Apple TV is a handy set-top box for Apple lovers or just for those people who want to replace their cable or augment their TV viewing options to stream movies and shows on demand. When Apple TV first came out it was a little glitchy, a little unimpressive, and very, very pricey. Then Apple TV 2 happened — the second generation of the product — and the new model was more impressive. It corrected the mistakes of the old version, streamlined the features, and gave consumers what they wanted.
While Apple TVs were a little hard to find when they first came out, now is the perfect time to pick up a second-generation model. The software kinks have been ironed out, availability is great, and you now know exactly what to expect. If you need some extra encouragement, think about the savings you could earn by turning off your cable — or note that set-top boxes have become an increasingly popular way to catch up on shows and movies that you have missed.
So What’s New About Apple TV 2?
How does the Apple TV 2 differ from the first generation (besides being black instead of white)? It turns out there are quite a few important differences, so don’t get your models crossed. Here are the most important changes to remember.
Storage: The original Apple TV had storage options, so you could use it as a hard drive, storing songs, video and images on them. It was handy, but people already had other devices to take care of this, so Apple nixed the feature in the later models. The Apple TV 2 does not come with any storage at all — one of the main reasons for its much lower price.
Ports: The Apple TV second-generation model has HDMI, Ethernet, and optical audio ports. Unlike the older version, it does not have component audio/video options, so it will not support the oldest cables without an adapter workaround.
Streaming Capabilities: The first Apple TV supported only a handful of video codecs. The second took a huge leap into the set-top box world and supported key apps like Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and other popular video-viewing options. This is one of the best reasons to choose a 2nd-gen over the first product.
High Definition: Definition is unchanged between the first and second models, staying the same at a comfortable (but not full HD) 720p. The best HDTVs have 1080p for now but will probably upconvert the streaming video if possible. You may not notice the difference in quality at all in ideal circumstances, but it is a difference worth noting.
Price: Here is the other big point. When the first model came out, it cost around $300, which was far too expensive for its small number of features. The second model increased the features and drastically reduced the price down to $99. Remember, Apple doesn’t really do discounts, so your best bet to find a lower price is to pick up a used model, which is a risky move when purchasing electronics.
Size: All the Apple TV models are small enough to find room for them no matter what your entertainment system looks like. The second-generation model, however, is notably smaller than the first without that hard drive taking up room. It is about half the size and around a third of the weight at 0.6 pounds.
iTunes: This is a minor point, but if you use iTunes and you have not updated the software for a very long time (around several years) you will need to update your iTunes to take advantage of the 2nd-generation features.
A Quick Word About 3rd-Gen Apple TV
The 3rd-generation of Apple TV came out in 2012. This model is a lot like the Apple TV 2 — the differences are subtle and mostly concern a new menu interface for easier navigation and higher definition playback at 1080p (true HD quality) instead of 720p. The retail prices are nearly the same, too. The 3rd generation may be a little tougher to find, but if you have a choice and are paying full price anyway, you may want to consider upgrading to the latest model.
Photo Credit: Rob Boudon