Apple TV quality, not up to snuff?

Apple TV quality, not up to snuff?

Summary: There's been a lot of talk about all the Apple TV hacks of late (who wants to read RSS feeds on their TV anyway?) but another less sensational topic is starting to bubble up to the top - poor picture quality.

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TOPICS: Apple
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Apple TVThere's been a lot of talk about all the Apple TV hacks of late (who wants to read RSS feeds on their TV anyway?) but another less sensational topic is starting to bubble up to the top - poor picture quality.

I first covered this when PowerPage contributor and video professional Rob Parker noticed the Apple TV's poor quality video after seeing it on display at his local Apple store. He observed an "insane level of graining" and "compression artifacts" calling it "simply a wretched combination."

After watching some downloaded television programs on my Apple TV this weekend I'm not about to go that far, but agree that the quality level falls short of expectation. And I'm not the only one. 

The Associated Press' Peter Svensson takes Apple to task saying that the Apple TV "comes up very short" and that videos from the iTunes store "look horrible on an HDTV set" and panning movies and TV shows "same nominal resolution as DVDs." He takes it up a notch saying that "it's as if Apple had launched an iPod that sounded like a cassette player" and "Apple TV's shortcomings make the Xbox 360 a better choice." Ouch.

In his comparison between Apple TV and Xbox 360 he concedes that the Xbox interface is "garish and confusing" but goes on to say that Microsoft's Xbox Live marketplace "has some movies in HD, and these look absolutely stunning - better than most broadcast HD, and almost indistinguishable from HD DVD or Blu-ray discs."

I haven't purchased enough TV or movie content from the iTunes Store to make a proper judgment yet (although 'Pirates is on tap for tonight) but I'm curious about your impressions here. On an objective basis, how would you rate the Apple TV video quality? Is it up to your standards?

I think that Apple is going to have to add a whole bunch of High Definition content before Apple TV is going to get any traction in the market. 


Topic: Apple

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62 comments
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  • Is anyone truly surprised?

    Apple focuses on the whiteness of the case and aren't concerned with silly little things like features and quality. The funny thing is that the Mac zealots will
    a) keep buying it
    b) truly believe that anyone who writes anything negative about the quality of anything Apple is doing so because they hate Apple and not because Apple has released, yet again, a sub par product
    NonZealot
    • Sigh.

      You know. Intentionally causing paint to others is evil.
      People
      • Paint?

        What does "paint" have to do with this story?
        Dean812
    • Non sigh...there was a time when you tried to be semi factual.

      I don't think Apple focuses too much on "white" being that well it's rather easy to
      produce.

      I think the jury is out on the specific detials here.....and it's a first run product. Does
      anyone here know the rule of a first run product? Wait till the bugs arre found and
      eliminated and buy the secound run. RIght?

      Pagan jim
      Laff
      • Double Standard Equipment

        Laff (Pagan Jim) said:

        "I think the jury is out on the specific detials here.....and it's a first run product. Does anyone here know the rule of a first run product? Wait till the bugs arre found and eliminated and buy the secound run. RIght?"

        It's been widely (and loudly) said that everyone should avoid Windows Vista until SP1 is issued because of all the bugs, errors, and problems it supposedly has. The usual Mac Maven response is "Get a Mac, and be done with it." The usual Linux disciple response is "Install Linux, it's taking over the desktop this year." And the usual know-nothing-about-it ABMer response is "I'll never use Vista--I'm sticking with XP until I can either buy a Mac or figure out how to use Linux."

        But when *anyone* dares to criticize the video quality produced by the Apple TV unit (even though the less-than stellar playback resolution was previously reported immediately after its introduction), the response is "The jury's still out on that." "It's a first-run product." "Give it time to mature." "Remain calm! Everything is fine!"

        Double standard? You betcha!
        M.R. Kennedy
        • Now wait just a minute.........

          If I said Vista ais blank and did not recommend waiting till SP1 then your
          comments are fair. However I don't think I'm on record for anything but waiting
          till the second run of any product MS or Apple. In other words you can't take
          comments made by others and attribute them to me and claim a double standard.
          That is simply not fair.

          As for Apple TV seems to me to be a work in progress. Like the original iPod it
          was OK and usable but nothing compared to the iPods that followed. Simple as
          that.

          Pagan jim
          Laff
        • As for Vista...

          Windows itself is not new technology. The bugs should have been ironed over a
          decade ago.
          UbiquitousGeek
        • Oh my

          So touchy. Did someone hurt your feelings? Oh... poor baby.
          dolph0291
    • And the anti-Apple zealots...

      Again, don't get it. Exactly what are we comparing this to? Do any of you rejects
      know of any other movie/television show download service that's paired with a
      device that hooks up to your television? The last time I checked, this was the first
      product of it's kind. Of course there's going to be room for improvement. One thing
      that can be certain is that as this product matures, the bugs will be worked out. So, I
      fail to see how this thing is "sub par" when this whole new game.
      UbiquitousGeek
      • Ah, to be blisfully ignorant...

