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How to Build an Awesome Apple TV Experience

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At first glance, it may be difficult to discern how a media player so small, at just 3.9 inches wide and 0.9 inches high, could serve as the brain of your streaming multimedia entertainment experience. And when I say multimedia, I mean just that—with this device you have the power to wield multiple media options with your fingertips. The Apple TV can adeptly bridge all of your stored content, such as photos, videos, music, TV shows, movies, and more, offering convenient access to your library from a single location while allowing you to expand your audio and video horizons even further, through the iTunes Store and built-in apps.

To connect to your network and access the content you love, the Apple TV is equipped with high-speed 802.11ab/g/n Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity. Having both wired and wireless integration options offers maximum compatibility and installation flexibility, as some users prefer to stream high-resolution video over a wired network connection, while wireless users may not have the option of placing the Apple TV near their router, or simply prefer to not have yet another cable to worry about—a concept I proudly embrace.

The Apple TV has a welcomed HDMI output for connecting to your high-definition television. HDMI offers the convenience of carrying high-quality video and audio over a single cable. An HDMI cable is sold separately. There are no composite video and component video outputs onboard for connecting to older display types. Considering the number of HDMI-equipped high-definition TVs in households these days, this will likely not be an issue for most people, and if you need help choosing a compatible TV, we can certainly help with that. This device supports HD 720p and Full HD 1080p output resolutions, which allows you to enjoy your media in pristine video quality. There is also a digital optical output if your system requires that you to run audio and video signals separately, like when using an HDMI-to-DVI adapter. Just be sure that your TV supports High Definition Digital Content Protection (HDCP), a compatibility requirement for connecting your Apple TV to your display.

The Competition

It seems like every device we have is fighting for our attention and entertainment dollar. Whether it’s our smartphones and tablets, streaming media players, computers, or Smart TVs, modern technology offers multiple ways to connect to the Internet and consume a variety of things that are designed to keep us glued to our screens. Some devices offer a smaller footprint than the Apple TV, and some even offer more entertainment channels for exploring things like TV shows and movies. But the Apple TV’s greatest strength isn’t the number of movie channels it can access or games you can play, its strength lies in how seamlessly it combines the media you already have while allowing you to explore additional, free, paid, and subscription-based content.

Intuitive Interface and Control

If our friends from Cupertino have taught us one thing over the years, it’s that they’re all about the “experience.” This philosophy definitely rings true in the Apple TV as users will find that its user interface is shockingly easy to use when you take into account all the things it does. Considering that this device practically begs you to add your existing media, it’s important that the user interface be one with which iOS users are familiar. The same icon-based layout to which iPhone, iPod, and iPad users are accustomed is thankfully present on the Apple TV. While some other platforms may offer greater customization options, there’s something to be said about the marvel of simplicity and having all of your media laid out for you. You can even choose to hide the channels that don’t interest you—if only the other things in our lives were so simple.

The Apple TV ships with a slim infrared (IR) remote control that enables users to navigate its menu and interface easily. If you’re like me, however, and have more remote controls than you have fingers, then the Apple TV has something for you as well. The free iOS Remote App allows you to control the Apple TV from your compatible iOS smart devices. This is a great feature for those of us who keep these devices within arm’s reach, but this is not the only way the Apple TV interacts with your mobile devices. Via integrated AirPlay connectivity, you can mirror the screen of your iPhone, iPod, or iPad to the Apple TV wirelessly for sharing on your big screen. Are you viewing a webpage on your iPhone that you would like that share with a larger audience? Simply touching the conveniently located AirPlay icon on your compatible iOS device makes it a reality.

iTunes and iCloud Integration

When it comes to music purchasing and management, few can match the power and clout of iTunes. After personally being introduced to iTunes many years ago, one of the things I did was rip my entire CD library to my computer, allowing iTunes to intuitively sort my music for me. This forever changed the way I enjoy my music. I no longer had to search through my expansive disc-based library and worry about scratches or tracking down CDs that I lent to family members or friends, something I still have to do many years later. Not only did iTunes handle my current music responsibly, with little effort from me, but I was able to purchase new songs and albums, and combine the two seamlessly.

