Old Apple TV Vs. New Apple TV – Which Is Better?

Apple announced the new Apple TV at the media event yesterday. The device is extremely small compared to the older model and at $99, also costs less than half of the older price. But is the new Apple TV actually better than the old one? We will see.

Full HD Streaming – The Old Apple TV made it possible for users to watch full HD 1080p movies and videos. Apple has reduced the video rendering capability on the new device to 720p that is likely to annoy quite a lot of long time users.

Storage & Power Consumption – The new Apple TV has done away with local storage and makes the whole process work over the cloud – Steve Jobs has made it sound like the future is here. Well, quite not. the Apple TV will now require you to keep your computer or Wi-Fi turned on the whole time you watch your movie on TV. That’s needless extra power. Quite a retrograde step. What’s the point if you do not have space to hold even a couple of movies?

The above point also holds true when you want to listen to music with Wi-Fi turned off.

USB Support – Cloud streaming may be one good way to watch movie, but is definitely not the only good way. The new Apple TV does not have support for USB storage. Of course, this needs some hacking to be done, but it was at least possible.

Rental Pricing – There were rumors about a TV subscription service that will pull $1 from your wallet every month for complete access to a TV series. That sounds reasonable. What is completely unreasonable is the $0.99 per TV show and $4.99 for a movie. That means, for the rental price of two movies on Apple TV, you can actually enjoy unlimited movies from Hulu Plus.

Are you particularly excited by Apple’s latest hobby? Why?

25 thoughts on “Old Apple TV Vs. New Apple TV – Which Is Better?”

  1. OK, I have had the old apple TV for a while and I have come to love what it can do and accept its limitations. I am not seeing anything really better here on the new one. The biggest thing that I wanted to see was access to hulu and to watch multiple formats. It is annoying to have to convert everything to put into iTunes. And even then sometimes iTunes may recognize the video and apple tv won’t and I have to convert it again. Then to add metadata to every file is a long process. It is tedious and long but once done the apple tv is great. Seems like this could still be much better than this “new” version. I am waiting to see how boxee or the dozen other devices come along before I upgrade.

  2. There are a few fallacies in your article. First, the original AppleTV never allowed for the playback of 1080p content. The maximum resolution supported by the software was 720p. There was a lot of confusion over the fact that a screen resolution menu gave you the option of selecting 1080p. That was for upscaling of the interface, not for 1080p video support.

    Second, there is still a USB port (right below the HDMI port which you would see if you took the time to look at the product images), so I’d imagine that the same folks who enabled USB mass storage support on the old AppleTV will probably do the same thing on the new one. You admit that the previous USB mass storage support was a hack, so you might as well point out that it could be added by devs in the new iteration as well.

    Finally, the whole rental thing is a poor argument. So, you dislike the rental prices and you compare them to Hulu+. That’s fine. I’m pretty sure that Hulu isn’t getting day and date matching of DVD releases, but you could argue that isn’t important. Fine. However, acting like the new AppleTV doesn’t offer a similar service through it’s NetFlix integration is a lie of omission. For less then Hulu+ you get a broader selection of movies that are closer (but not quite) same day releases as DVD.

    Talk about a poor comparison. You don’t cover a single new feature. You don’t mention NetFlix or AirPlay. You don’t mention the decrease in size (roughly a quarter of the previous dimensions).

    I think you should probably consider editing your article for clarity’s sake, as the current form is deceptive.

  3. The broad point is that you will still need to do all the hacks and mods in order to get Apple TV work to your liking. If getting a quarter-sized device for half the price is the only thing that makes this new device exciting, there is nothing much to talk about..

  4. I’d argue that the biggest benefit of the new aTV is the combination of the two best digital content delivery services (iTunes and Netflix) being on the same box. I also think that AirPlay is a pretty cool new feature. I’m always listening to music, and it would be great to walk into my house when I get out of the car and be able to simply tap the screen once to have it move from my iPod to my home theatre system. That’s cool, if you ask me.

    It’s fine to be wrong about features being taken away. That’s oversight and maybe a lack of real knowledge about the previous version. It’s another thing to act like size is the only positive change. Putting both together just seems to be an attempt at rewriting the facts.

  5. Chris:

    You are an idiot. Apple TV supports full HD (1080p). I have mine set up to do so. They just don’t have full HD movies. However, you can just put your own HD movies on i (not from iTunes.

