As mentioned earlier, the movie format support under Apple TV is quite limited. Usually at this point in a review, I start attempting to play movies from my library to see how well a media player does. In this case, however, my movies had been pre-screened for me by the sync process. Anything that was unsupported wasn't transferred. An info message under iTunes listed each movie that failed to transfer, and the reason it wasn't transferred. Note that just because a movie can be played from iTunes, doesn't mean it will transfer and play on the Apple TV.
Figure 8 shows the Movie selection menu.
Figure 8: Movie Selection
In this screen, each movie has an automatically generated thumbnail. Pausing on a movie while moving through the menu causes the thumbnail to shrink a little, with information regarding the movie being displayed underneath. The movies that did transfer played fine.
A benefit of caching the movies on the internal hard drive was that fast-forward and fast-reverse actually worked like you'd expect. Typically on these types of products, fast-forward and fast-reverse cause the move to jump rather than scroll, since the data can't be pulled over the network fast enough. Like the Music menu, the top two items pull from the online iTunes store.
Figure 9 shows the "Theatrical Trailer" menu where high quality movie previews can be viewed.
Figure 9: Theatrical Trailers
When viewing these trailers, the data is actually being pulled over the Internet, so movies take a little time to start up and can occasionally stall. There's also a top-level menu for "TV Shows" that acts pretty much like the "Movies" menu. The content for TV Shows comes from shows purchased from the iTunes store.
I purchased a one hour show (45 minutes without commercials) and it came in at around a gigabyte, so you wouldn't want to keep too many of these around, which raises another sore point. I'd like to keep large video files like these stowed away off my laptop, but unless you jump through some syncing hoops, you have to keep everything in the same library on the same computer as your iTunes application.
TV show quality looked pretty good. You could tell it was compressed, but it wasn't too bad. In general though, it's still a bit disappointing that the majority of my videos could not be played in the Apple TV. I suspect that Apple believes that the majority of video watched on the unit will come from purchases at the iTunes store.
When the Apple TV first came out, there was speculation that it would eventually support YouTube video, and with a recent firmware update, it now does. Figure 10 shows the YouTube selection screen.
Figure 10: YouTube
Like the other menus, the YouTube main menu has Cover Flow animation. In order to work on the Apple TV, YouTube had to convert their video library to H.264 format—a step-up from their usual quality. At this time, about 10,000 of their videos have been converted, but they're scheduled to have them all done by then end of the year.
Obviously all of the content under this menu gets streamed from the Internet, so upon selection, videos take a few seconds to start up. YouTube worked well on the Apple TV, but it wasn't quite the same experience without being able to see other viewers' comments, follow URLs in the description, quickly do a search, etc. Nevertheless, it's a fun feature and a great time-waster.
Note that unlike the YouTube feature on NETGEAR's EVA8000, you don't need a Mac running an application to feed YouTube videos to the Apple TV. Apple's version is completely standalone.