iTunes isn’t a one-trick pony, however: while music is at its core, you can just as easily purchase TV shows and movies through its Internet-connected interface. Did you miss an episode of Scandal last night, or do you want to catch an Iron Man movie? No problem—you can simply purchase it on iTunes with a few clicks. Upon purchasing, you even have the option of renting or buying the media. Buying movies through iTunes gives them a permanent place in your digital library and provides an alternative to disc-based movies and TV shows that you can access whenever you like, even from remote locations. iTunes is baked into the Apple TV, allowing it to act as your personal music, TV-show, and movie hub. Furthermore, it allows media to come to life on your TV’s larger screen, or if you also have an external speaker system connected, you can enjoy your content through enhanced stereo or surround sound playback.

Cloud-based storage has become a dominant means for keeping your valuable digital belongings. Apple’s iCloud provides Internet storage for your multimedia library, and it even offers automatic backup options, ensuring that your content is never lost. Just like iTunes, you can sign in to your iCloud directly from the Apple TV and access your stored media, including photos taken on your iPhone or iPad. Music, personal video, and movie files can quickly eat up precious hard-drive space; Apple’s iCloud allows you to preserve your local storage and easily access your media through your Apple TV.

Built-in Streaming Apps

If your current multimedia library isn’t enough to keep you busy, Apple TV features a notable array of built-in apps from some of the biggest names in entertainment covering music, TV shows, movies, kid-friendly content, news, sports, and more. Major streaming players like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go are present for accessing your premium subscription services. Additionally, the built-in HBO Now app allows its users to subscribe directly to HBO and enjoy streaming content without having an HBO subscription through a cable or satellite provider. This is a great feature for cord cutters and shavers who don’t receive cable or satellite programming. Free streaming entertainment channels such as YouTube, TED, and VEVO are also available.

An Awesome Experienced, Delivered

The best way to have to an awesome Apple TV experience is to let it do exactly what it was designed to do. And luckily for its users, it does so with aplomb. While Apple TV offers something for everybody, it is best suited for iOS users who want to unify their multimedia experience. We live in a world of abundant options, and while I think this is generally a good thing, too many options can be confusing and can ultimately become a distraction. Technology also has the responsibility of providing simplicity while not denying us the things that make it most beneficial—meaning no short cuts. It’s obvious that Apple aimed to strike this balance with its Apple TV. There is an inherent comfort in using devices that provide a familiar feel to the tools we already use in our daily routines. Apple TV provides such a convenience to its users. If you want to know how Apple TV works with your devices, or if you need help building a personalized Apple TV experience of your own, here at B&H we can walk you through getting your awesome multimedia experience up and running.

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This devise does not read local storage other than iTunes from another computer. I have digitzed all of my DVDs to drives (12TB worth). iTunes only acceses media stored withing the app so impractical for most computers. I love my Apple TV for streaming HULU, Netflix, etc but needed another device for my stored movies. Did not have the $$$ for a dedicated media server so WD Live reads my drives just fine.

All these companies -- and webites -- should re-read "tThe Boy Who Cried Wolf." 
Unless you Advertisers (cap A intendet) start providing the content ou promikse in hour headlines, we're all going to simply stop clicking on your misleading links.

I'm a big Apple fan. I have Macbooks, iPads, iPods, iPhones and AppleTV's.  While I agree that Apple do make great products, there is a disconnect with the "Apple" portion of the experience and the other guys applications.  For instinance I can download a beautiful HD quality movie from iTunes in less than 2 minutes to watch on the big screen through AppleTV, but I can't stream a 3 minute video from YouTube without it buffereing several times during that time.  I also subscribe to NHL online where I can watch hockey through the AppleTV or through my laptop. I have never been able to watch a hockey game on the ATV due to the constant buffering and poor picture quality while I am able to watch games on my laptop with no issues and great quality on the same internet connection and network. Great device that works flawlessly with its own kind. Very frustrating with the third party applications that comes preloaded with.

