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New Apple TV focuses on 'what works'

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 12, 2010
Latest version is streamlined for streaming video -- but more content would be good.

Since it's so small, the Apple TV slips invisibly into most home entertainment setups; a nonslip rubber bottom is designed to make sure it stays put, even with a heavy HDMI cable connected. (An HDMI cable is not included; you'll need to buy one separately).

Besides HDMI, Apple TV features a 10/100BT Ethernet port, a micro USB jack, an optical audio connection and a plug for the power cable. Despite its minuscule size, there's no external power brick. For wireless connectivity, it has built-in Wi-Fi with 802.11a/b/g/n support.

The software makes it easy to connect with most wireless networks; that's especially convenient if your cable modem and/or router isn't near the TV.

Like other Apple products, Apple TV's setup is simple, if a bit tedious. If you use Ethernet to connect to your home network, Apple TV recognizes the network without any configuration. For those planning on wireless connectivity, setting up Wi-Fi is the first thing you do after turning on Apple TV. Basically, you select your Wi-Fi network and enter the appropriate password for access.

Entering usernames and passwords using the included remote is quite straightforward but tedious. You have to click around the letters and numbers displayed on the screen and select each one, one at a time, using the remote.

And you have to do this for more than just your Wi-Fi network. You'll have to do this for every feature you want to use: iTunes requires a user ID and password; so does Home Sharing, which you have to enable on your computer if you plan to stream iTunes content to the Apple TV. Netflix, Flickr and MobileMe all require usernames and passwords too.

In other words, you're going to be doing a lot of clicking the first time you set up your accounts. Fortunately, you need do this only once.

Enter the Remote App

There is a way to avoid this hassle, though, which is great news to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users. Once the Wi-Fi information is entered, it's possible to switch from the included physical remote to Apple's Remote App.

The Remote App, which you download and install on your iOS device, turns that device into, well, a remote. It's just been updated, giving users the ability to gesture and tap their way through the Apple TV interface. The best part? Anytime Apple TV pops up a keyboard interface, the iPhone or iPad in your hand vibrates to let you know that the password can be tapped onto the touch-screen device in your hand. This saves a ton of time during setup. Word to the wise: If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, download the Remote App before you set up the Apple TV.

 

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