Apple has revealed its new, streaming-only Apple TV. And it's just 1/4 the size of the old one. The tiny successor will pack built-in power supply, HDMI, ethernet, and 802.11n wireless, priced down to $99. (UPDATED: Now with hands on)
The new Apple TV will stream rental movies directly from iTunes, or beam videos from your own computer, bypassing local storage—and the possibility of buying anything. Some memory buffer will be available, however, to pause and navigate streamed movies while viewing. Content-wise, Apple is now offering $0.99 rentals from ABC and Fox, as well as (and more excitingly) full Netflix streaming support. First-run movies will be available in HD (720p only, alas) for $4.99 the same day they're released on DVD. Visually, there doesn't appear to be much of a change here—the UI is mostly the same, though the integration of Rotten Tomatoes scores is a neat inclusion, and might help avoid ruining your evening with a sour rental.
Beyond eschewing buying and storing media—though this is a significant shift—not very much. Despite the beefy new A4 processor, the UI looks and works virtually the same, and it'll support the same formats as before (meaning still no DivX or Xvid playback). The new diminutive size and matte black design will be more eye-catching than the predecessor, but really—you're probably sticking this thing under your TV, so size shouldn't matter so much.
A $99 Netflix box with iTunes rentals is definitely a sweet setup (Roku, be advised), and unlike its predecessor, might actually attract attention. But other than more content and less cost, which by all means could have been accomplished with the old hardware, this isn't anything close to revolutionary. Think of it as the well-designed movie box the original Apple TV should (and could) have been.
We like what we see. The streaming was speedy and extremely clear during our demo, and the overall speed of the interface seemed really solid. We also learned that the box is indeed 720p (just as we'd reported earlier). Apple told us that they felt that using 720p allowed them to strike a balance between quality and bandwidth.
Wired is pleased:
TV and movie rentals are really snappy and fast. After choosing to rent a movie or show, the Apple TV takes a few seconds to prepare a buffer and begins streaming right away. Also particularly cool was internet integration. I enjoyed searching through Flickr streams. Select a photo and hit the Play button and it immediately plays a slideshow with music and fancy transitions. I'm too lazy to check my friends' Flickr streams the normal way on Flickr.com, aren't you? Plus, the photos look great on a big screen through the Apple TV's HDMI connection.
The new Apple TV is incredibly small compared to its predecessor. We confirmed with an Apple spokesperson that the maximum HD resolution of the Apple TV is 720p, consistent with recent rumors. Additionally, there will be no software update to bring the new features to older Apple TVs. Older Apple TVs will continue to work as they have been working up to this point, and they will continue to be able to purchase movies and TV shows even though the new Apple TV is rental-only.
Boing Boing has this to say:
The UI is improved, and so is the ability to bounce back and forth from YouTube to your own local video collection, to NetFlix and iTunes...Cloud rental is being pitched as freedom from having to store, but I think there'll be a lot of grumbling because people like owning things."