    As for the new apple tv… it’s awesome and it sucks.. They should’ve kept the old one which is far superior, and made this new wimpy version like an Apple TV nano or something. It has good use for a tv that isn’t the main tv. Also, i wanted apps, a better interface and a better remote. They really screwed this up.

  6. @idiot hunter, it definitely can’t play 1080p content. Just because you can select display 1080p in your menu doesn’t change that. That feature is only there for television compatibility. Maybe you should look into this stuff before you go calling people idiot…. you IDIOT.

  7. so….if the new aTV only outputs 720p, will it at least take an incoming 1080p stream from iTunes and downconvert it to 720p? Or will it not even “recognize” a 1080p stream?

    I don’t mind viewing in 720p, at least what i’m going to use it for (TV episodes I’ve downloaded “elsewhere”, which usually happen to come in 1080p)

  8. you can only see a difference with 1080P when your tv is 50″ or bigger. And 60″ for a real difference. I think too much has been mad about 1080P. 720 is more than great for now. Apple TV has bigger problems to fix first…

    i have the previous model and I think the storage and the ability to purchase or rent and watch films without streaming trumps having netflix. i can get netflix on my PS3 and also available on new lcds and plasma tvs, xbox360, wii, etc.

    i think apple could have improved apple tv easily either by 1) combining time capsule and apple tv store or 2) licensing the apple tv store to built in internet app on the new fangled flatscreen tvs similar to what netflix and amazon video on demand are doing.

    i know apple is a hardware company first so licensing the apple tv store is not likely to happen. so instead put 500 gb hd and 30pin connector on next apple tv so it can be truly synced to your imac/macbook…

  9. @Idiot Hunter

    Wow, thanks for enlightening me on a device I’ve owned since it’s launch. I guess those 1080p blu-ray rips that I encoded using h.264 can play back on my first generation appleTV despite it’s never having worked in the past. Clearly your superior intelligence and ability to cleverly berate me by calling me an idiot have won you this argument.

    Anyway, now that I’ve got the sarcasm out of my sytem, you’re wrong. 1080p playback is not and has never been supported. It’s called upscaling. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the links I will now provide you with:


    Now, for this next you you may want to note that there is a correction at the bottom that points out they made the same mistake you made.

    So, as you can see, you’re wrong. The feature you assumed allowed you playback 1080p is not allowing you to play it back, only upscale. There is a big difference.

    @R U Serious?
    Thank you.

    @kenny powers
    As far as we know, no. I’m not saying that with any real authority, but it seems like they are limiting playback to files of no higher resolution then 720p. These are the file formats listed as compatible on the product page:

    H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

    MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

    Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format

  10. I have read about the new Apple TV and I have heard the arguments on both sides. I own the original Apple TV and I have a PS3 which streams Netflix so the only thing the new Apple TV can offer me that I don’t already have is being able to switch content via AirPlay (unless I have missed something). My question: Are future software updates going to apply to my old Apple TV or will I have to buy the new one for those? I am hoping that Apple will supply some cool updates in the future (possibly Hulu integration and Ping). I haven’t heard if they will be supported with the old hardware.

  11. Name calling is unnecessary. There are two kinds of people, it seems. Those who don’t mind pay and stream and those who want their favs ready and accessible (and maybe occasional pay and stream). I just purchased ATV1 (for the 160GB drive) for C$50 more than the the ATV2 will cost. I can’t see the practicality for my needs to have to have my computer dong the syncing and using up band space all the time.

    What I really want in a review (and from knowledgeable commenters) are facts on the differences between the two ATVs, incase there is reason enough to own both versions (hope not with possible updates to ATV1’s specs).

    So, cheers to the author of the article and to those who have added insight to the differences between the two ATVs.

  12. @ccarroll

    At this point, we’ve been told that the original AppleTV will not receive an update to the new software. I suspect that is because it’s not running the same underlying OS.

    The original AppleTV runs a modified version of OS X. If you strip away the UI layer, you can actually install some OS X software, although it doesn’t run particularly well, as the processor is much older then what you’d find in a regular Mac. The new AppleTV probably runs iOS with a new UI layer. Part of the reason I suspect that to be the case is the use of the A4 processor. Currently, OS X doesn’t support anything but PowerPC and Intel Processors (and even snow leopard doesn’t support PowerPC). Seeing as iOS does support the A4 architecture, it’s most likely that the new AppleTV is running iOS.

    You can also tell based on some of the new UI enhancements. The wiggling icons when moving videos is just one example.