I also use my Apple TV to present slide shows of my photographs (JPEGs) on my big screen TV, complete with music on my surround sound system from my iTunes music library.

Sorry to say, my experience with Apple TV is different than the accolades described in the article, so much so that I've disconnected mine and thrown the thing out.  My chief issues with it are that the Home Sharing link for me was very shaky, going 'off' all by itself and forcing me to shut down iTunes and to reboot the Apple TV device, load them back up, and hope for the best.  Why the link would turn itself off like that when all is otherwise well is a mystery to me.  Two, the sound quality of streaming music is terrible: compressed-sounding and just not up to good-quality reproduction, though it is OK enough for video sound.  I've gone back to physical CDs played on a dedicated player, 'old-fashioned' maybe, but quaity is quality.  Three, several of the apps I need, like one for Google Play, are not offered by Apple TV.  I have other issues, but these are the major ones.  Maybe for $69 it is a 'magic box' for some, but after fooling around with this streaming thing, I've found that the most stable way to hook up iTunes to my TV is through a physical HDMI cable from my MacBook Pro to my TV. I simply keep a mouse near my easy chair and use it like a remote control, and it works just fine.

I've owned AppleTV boxes for years and never encountered such an issue, but early this year did experience recurring dropouts with my local area network and Internet connection for a period. That turned out to be an IP6 Apple networking problem that Apple recently fixed. It sounds to me like you had a network problem. For most, AppleTV is a great (and reliable) device.

i appreciated this article.  It was a good concise explanation of Apple TV which amplified what I understood about it from just using it. I especially enjoyed learning about the iOS app to control it. Yes, it's frustratingly designed and clunky, but worth having if only to use the device keyboard for searches!!  Thank you.

Can I see NASCAR life?

Hi Aleks -

Here is a list of what is currently being offered by APPLE:

The biggest names in entertainment. Now playing on Apple TV

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Where can I find detailed (step by step)instructions to do all the different things the apple TV can do? I own this device and have managed to use the mirror function on my I-Pad but don't know how to do much else.  There must be a listing of how to use the many apps featured. I would be interested in how to use the free I-Cloud features for instance.

Apple has the features detailed on their site: http://www.apple.com/appletv/what-is/ They also have most of the features, and how to use them outlined here: https://www.apple.com/support/appletv/

Where is Amazon Prime.

exactly! Where is it? If you go to prime and use the airplay button it often don'nt work.

We have streamed whole seasons from my iPhone to the AppleTV. It all depends on the quality of your wireless network(that video is going through the air three times to get from your internet connection to the phone, back to the wifi access point, and then to the AppleTV, so sucks up wireless bandwidth quickly).

You may get better Amazon Prime results if the AppleTV is wired to the network, or air playing from a computer which is hard wired in.

Amazon does not have a Prime / Streaming video app on the Apple TV.

I purchased the Apple TV from an Apple Store and the Apple TV is wireless N and prior only. I did not see the AC version. Did I buy old tech?

The most current Apple TV (3rd Gen) Supports 802.11a/b/g/n.  

I fail to see the value add of this article. It merely describes my Apple TV. From the title I was expecting some additional Tips & Tricks, or insight. Instead all I got was a description of what is all pretty well know.

Agreed

Same here, this article added nothing to my life in fact i just wasted about 10 min of my life reading this!

also important to note for beginners: it's not only iOS devices that link up seamlessly to the Apple TV, it's also able to connect to your Apple computer (iMac desktop, MacBook laptop, etc.) and show whatever's on your computer screen on your connected TV screen! That's actually the main reason I purchased the Apple TV myself. And by the way, it seems there is going to be a new updated version of the Apple TV announcement in September 2015 with the new device becoming available shortly thereafter so if you're about to get one, keep this in mind.

Thsnk you B &H for clearly and simply communicating what  Apple  TV is, how it works, what different kinds of media it can deliever to my Smart TV.  You should teach Apple how to communicate so potential consumers of their products and services are not intimidated enough to aboid their products. Problem with Apple is that they are too  focused on promoting their own products and services at the expense of teaching consumers what all content can be viewed. 

Agreed!

Agreed!

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