I’m actually really happy with my AppleTV. I have one in each room. They work with a shared iTunes library to deliver movies, TV shows and occasionally music around my house. I like the addition of new channels even though some are still tied to old school cable service if you want to actually use them. The addition of a Home Movie section of the movies area has been great. The interface is better than the competition. Simple touches like the way you navigate episodes in the Netflix are winners. I’m still frustrated by some of the unfinished rough edges. I have three complaints at the top of my list.
The first complaint is the unfathomable absence of iTunes Extras from the experience. This was a feature of the first generation but is missing from all subsequent versions. I know you can play iTunes extras on your computer but that does not work if your monitor like mine does not support HDCP. Then you have to rely on AirPlay, tying up two “computers” with the menus on one screen and the video content on the other. This is not a good experience if the two devices are in different rooms. I’m sure bandwidth is an issue. The original AppleTV had a hard drive. The Extras content was downloaded in a package. I have pathetic AT&T DSL service so there’s nothing instant about the instant download of a movie. I typically know that I need to download a movie overnight the day before I want to watch it. The result is that my AppleTVs are primarily slave to a computer running iTunes. Even with the extras content already downloaded, the AppleTV cannot see them. The Extras package has a very simple design. It is for the most part an HTML page. It seems designed and destined to be a hosted experience. I keep expecting that to come in the next version.
My second complaint is about the movie browsing experience for the “Computer” or iTunes library. It is a linear search. The more movies you have in your library, the longer you have to scroll. The experience is ridiculous. At least the version 1 of the AppleTV grouped items by “Show” so you could reduce “Star Wars” to a single item in the list by making them all part of the same show. There is no search. There is now way to jump to the first letter of the title without using the iPhone Remote app. And there is no leveraging of the movie meta data beyond the genre organization. The data is there. Why can’t a user find all the Peter Jackson movies at once by just clicking on his name?
I’m looking forward to the next generation of AppleTV. These complaints should not require a hardware update. We’ll see this summer.