    In order for Apple to allow the old AppleTV to upgrade, they would have to do parallel development of OS X and iOS versions. They could, I suppose do that, but eventually they would have to drop support for the old box as the seams would inevitably start to show. Especially if they were to ever introduce apps.

  13. Hope then that the cloud systems of purchase take hold.
    I would be fine purchasing the permanent right to play something from storage somewhere to my device.
    PS: I have some other good APPS from aneesoft want to recommend. Maybe someone will like it.

  14. I have ATV1 and netflix via Wii. I don’t see the benefit of upgrading to ATV2. I would only upgrade if it were a small charge (maybe trade in ATV1 + $25.00 for ATV2).

  15. “the Apple TV will now require you to keep your computer or Wi-Fi turned on the whole time you watch your movie on TV”…

    That seems like a lame complaint. You don’t have to have your computer on to stream movies or TV, just photos or music from your computer. So that only leaves Wi-fi… who turns off their Wi-fi to save power?

  16. ATV160 £130 here in the UK. Just bought one. I’m new to ATV but not using a Mac as a media centre, we use a Mini in the family room, which will now sync/stream to the Apple in the lounge. Been meaning to get an ATV for this purpose for a while now but the high price put me off, I looked at the new one but it doesn’t appeal as much. Thanks to it’s launch though the old one is more than affordable now.

    That’s another plus for the new one in my book 😉

  17. @Chris
    Thanks for your posts which are very informative and clarify issues for me. I bought a new old one discounted down to the price for the new one as I liked the storage option and have already hacked it to run Boxee and XBMC and can run any format video pretty much that I want without converting. I can also SFTP these to the ATV HDD – great , I love it.
    A word of advice – your posts are tempered by your need to to be smug, snide and sarcastic and show you need to win a victory over anyone who disagrees with you. It’s not nice and does a disservice to the great info you have to share.

    Kind regards

  18. Why are people complaining about having to have wifi on? Why would you ever need to turn wifi off? Give me a valid reason for that. There is no need for local storage because of the wifi. The old storage is really useless unless you have inadequate storage on your computer.

  19. That just about sums up Apple – Great products hobbled to such an extent that they become useless. They’ve also omitted the RCA video and audio output. Apple just try so hard to make people look for alternatives.

  20. I’m really disappointed that it doesn’t do fullHD 1080p and I think it is really short sighted. I have been waiting for ATV2 assuming that it would do 1080p as the old one only did upscaling. I don’t really care about netflix and so won’t be buying this and instead will buy the WD player (can’t remember the model).

  21. I’m looking at the new ATV. My Panasonic Viera TV has a optical/digital out that I send to my Panasonic home theatre system. If I use the HDMI cable from the ATV to the TV, does that automatically send the audio, too, or will I still need to use the optical out on the ATV. In other words, would it be redundant? I don’t think I have an optical IN on the TV. Thanks.

  22. Joefromperry – I am not 100% certain on how your TV handles HDMI inputs, but I currently have every HDMI source I have plugged into my Sony TV and run a single optical out from my TV to my receiver as it only has 1 HDMI port (old one). The TV converts the HDMI audio to optical and passes it through just fine, I still get DTS and Dolbly Digital signals. I do not use the optical out ports on any of my devices other than my TV.

    I now have both versions of the ATV, I have my old 40gb version connected to my main TV and the new one in my bedroom. I don’t notice much of a difference, I prefer the old one’s ability to store purchased TV shows but I have never purchased a movie on iTunes yet. I don’t like Netflix, so that feature isn’t really a seller for me either. As for the 720p only support, I personally don’t really care, both of my TVs upscale to 1080p anyways so 720p content looks the same from both versions of the Apple TV. Even with my 50″ TV I have a hard time discerning the difference in quality between a Blu-Ray and a 720p ATV movie. My most recent comparison is the Blu-Ray copy of Life Cycles that I compared to the ATV version. They both look stellar from a normal seating distance.

  23. On my OLD Apple TV, i like to stream music from my MAC using my remote and 52″ Panny Plasma, OK -you say easy enough, fine. BUT the big deal is then to turn on my other equipment in the living room, kitchen, den, and then use AIRTUNES on the APPLE TV and select those devices all plugged in with Airport Express units.

    Now with the new Apple TV, I see the AIRPLAY selection, but whike streaming music, I can longer add my other devices to playback.

    AIRTUNES rules over AIRPLAY When it comes to music streaming, or am I missing the plot?

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