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So, at the beginning of July I was sitting in front of my computer purchasing some television program or another off of iTunes. I don’t remember which program exactly but one I wasn’t watching via my Satellite service for whatever reason. I thought to myself: “gee this buying TV shows on iTunes deal is pretty cool, but I’d much rather watch these shows on my pretty Plasma Screen TV. It’s too bad there isn’t a simple way to do that.” Then, I realized I had heard of a device that could do exactly that. The Apple TV. So I dug out my Satellite bill and started running some numbers. The plan Dollface and I have for Satellite TV costs just over $600 a year. The 40GB Apple TV costs about $300. After that you only pay for what you would want to watch. I ran the numbers on the shows I know we watch (like Heroes or The Shield or Mythbusters) that are available on iTunes. According to my calculations, based on what we watch the programming would run us about $300 to $400 a year.  So, according to my numbers the first year of owning the device would probably be more expensive than Satellite, but subsequent years will be significantly less expensive.  I think this is particularly true as I tend to watch a lot of reruns of Adult Swim programs and instead of paying a monthly fee that would allow me to watch them each month, I will have purchased the season once and can watch it again and again whenever I like.

After I figured out the financial viability I talked to a few of the more techie people I know. Smart folks who have their fingers on the pulse and actually understand how the devices work and know all the fancy words. They all thought that it would be a good idea especially if it turned out to be financially a better option.

So, on July 5th we went to Costco and picked up an Apple TV. Set up was easy. Plug it in, connect it to the TV, pick the language, connect to the home wireless network, then authorize both mine and Dollface’s computers to connect to it and bam we’re watching shows I downloaded on iTunes on the TV, we’re listenting to anything from our music libraries on our TV, we’re listenting/watching podcasts, and (after updating the device’s software) we’re surfing YouTube on the TV. After trying it out over the weekend I called up the Satellite provider and had our service shut off.

What’s Good about the Apple TV

  1. Easy setup. It took about 5 minutes to get it up and going.
  2. Control. I am the programming director. What’s on TV? Only the things I want to watch. When is it on TV? Whenever I want to watch it.
  3. Diversity. With the video podcasts that are out there and the ability to surf YouTube my television choices have just gotten a bit more diverse. I can watch items produced by smaller publishers or creative individuals on my television.
  4. Availability. Pretty much all the shows Dollface and I watched on Satellite are available on iTunes. There were a few exceptions, but no deal breakers. We can still watch our Battlestar Galactica and Heroes and hey, maybe we’ll finally start watching Lost and 24.
  5. Simplicity. My Satellite remote had 49 buttons, the Apple TV remote has 6 buttons.

What’s Bad about the Apple TV

  1. On screen keyboards. They’re a bit of a pain in the ass, so searching YouTube is less fun.
  2. Not enough videos on YouTube. Okay, that’s a weird statement. What I mean is I don’t feel like enough of the videos on YouTube have been converted to H.264 so they can play on the Apple TV. I understand that part of this probably has to do with quality concerns, but right now, it just doesn’t feel robust enough.
  3. No HD programming on iTunes. The AppleTV is an HD product but none of the Television Shows or Movies that can be purchased on iTunes are available in HD.
  4. No way to watch local programming (like local news). Well, okay, if local news would just put out a video podcast of their program this wouldn’t be an issue and it’s not really the fault of the Apple TV. I don’t really watch news much anyway, but if I did this would be a drawback.
  5. Sports. Again this isn’t something that’s a drawback for me personally as I don’t watch sports, but being able to watch sporting events on the Apple TV would make it a much more attractive product to a lot of people.

I would recommend the Apple TV to anyone looking for long term savings versus Cable or Satellite costs who has got the bandwidth through their ISP so that downloading all their television won’t be a problem and who doesn’t have a particular interest in watching sports games or local news.

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