Spend a Couple Hours »Apple TV

A better Netflix instant experience

We loved our Roku – I think it’s a fantastic product – but when we decided to add a Blu-ray player to the mix (watching the Shining and 2001 back-to-back on Blu-ray one afternoon at Brittany’s dad’s house totally convinced me to switch formats) it just made sense to go with the Samsung model that integrates the Netflix instant player, the BD-P2500, and pass the Roku along to the brother-in-law.

This was a huge mistake. While the Blu-ray player itself is fine (actually, it’s sub-fine: not all discs will play and more often than not ‘enhanced viewing features’, like Ron Weasley – or Lafayette – appearing in a huge Picture-in-Picture window, are impossible to disable), the Netflix instant portion was a disaster. Despite being hard-wired (vs the wireless Roku), movies would take forever to start, the audio would often be out of sync and, most frequently, the picture would vanish and just the audio would play prompting at least one reset of the whole system; sometimes as many as half a dozen. About once a month ominous error messages appeared about registration issues and I’d have to hard-reset. It was terrible…

About two months ago we stopped by Mike and Shaun’s and witnessed their Apple TV in action. I was wowed, not only because the past few iterations have gotten really bad reviews, but by just how well the Netflix instant user interface works. It’s incredibly easy to browse your instant que, view  new releases and search the entire instant database: feature sorely missing from the Blu-ray player.

And it also plays radio stations, YouTube, HD trailers, all the pay-per-view content on the Apple store, and a couple of other things – but no Hulu or Amazon-on-demand.

If your household is Apple-integrated (Airport base station, multiple macs, iPhones, MobileMe, music in iTunes, etc), than it’s even better since you can use your phone as a controller (with a QWERTY keyboard); select a MobileMe gallery as your screensaver and – possibly best of all – play your iTunes music library through your home entertainment system, something I’ve wanted to do for years… the only downside is that you’ll feel obligated to add all that album art you’ve been neglecting to gather since the advent of Limewire.

It’s $99, which is about what the Roku costs, but if you’re using other Apple products in your house already, then it’s a pretty good bet; we’ve had it for about a month and haven’t experienced any problems.

See more: Spend a Couple Hours

Posted on November 27, 2010

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