Practical Technology

for practical people.

Apple TV 2.4: Well worth the download

The latest version of the Apple TV firmware, Apple TV 2.4, doesn’t have any major improvements, but it does include a few nice, new features and, from what I can see, gives the Apple TV a real performance kick.

First, the features. The one that I like the most is that when you’re looking over your collection you can now view movies by genre, title, or by whether you’ve already viewed them or not. With your TV Shows or Podcasts in addition to seeing them grouped by show, you can also now view them by date or by whether you’ve watched them or not.

The Apple TV’s remote has also had a bit more functionality added to it. Now, when watching a video you can not only click right or left to fast forward or rewind, but if you click again you’ll increase the speed. In addition, although Apple doesn’t say so, it certainly seems to me that the Apple TV does a better job of displaying the video while either rewinding or fast-forwarding. If you click down, you’ll see chapter markets and can navigate through your video with these.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch with iPhone OS 3.0, you can also use the latest version of Remote 1.3 to control your Apple TV with simple finger gestures. This does work, but, as for me, I still much prefer to use a Logitech Harmony remote.

Finally, you can now search Flickr photo tags to find recently updated photos You can then save searches to find new photos or use them as an Apple TV screen saver. It’s a handy little trick.

What I really like the most though is the undocumented performance improvements. I usually use my Apple TV to stream videos from an iTunes server, which in turn, pulls the film from NAS (network attached storage) devices. Even with Gigabit Ethernet connections from one end to another, I frequently saw playback pauses.

After some work, I discovered that the problem was caused by 720p HD videos I had created myself that had especially complicated and fast-changing images. Instead of a bandwidth problem, which is what usually underlies such troubles, I discovered that I simply had too much data per frame for the Apple TV to manage… until 2.4 arrived. Now, videos that used to stutter now run as smooth as silk.

Finally, I found that, in general the Apple TV is now more responsive. I’ve long thought, and continue to think, that the Apple TV is the best media extender on the market. With this update, I’m now certain of it.

Get it. You’ll be glad you did. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll go back to watching the director’s cut of Blade Runner in HD.

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