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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 29, 2010 at 3:21 PM

AppleTV arrives, sort of

The new AppleTV device — Apple’s latest attempt to crack the set-top-box market — arrived in stores today, briefly, and a few reviews have surfaced.

The $99 AppleTV device was sold out by early afternoon in Seattle. University Village had “a few” in the morning and Bellevue Square had “a limited” number that were gone quickly, store representatives said.

AppleTV is basically a puck-sized wireless adapter that connects a TV set to computers and devices running Apple software for playing and renting movies and TV shows. It also streams photos and music from a computer.

Engadget pounced on one for a review that concluded AppleTV isn’t yet a solution for replacing cable TV service. It said content available on the device is still limited. An excerpt:

If you just want a dead simple movie rental box and you’re not that picky about content, the Apple TV is a no-brainer. If, like us, you’re looking for options good enough to make you can the cable, Apple’s new box still feels a lot like a hobby.

It may not be a no-brainer to pay $99 for an AppleTV if you already have more content available through video playback devices connected to your TV, such as a current-generation game console or networked Blu-ray player.

Gadget repair outfit iFixit secured one of the devices for a teardown and found that it contains an 8 gigabyte memory chip — presumably to cache shows while they’re streaming — plus 256 megs of RAM and an A4 processor like the one used in the iPad and fourth-generation iPod Touch.

The device also has a 10/100 Ethernet jack and 802.11n Wi-Fi capability, but its maximum resolution is 720p.

I’m still waiting to try an AppleTV but the thing will have a hard time drawing my attention away from the Xbox, on which I’ve been testing the new high-def ESPN3 streaming service coming in November.

It doesn’t include NFL games, but it has MLB, NFL, soccer (including English Premier League), college football and basketball. It worked pretty well, with only a few buffering instances when I started or paused a game.

When you call up the feature, it shows three big screens playing current and recent games, in a mock stadium populated by cheering Xbox avatars. When you make a selection, the game plays full screen, with controls to pause, rewind and fast-forward.

The system also lets you chat about the game with up to seven friends watching the game on their Xbox systems.

The ESPN feature will be free for Xbox Live “gold” subscribers who get Internet service through a cable company affiliated with ESPN.

Comments | More in | Topics: Apple

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