Using Apple TV (second generation) in Canada

Originally written October, 2010 and updated December, 2011.

The $119 Apple TV arrived in Calgary yesterday so I picked one up and connected it to our projector.

I like the idea of buying content a la carte rather than paying our cable provider’s (Shaw) extortion rates. We have found iTunes on Windows 7 hopeless for multiple reasons. Going to the trouble of hooking up a macbook works, but neither is it an option unless Daddy is in town and takes ten minutes to “set it up” before movie night can begin. Hence the Apple TV.

Using an HDMI to DVI cable, setup is painless. One of the attractions for me was being able to use an older iPod touch as a wireless remote since the AppleTV is in a different room from where we sit.

Since Apple’s updates in mid 2011, the iOS remote app has been stelar and is by itself a reason to buy and use an AppleTV over any other source of content.

YouTube and Podcast videos work flawlessly and the experience is much nicer than fooling around with a PC.

Movie trailers and renting and watching is perfect. No buffering lags, no glitches, it just works. Although inferior to blu-ray or over the air (OTA) HD audio and video quality, it beats highly compressed digital cable signals, is much more convenient and doesn’t have the ridiculous monthly fees.

The selection of family movies and shows has increased to about 750 now and continues to grow but still has a long way to go. TV Shows are finally available in Canada, but selection is far superior and prices better if you register as a US account-holder, which I highly recommend. Regrettably, Canadian consumers are still second-class citizens with all things digital.

Overall, the AppleTV is hands-down superior to the XBox 360 for renting movies, podcasts and other Internet content. It is tiny, silent and cool whereas the XBox is huge, sounds like a jet engine and is prone to overheating (thus failing). The XBox shines as a PVR (Windows media centre remote) once you struggle through the setup to get tuners working with free over the air (OTA) HDTV signals. Free OTA is all we have to keep aggregators honest in the long term which is why I encourage everyone to make the effort to jam a coat hanger antenna into that expensive new TV!

I highly recommend the AppleTV provided you have a screen with a digital input (HDMI or DVI).


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