Using the AppleTV as your home Media Centre

With that latest advances in home wireless networking and iTunes we have found that the Apple TV has become a viable choice as a home media centre. There are still a few holes in what it can do, but it looks pretty good.

This article will cover the good and the bad of using an Apple TV as a home media centre.

Access to your iTunes library

With the advances of N-series wireless home networks it is now possible for your Apple TV to stream content direct from your iTunes library. Prior to N-series wireless, the speeds were not fast enough for streaming, forcing you to sync content from your iTunes library to your Apple TV. This syncing approach was also limited by the size of the Apple TV internal hard drive.

With streaming now viable, the size of the Apple TV hard drive is now irrelevant - just keep everything in your iTunes library.

This works just as well from your iPhoto library. Streaming slideshows are a breeze on the Apple TV.

Digitising your DVD collection

For those of us who are sick of digging around DVD boxes and trying to find that lost DVD, it is now very easy to store your DVDs in your iTunes library.

All you do is rip your DVDs using Handbrake, then drop them into iTunes. It couldn't be easier. You can then play the videos on your Apple TV.

The iTunes store

The iTunes store in most countries now supports movie and TV show rental and purchase. From a technical viewpoint, this works just fine. We've rented and purchased a few movies and there is at most a 2 minute delay between purchasing and being able to start watching.

The movies however are quite poor value, especially for new releases. We have found that new releases are often only available to 'purchase', not rent, and (to buy) cost about 3 times what we would rent the same video for from the local video store.

Older movies are priced more reasonably at $3-$4 (Aus). The purchase of older movies is also reasonably priced.

One final point on movie purchasing is the DRM. With music purchases under iTunes, Apple has always had is token DRM. To remove DRM from music from the store all you ever had to do was burn a CD, then re-import the tracks. I don't know how Apple ever go away with that with the record labels! There is no such loophole with movie purchases. In fact, I have not yet figured out how to get purchased content back onto my iTunes library, so that I can copy it onto an iPhone or iPod, which is within the limits of your licence. If you do want to buy/rent a video to watch on the AppleTV and your iPhone, you should buy it via your main iTunes library, rather than purchasing via the AppleTV.

What about recording TV shows?

We've shown how the Apple TV can handle a lot of stuff, but when it comes to old fashioned recording of TV shows, the Apple TV does nothing for you. Of course, Apple want you to rent TV shows from the store, not record them yourselves. There are some options around using the EyeTV to record on your Mac and send to iTunes, but thats the subject or another article we've put together on Using the EyeTV.

If you're interested in the testing setup that we use at ShedWorx, a full listing of our test bench can be found here