I just can’t stop watching this when it’s on, and I have no idea why! Rachel refuses because it’s too dark but I think it’s brilliant. It’s like Weeds, but without the crappy comedy soft-core risqué element to it (ie Good.)
Apple TV 2: You are disappoint. I retract my prior and short term commitments of love and adoration. Instead I condemn you as possibly one of my least successful tech adventures and shortest passing whims.
3 months ago I started having problems with my, until that moment perfect, Sumvision Cyclone MKV media player. It appeared that my lust for ever higher quality TV, combined with a sudden increase in home Internet speed, and a change in the warez scene’s attitudes to efficient encoding meant the beloved Sumvision no longer gave me 100% perfect performance every time. I’d heard good things about the latest Atom chipsets and also the new nVidia Ion boards. In particular a company called Dino PC was taunting me with small yet perky media PCs powered by the same.
I had been lured by the Media Centre scene in the past, and have been through many incarnations of HTPCs. This time though rather than make an impulse purchase I thought I’d trial XBMC and see how it went. I brought my spare desktop downstairs, installed XBMC and hooked it up to the TV. 3 months later and I’m still totally in love with XBMC.
Then last week a series of tweets from friends drew my attention to the Apple TV 2. Prior to then I was under the impression these simply extended your iTunes library and nothing else. I was incredibly excited when I found out you could install XBMC on these things. So much so, I went and bought one that day. It was half the price of what I had been considering (a Foxconn Netbox) and gorgeously designed to boot.
Installing XBMC was very simple, just run the quick jailbreak (now legalised, thank you for once justice system) and apt-get yourself a copy of the app (For the interested). Initial impressions were very good, it booted up quickly, the remote worked nicely (always a pain on the PC version) and it found SMB shares quickly. It also played a test movie I had in the office (only 480p) nice and smoothly. “Passed the initial tests”, I thought, so off home I went to install it in replace of the PC I still had there.
Be under no illusion, the Apple TV 2 is NOT powerful enough to run XBMC nicely, even with and empty library the menus jerk around. This is exaggerated more by having a 5TB collection of films and TV. It was crashing and rebooting between every 5 episodes, would reboot while updating the library and spent a while buffering at the start of films.
It’s also annoying not having many buttons on the remote, and even more so that you can’t use a different remote with it. You can’t even plug in a keyboard/mouse because it’s USB port isn’t USB host, only device. It’s processor is so slow it took about 20 hours to process my media library, and then it could barely handle the index. Compounding matters is it’s hardware limited 720p output. I thought I’d be able to cope going from 1080p to 720p, and to an extent I can, but on top of everything else it just annoys. I’ve gone back to my PC in frustration now and am back on the hunt for a Foxconn. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s very good at doing what it says on the tin, for example I tried video from my iPhone to it and that worked fine, as does iPod. Also I previewed a few films via iTunes and they worked wonderfully. As with all Apple devices though the same rule applies - if you want it to do something different just buy something else, there’s a reason Apple doesn’t let you do it.