Laments of an Apple TV Owner, A Cautionary Tale

Laments of an Apple TV Owner, A Cautionary Tale

Mike Tyson
Feb 9, 2011

This past weekend we bit the bullet and picked up an Apple TV along with Netflix, hoping to cut out our digital cable bill and save $90 monthly. We've read some very good reviews (1 2) on the unit and thought it would be a great addition to our Apple family. Unfortunately, it simply did not provide the quality experience we've come to expect from Apple. And to prove we're not a bunch of Apple apologists as well as give full disclosure of an ill-performing device to our readers, we felt it necessary to highlight the flaws of the unit that has rendered it completely unwatchable.

First, the good: Apple TV's design is undoubtedly superior to every other competitor on the market. Not only is the physical object beautiful, seamlessly blending in with our modern décor and small enough to fit practically anywhere, the UI is incredibly well designed. The interface is uncluttered, intuitive, easy to navigate, and well adapted to the Netflix Instant Watch feature. We also love that we could connect the ATV with our iTunes account and stream additional movies/music to our TV. Furthermore, the Remote App is a smart and fun way to use your iPhone/iPad/iPod as a means of controlling your Apple TV (since the Remote App works off of the WiFi signal and not infrared technology, it does not need to be pointed at the box to work). All of these features/conveniences is what we've come to expect from Apple.

Unfortunately, all of these things are meaningless when the box itself simply does not function. We discovered rather quickly that the Netflix Instant Watch feature is totally and completely unwatchable. We've encountered error messages, prolonged buffering, outright stopping, off-sync audio, no audio, and freezing (all within a single TV show sometimes). This was completely unacceptable seeing as though our cable speed is ~9.5Mbps and the Apple TV was showing full signal strength. Never being the techie to give-up on a problem right away, we went searching for a solution, as Gregory wrote yesterday. We came across multiple places on the internet with people recounting the same issues with their Apple TV, proving in no way this was an isolated incident. We attempted the various fixes people have proposed including resetting the device, reentering our Netflix account information, changing the DNS information to Google, and more. Nothing came close to helping and we accepted the fact that the Apple TV is simply not going to cooperate with us and will need to be returned. But before we did, we wanted to purchase another device, not only to replace the Apple TV but to prove it had nothing to do with our Netflix account nor our wireless connection.

And so, as we write this, we're enjoying an interrupted viewing experience through our new LG BD570 Blu-Ray Disc Player. And although the interface is painfully ugly and convoluted, the quality is incomparable to that of the Apple TV. It is fast, responsive, (and most importantly) a seamless, high quality, viewing experience.

With heavy hearts, we will be returning our ATV 4 days after purchasing it, and would like to warn our readers of the same. Of course, there are plenty of people out there who haven't been experiencing this issue but in our humble opinion — coming from an enthusiast who loves all-things Apple — we're severely disappointed in the performance of this product and will be waiting until a later update or model definitively clears up these errors.

If you're like us and were looking for another device to replace your Apple TV, here are some other options. We will continue to use our LG Blu-Ray player and will most likely produce an in-depth review for readers looking for other alternatives to the Apple TV. Also, if you would like to ask us any particular questions about our experience with the ATV, feel free to do so in the comments and will be happy to answer.

(Images: Flickr member _zand licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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