        [i]Again, don't get it. Exactly what are we comparing this to? Do any of you rejects know of any other movie/television show download service that's paired with a device that hooks up to your television? The last time I checked, this was the first
        product of it's kind.[/i]

        Oh boy...

        Have you even been following [b]at all[/b] what is going on around you? Did you even read the review that was cited in the ZDNet story?

        And, no other download service? What do you think this is?

        http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/marketplace/moviestv/?WT.svl=nav

        That is what the review compared Apple TV to, and Apple TV failed the quality test, beaten by the Xbox 360's movie download service. Something the Xbox 360 does as a secondary function, not even its main function, and the poor Apple TV could not keep up.

        As I said, ignorance must be bliss...
        Qbt
        • *shrug*

          I had never heard about the XBox offering movie downloads and I sure as hell haven't
          heard anyone comparing this thing to an XBox, until now. I'd still rather have a Wii.
          UbiquitousGeek
          • Still....

            It shows your ignorance in neither reading this article nor the original, and jumping
            to your knee jerk "Apple can do no wrong"
            Bottom line is if Apple wants to compete, they better be offering better quality media
            through the iTunes Store. I don't think anyone is saying the Apple TV can't handle
            better video, what is being said is the video being sold by the iTunes Store is sub-
            par.
            Let's hope Apple updates their media very soon, and offers movie purchasers a free
            upgrade...
            ebernet
        • Sure...

          If you want to watch TV with a thing that sounds like a Hoover beside it. Well, there's
          always closed captioning and ear plugs.
          dolph0291
    • Your wrong......

      We like OSX because works better than XP or Vista(wannabe osx). If AppleTV
      sucks, and it sounds like it does, most of us will not touch it. Mac "zealots" are all
      about upgrade.... that's why we use OSX. It's an upgrade to Windows.
      GSavage777
  • Let's see...

    "...concedes that the Xbox interface is "garish and confusing"".

    Yea, maybe that has something to with the fact that the Xbox 360 is a gaming console first. As such, its UI scores high marks. Just check the review sites. The fact that you need to browse into the UI to get to its secondary movie viewing functions is a given, duh.

    And speaking of the Xbox 360's secondary functionality... It is telling that this functionality beats the Apple TV in quality, seeing as the Apple TV's main functionality is watching TV and movies. Ouch. You have to be a pretty hardcore Apple fanboy to still think the Apple TV is a better choice. For a hundred dollars more you can get a device that beats Apple TV's functionality, [b]and[/b] plays some mean games too.

    You would have thought that with all the hype and hoopla the Apple TV got before it was released, the thing would at least be able to display a video image in acceptable quality.
    Qbt
    • So, sarcasm aside, he is right?

      [B]The fact that you need to browse into the UI to get to its secondary movie viewing functions is a given, duh.[/B]

      So, sarcasm aside, the Apple TV is easier to use?

      [B]For a hundred dollars more [/B]

      What's a few hundred $s right? ;) If you are looking for a game console and the TV appliance, Xbox would be the way to go. For a few hundred less, you buy the Apple.

      TripleII

      P.S. Is the issue that Apple's std TV looks worse than Xbox's std TV or the fact that Apple's is std tv while Xbox is HD or at least higher than std?
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • Hmm.

    That's true about LCD's. Presuming that the XBOX was being viewed on an LCD screen and looking 'stunning' with hi-def content, I wonder how the AppleTV would fare if someone streamed hi-def content from another PC?

    I'm glad to see this story. I've been using Front Row with my MacBook on my very large CRT based HDTV on occasion and am NOT happy with what I get from iTunes for content. I do see a lot of those mentioned artifacts that I can say is in fact the product of the encoding since I don't have scaling issues with my HDTV (one reason I went CRT). So I'll probably hold out until hi-def content is ready or I can get a day alone with an AppleTV to try out for myself.
    People
  • Is that

    Is that the currently running excuse from the Apple fanboy sites? Blame everything [b]but[/b] Apple for the bad quality.

    I mean, it is not like we can compare its quality to something like, say, the Xbox 360 (presumably by using the same display technology). Oh, wait...
    Qbt
    • Chill out...

      ...and get a girlfriend. Sheesh.
      frgough
  • Ah, yes. Macworld's review

    please, let the na?ve user know that the following disclaimer should be read before viewing any context from Macworld.

    [i]be it known that the opinions expressed here are for the benefit of Apple and Apple only. Any negative or derogatory statements or reviews of Apple or it's products will be consistently spun to show Apple or it's product s in a positive light. Any defects or shortcomings in Apple or it's products are written as to imply that it was done intentionally, "for the consumer's benefit", even if a superior product from a rival company currently exists on the market. Under no circumstance shall a rival's product, superior or otherwise be mentioned unless to specifically point out it's shortcomings. Any positive attributes of a rival company or its products appearing on Macworld are there solely by accident and will be promptly replaced with a fabricated review of said company or product.[/i]
    GuidingLight