as easy as programming a TiVo. To get and play a movie, you have to go to your computer, purchase the movie, download it to your computer. After it’s downloaded, you can either “sync” it to the AppleTV like an iPod, or stream it off your computer from the AppleTV. Podcasts are a lot easier than they used to be to get. Thanks to iTunes and it’s ease of subscribing to Podcasts, they are not that hard to setup. Still, parents, or folks that just don’t have much computer savvy are just not going to be doing podcasts.

    No, AppleTV is just an iPod for your TV.

    My setup is that I use my MacBook as an AppleTV and watch stuff I acquire. I have only purchased one movie via iTunes and will probably not buy any more that way. I prefer the quality from DVD and also prefer the extra’s that come on the DVD. I also use the setup to listen to my music that stored on my computer downstairs as well as view pictures. All via the Front Row interface. Stuff I can’t watch via Front Row, I watch via Quicktime and use my wireless bluetooth keyboard and mouse to control.

    I can purchase new content easily from my MacBook, however, I would still use my computer since all my media is stored there.

    I really don’t think that the AppleTV is going to be the huge hit that Apple is hoping for. At least not for what it is being sold as. I get a feeling that people are going to be buying the AppleTV as a really cheap MacNano.

  5. Darren Rolfe

    All this talk of Apple TV is making me jealous, then again maybe not…

    I agree with wayne it is definitely targetted at the tech savvy consumer. I guess I can include myself in the demographic. So how come I’m not buying.


    1. I can’t get any content in the UK yet.

    2. An Apple TV is actually going to cost me £199 plus at least £700 for an HDTV as I only have a on older model TV.

    3. Early days but definitely one to be considered on the rev 2 edition. Integration with a dedicated mac would be very, very, interesting.

    those are my reasons.

    Chris, I am interested in how you say your option is cheaper? Can you give specifics?

  6. Chris Marshall Post author

    It is cheaper in my view because I am assuming that everyone has a modem and/or router already. So to get my set up going you only need three things:

    – a means of getting TV content to your Mac. eyeTV Hybrid at $150 does a great job of this (http://www.elgato.com/index.php?file=products_eyetvhybridna)
    – a means of distrubuting the content across the network. The Lindy 8 Port does a great job of this (http://myapplestuff.com/lindy-8-port-gigabit-switch/) at £90
    – enough ethernet cables to hook everything up.

    The added benefit is that with the ethernet network you can move files around quicker and more efficiently, and it works great if you want to watch a program from one Mac through a second Mac. You are not limited to only comnnecting to one TV, you can have a number of Macs connected to TV’s in various rooms (Den, Lounge, Study etc)

    Of course you need cables to connect Mac to TV but they are cheap and you really need them anyway!!!!

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