Yesterday I stopped by the Apple Store & checked out the new Apple TV. It’s a nice piece of hardware, and a few times I almost convinced myself to pull out the wallet. Why didn’t I? Simple: no (or very little) subtitles or closed captioning support. If you open iTunes & browse through the App Store, you’ll have a hard time finding a movie that has captions or subtitles. If you dig hard enough, there’s a movie power search option that allows you search through all movies that have closed captions. The result is about 3 pages worth, and IMO, none I’d want to rent or buy. I will say, though, that 3 pages worth is a definite improvement over the half page last time I checked a few months ago.
It was hooked up to a 42″ Pioneer 720p Plasma TV. The Apple Store salesman seemed kinda embarrassed saying that, since 1080p has been the premium for a few years now at least. I will say that the movie quality looked good from iTunes, and decent through Netflix. Though I can’t help but wonder if that setup is in “real world” settings or are they streaming everything somehow from within the store. The fact that the Apple TV doesn’t store anything locally means it’s going to completely dependent on the quality of your home’s network connection. I can see that potentially being problematic in suburbia on a Saturday night. I also noticed there doesn’t seem to be a way to interface the Apple TV with any type of keyboard or input device other than the Apple Remote, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to search. That could lead to a lot of clicking on that remote.
Nobody will argue against the fact that the Mac Mini blows the Apple TV out of the water in almost every category. It’s a fully functional Mac, running a fully functional OS. That means a lot more options, & these options are critical to me. I can watch Hulu via browser (full screen) & most of the shows have captions now. I can watch Netflix via browser and embed my own subtitles (something I can’t do with the Apple TV). I can stream Pandora to play through my TV’s speakers for my son to listen to, or even a sound system if I had oneThere are no limits to what I can do in the internet streaming category. I can get an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid and use the Mini as a second TV tuner/DVR. Front Row includes some of the functionality that the Apple TV interface provides, and is long overdue for an update which will possibly include AirPlay support. The built in DVD player is great for the huge DVD collection I’ve amassed over the years. My only gripe is no Blu-Ray support, and it doesn’t look like that bag of hurt is coming… ever. I’m personally not too concerned about that because when I bought my Panasonic 42″ 1080p plasma 2 years ago, it came with a blu-ray player free (I love after Christmas sales). By the way, the quality of a Blu Ray movie is undeniably better than any HD movie on the Apple TV. And last, but not least, the latest Mac Mini supports full 1080p.
<p style="text-align:left;"> The size difference between the two, in my opinion, is not even important. Chances are you’re going to have some device hooked up to your TV that’s bigger, so either will look pretty small in contrast. Obviously, the Mini has more input/output options than the Apple TV. The output that has me wanting it even more than before is HDMI, which is the home theater interface of choice as of this writing. The previous model Mini had MiniDisplayPort, which doesn’t carry audio. So, when I thought about getting one then, I was going to have to get some kind of converter like several that <a href="http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=104&cp_id=10428&cs_id=1042802&p_id=5969&seq=1&format=2" target="_blank">MonoPrice</a> offer. I hate converters, especially digital converters, as they always bring this unknown element into the troubleshooting equation, should they come up (and they usually do sooner or later). </p> <p style="text-align:left;"> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="http://www.apple.com/magictrackpad/"><img class="aligncenter" title="Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad" src="http://images.apple.com/magictrackpad/images/companion_20100727.jpg" alt="Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad" width="448" height="118" /></a> </p> <p style="text-align:left;"> It also occurred to me that I can get an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad to use with the Mini. I’d want to put them in some sort of tray where they’d be side-by-side and secured in place so I could use them from my couch. The tray would also have a place for the Apple Remote as well. Ah, a quick google search revealed I’m not the only one with this idea: </p> <p style="text-align:center;"> <a href="http://www.unplggd.com/unplggd/home-office/housing-your-items-neatly-in-a-wooden-tray-127303"><img class="aligncenter" title="Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic TrackPad Tray" src="http://www.unplggd.com/uimages/unplggd/091610_combine1.jpg" alt="Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic TrackPad Tray" width="432" height="202" /></a> </p> <p style="text-align:left;"> <p style="text-align:left;"> It’s a no-brainer, right? So what’s stopping me? Price. A full Mac Mini setup would run in the neighborhood of $800. The Apple TV, ignoring that I can’t even actually <strong><em>use</em></strong> it, is only $99. Time to start saving up. :) </p>