I got my first Apple TV about a month ago, something I thought I would never buy when the Apple TV was first announced. The first Apple TV looked like a Mac Mini/Airport Express back when it first came out and it only allowed you to view iTunes content. It gave you a hard drive to store purchased content from iTunes and the ability to stream the rest. At the time, a lot of people weren’t impressed with the Apple TV. Even Apple wasn’t committed to it that much, calling it a “hobby”. The next release was a smaller, black puck design that did not have a hard drive, this generation only allowed for streaming over the internet from your iTunes library or buying/renting iTunes movies and TV shows directly from the device. The current version works and looks the same way but has a few more features. The 2 most important being that it now streams in 1080p and if you have a current Mac or iOS device, you can AirPlay your iOS or Mac screen to your TV.
The 2 main features of the current Apple TV is what made it desirable for me. I watch a lot of online content, like daily podcasts and online news shows, and I always wanted a quick way to watch those shows on my TV. Sure, I could have just brought a HDMI-to-lightning dongle and connect an HDMI cable to that from the TV, but Airplay is a lot more elegant and of course, wireless. I am a fan of anything wireless. I’m also starting to download more movies and TV shows on iTunes since I’m a bit of an HD junkie and it annoys me when my favorite movies or TV shows are only available on physical disc in the DVD format. It’s also cool to see my MacBook Pro’s screen on my 40” HDTV. I also love movies and it’s nice that I can easily see movie trailers and showtimes for the local theater. The interface is really nice and it makes me despise my FiOS DVR interface. One look at the remote and the interface and we can imagine what the future of TV might look like. There’s no need for a remote with 50 buttons when the OS is smart enough and is designed in a way that can be accessed with a remote that only has 4 buttons.
Of course, it isn’t all great. My biggest issue probably has nothing to do with my Apple TV but with the cheap Amazon HDMI cord I purchased. Every so often, they’ll be a burst of static, which lasts half of a second and doesn’t really bother me too much. What does bother me is those lovely HDCP errors. Due to DRM, Apple has to make sure you are watching HD content in a secure way, for some reason, they get this wrong and you get a HDCP error telling you that you are not watching the content on a display that is HDCP authorized. I fix this issue quickly by simply restarting my Apple TV and it takes care of that issue but it’s still annoying that it happens at all.
We are all waiting for the Apple television that may or may not be coming this year. If the Apple TV is any indication on what it is going to be like, well, it’s going to be a revolutionary television. The Apple TV interface is the best interface that was ever displayed on my TV. I can easily find what I want within a number of clicks, which is very different than trying to find a show on my FiOS DVR, which takes about 2 minutes and a lot of my own memory to remember what button on the remote takes me where. It’s very easy to imagine an a la carte cable package in the Apple TV interface, where every channel is simply a little square button on the home screen. I guess we’ll have to see what Apple does.
The Apple TV is not for everyone but if you are looking for an easy way to view your Mac or iOS screen on a TV and play your HD iTunes content, the Apple TV might be exactly what you need.
I should start out by saying that I have loved Amazon for years. They have provided me with free 2-day shipping and very cheap next day shipping. I have ordered every blu-ray disc that I own from Amazon, almost all of my PS3 games, my 40” HDTV, HDMI cables, BD player, MacBook Pro and when I’m enrolled in college, I purchase all of my supplies there. I also own a Kindle, which completely changed the act of reading for me.
The reason why Amazon works is because it’s so cheap and easy. Everything is cheaper on Amazon (at least in my experience) and when you start to use it as much as I do, the $80 a year payment for Amazon Prime pretty much pays for itself. Now, all Amazon Prime users get free instant streaming of movies and TV shows. Sure, the content library isn’t as big as, let’s say, Netflix, but still, it’s much cheaper than Netflix if you consider all that Amazon Prime offers.
So enough with this praising of Amazon and let’s get to the new products.
I wasn’t a big reader until I got a Kindle. Now, I read an average of 30 minutes each night. The e-ink screen is fantastic for reading books, since it simulates actual paper and ink, and the device is perfect for holding, about the size and weight of a paper back book. Last week, Amazon announced three new Kindles at really low prices.
The Kindle $79: is lighter than the previous generation, at less than 6 ounces (30% lighter) but has the same 6 inch e-ink display. It has built in WiFi but does not have 3G at all. It has all the same features as the old Kindle except it does not have a keyboard. This, in my opinion, isn’t great since you have to use the d-pad to type which is a bit annoying and not as fast or easy as using a keyboard but if it makes the device lighter and smaller (the new Kindle is 18% smaller than the previous generation) than I’m all for it.
All the new Kindle’s start at their Special Offers price. The Special Offers version of the Kindle’s display ads when the device is turned off. There is also a little bar with ads when you are on the home screen but as soon as you start reading a book, the ads go away. Some people might be annoyed with the fact that they are served ads on their Kindle but with the price difference (the Kindle without the Special Offers is $109) and the fact that it does not distract from your reading makes it a very good option.
The new Kindle is available now for purchase.
The new Kindle Touch is also a pretty sexy device and should be a big hit this holiday season. At only $99, $139 without special offers, or the Kindle Touch 3G for $149 or $189 without special offers, it’s a really cheap gift.
The Kindle Touch has the same e-ink display as the Kindle, just with multi-touch technology. I’m not sure how “multi-touch” this is since no one has been able to get a real hands on review of this product yet but either way, it does appear to be very similar to the Barnes and Noble Nook touch. It is 8% lighter and 11% smaller than the Kindle but features the same size screen. In my opinion, the Kindle Touch is the e-ink Kindle to buy this season, with or without 3G. The Kindle Touch is released on November 21st and you can start pre-ordering now.
Now for the product that a lot of people have been waiting for: The Kindle Fire.
The Kindle Fire is a 7 inch, LCD color screen tablet. Think of the original iPad but just in a smaller, lighter product. The Kindle Fire does not have 3G or cameras but honestly, it’s not needed. This is the tablet for content consumption, not creation. It has a dual-core processor for fast navigation. The cool thing about the Kindle Fire is the UI. Amazon took the bare bones of Android and totally customized it to their own UI. The Kindle Fire features a shelf-like interface where you can scroll through your content, similar to Apple’s Cover Flow.
Books, magazines, movies and TV shows play on this device. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free streaming movies on this device the same way you do on Amazon.com. Don’t be worried about hard drive space. Amazon uses their WhisperSync service to back up and serve you your content via the cloud. This also allows you to start watching a movie on the Kindle Fire and then start watching the same movie directly where you left off on your computer or TV.
The web browser on the Kindle Fire is really interesting. Amazon will predict what web page you will go to and load it in the background so when you finally do navigate to that page, it will already be ready. For example, if you go to nytimes.com, it may start pre-loading the Business section if you frequently go to that page after loading up nytimes.com. Basically, Amazon learns your browsing history and starts loading pages before you get there.
Wifi, movies, books, magazines, TV shows, free-streaming for Prime members, the Amazon App Store: The Kindle Fire is only $199 and will be released on November 15th. You can pre-order now. For that price, why bother getting any other tablet?
If you are interested in the older kindle, you can a “Kindle Keyboard” for $99 with Special Offers or $139 without. The Kindle Keyboard 3G is $139 with Special Offers and $189 without.
If you are a reader or a person who wants a tablet, there is very little reason as to why you should not buy one or all of these products (The entire Kindle family is less than the cheapest 3G iPad).