This could possibly be the longest I've let a new piece of Apple hardware sit around in a box. It showed up on Thursday and sat as I tried to figure out how I was going to integrate it into my home setup -- My existing receiver has only two component video inputs and it doesn't do HDMI, so figuring that out was a mess. My TV is on the wall a good 12 feet away from where the equipment sits. All my cables run out through the wall into the garage and back in behind the TV. It all looks very clean, but running a 16' HDMI cable (at $200.00) wasn't part of the equation. Long story short, I am setup now after a couple of hours of planning this morning. If the TV was right next to the Apple TV box this would have all been avoided.
That aside, I have to say that the experience of turning it on for the first time exceeded my expectations. I should have taken some pictures, but my wife already thinks I am too into this tuff (here are some pictures of setup from TUAW).It has the standard Apple feel to it ... plug it in, flip on the TV, and the glowing Apple logo greets you on screen. The only real setting out of the box are selecting a screen resolution and wireless network. The Apple TV actually saw about a half dozen wireless networks that my laptop doesn't see. I selected mine and it instantly worked. It gave me a little pass code to pair it with my iMac in the office and that was it. The Apple TV showed up under the heading "devices" on the iMac's iTunes much like it was an iPod. From there I was able to syncing options for TV Shows, Movies, Music, Photos, and Podcasts. Either all or selected playlists/albums can get synced. No need for me to tell you how it manages all that as Apple does a good job at their website.
What I will tell you about is how fast it all is -- very. I instantly filled up about half of the hard drive on the Apple TV with my selections ... honestly it was very fast moving items to the Apple TV itself. No problems and I have not purchased the new Airport. No need. As you can imagine the menus are very slick and seem well polished -- as a matter of fact the interface is better than FrontRow as far as I am concerned. One thing that is interesting is that one of the menu selections is "sources." Going in there lets you switch between the items living on the hard drive of the Apple TV or switch to other machines. Selecting the iMac sees the Apple TV connect to it very quickly and make all the media on it instantly available. Unlike the problems I've had streaming music from laptop to laptop I haven't seen any issues pulling the music and video from the air.
This morning we watched a bunch of movie trailers, listened to music (the screen saver is very cool), and watched slideshows backed by our own soundtrack. Everything worked perfectly. I'm not too keen on having yet another little Apple Remote, but it does let you pair it so it doesn't mess with my iPod sitting next to it. I'll post more, but I have to say the quality is great, music sounds great over the digital out and video quality of things purchased recently via iTunes Store look good. I was even able to watch movies I had originally prepared to watch on my iPod and they look solid as well. I'm not done putting it through the paces, but it does what Apple claims and does it all with the typical elegance we've come to expect from Apple. Good purchase and I have a feeling as I get more used to the way it all works I'll be taking advantage of it quite a bit.