1080P, AKA Apple TV’s Downfall

by Hadley Stern Apr 07, 2008

I love my Apple TV. It streams all my music in an easy to use way. My kids can watch their favorite Lego Star Wars video for the umpteenth time (YouTube is my youngest sons idea of television). I can stream photos of just mentioned children to my TV. Watching video podcast rocks. But there is one downfall to Apple TV when it comes to video.


Apple is at the moment selling a product that delivers an experience that is not the best it could be. What is the best? 1080P, or Blu-Ray in my case. Watching a movie in 1080P is an unmistakable step up. This is HD on steroids. This is a picture so smooth, clear, sultry and perfect that anything less is....well, less.

And this is, unfortunately, where the Apple TV comes into play. Watching "HD" content on the Apple TV does not compare to the true HD experience of Blu-Ray. Let's put it another way. A Blue Ray disk can hold up to 50 GBS (although, I think most movies are single-side, and use 25GB, anyone knowledgeable on this out there?). An Apple downloadable rental, or purchase comes in about a gig. Sure there is some compression in there (which is part of the problem). But take something that is 25 or 50 times bigger in file-size and chance are it is going to look a heck of a lot better.

We live with this compromise in digital music partly because, unless we are audiophile wonks, it's pretty hard to tell the difference between an iTunes Music store purchase and a compact disc. But this is not the case with movies. Even the most unsophisticated viewer will be able to tell the difference between Apple's version of HD and Blu-Ray. Apple's version isn't even as good at HD on television (at least in my case with FIOS HD). Apple TV may render HD by the letter of the law, but it certainly doesn't even come close to abiding by the technical definition.

Renting a movie on iTunes was, as is typical of most Apple user experiences, a pleasurable and straightforward task; handing over $4.99 has never been so easy. But compared to Netflix, who provide Blue Ray movies for the same price as DVDs, (unlike Apple which has a price difference of a dollar between regular resolution and their version of HD) iTunes rental is not compelling if you have a Blue Ray player. It is undeniably more convenient, but if you have spent all this money on a Blue Ray player and a 1080p set watching movies from an Apple TV is absurd.

So how can Apple address this? I am not sure of the technical issues streaming Blu-Ray-like quality over the internet but I'm sure it is difficult at best. But it will happen, it is just a matter of who does it first. Here Apple has an opportunity to be a leader in technology, much like it was with Ethernet, SCSI, FireWire, and not having floppies. This is a technical and logistical challenge and Apple is up to the task. Unfortunately right now Apple has released a product that is as expensive or more expensive for far less quality. Apple TV 2 was a huge step up. But the time for Apple TV 3 is sooner rather than later if Apple really wants any meaningful participation in the digital family room.

What do you think? Am I being too picky? Is Apple TV HD quality enough? Or am I spot on? Let me know below.


  • 1080p is spectacular. I love Apple TV… use it mainly for high resolution slide shows with my music. The iTunes HD movies are good… but I don’t buy them unless they are unique… rare purchase. Blu-ray is what I want. The 24 hour rule tends to ruin everything. I use DirecTV… but rarely use pay per view because of 24 hour rule, and because Blu-ray is better. I can only handle SD if I psych myself down and consider it a nostalgia experience. No DVD looks as good as 720p, despite the upconversion hype. There is only a slight improvement.

    A three hour delay to transfer the movie is not an issue for me. But… I don’t want to be charged until I start viewing… and I want to keep the movie for more than 24 hours once I do start.

    Comcast has sent out a mailing advising us of new volume limits… which do not sound like an issue for me.

    I guess what I would like most is for DirecTV to provide 1080p all around. It seems to me that there should be a fair price to keep a movie on DVR or whatever device… permanently… with perhaps some storage quantity limit we pay to the provider. Isn’t that what a DVR service is? Once you fill that thing up… you are paying quite a bit to keep it.

    I hope we just develop a sensible value. $6 for 24 hours is too much. Maybe $25 for a Blu ray disk is too cheap?

    Bob North had this to say on Oct 02, 2008 Posts: 1
  • Apple is one of the leading company in 21st century. The new Apple TV seems to be perfect combination of previous one’s. “iPhone”, “iOS”, or “iPad” are three main brands of Apple. But i still enjoy streaming my tv shows at online. It is good to watch tv shows free rather spending £8.99/ per month!!

    Watch Glee online

    curl had this to say on Nov 15, 2010 Posts: 2
  • You’re most certainly not being picky - if you want to watch something HD quality you should have expectations about the viewing experience. I’m surprised this isn’t addressed directly by Apple of the apple TV site.

    jimeffect had this to say on Sep 06, 2011 Posts: 2
  • I think the writer could be picky. I feel the Apple TV HD is good enough. I think just like a CCTV device, there would be online detecting services to track the visitors for the Apple company’s website.
    Sam - cctv

    samraine100 had this to say on Oct 27, 2011 Posts: 3
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