Video Quality

A Word of Warning!!

I really debated even including pictures of the video content here because the pictures are not really representative of what the output looks like.  In some cases, the pictures made the video look worse and in some cases better…so before passing any judgment based on the screenshots please read the text included with them to get our opinions on what we saw.

As most other Apple TV reviews and critics have mentioned, the fact that the Apple TV supports only ED or HD TV seems ironic because the iTunes store does NOT support anything higher than 640×480 video and unfortunately that fact bites them here. 

The first thing I viewed in the video department was the “preview” for the movie The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler as presented in the “Top Movies” section of the Apple TV and iTunes.  This is a live streamed product and the buffering time was almost zero and as such we can tell the quality levels were pretty low.

Apple TV Review - Bringing Digital Media to your TV - Systems 42

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The video quality here was less than that of standard definition digital television in my opinion and it really did have the look of low resolution video stretched to a large resolution; just like you would see on a PC.  Not even all the magic in the NVIDIA 7300 GPU and its PureVideo technology can resolve all the issues here as the graininess and lack of detail in colors (look at the shoulder of the man facing Adam) really presented an image you would not be happy with.  But since this was a “preview” of a move and was streamed in nearly real-time I’d have to say the quality tradeoffs are acceptable and warranted in this case. 

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The next video I took a look at was a trailer for the moving 300 (which is pretty good, just fyi).  Unlike the preview for The Longest Yard, the 300 trailer needed to almost completely download before it would start playing indicating that the trailer was a much larger file and thus of higher quality.  This was indeed the case and the video quality for the 300 trailer was much better than that of the previous video of Adam Sandler.  It was however, still very obviously a standard definition video and wasn’t near the quality that I can see on the 720p HD trailers available on the Xbox 360 marketplace. 

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The next video I watched from the video podcast DL.TV with Patrick Norton and Peter Herron.  This show in an interesting spin of the past and can compared to “The Screensavers” show that used to be on TechTV.  You can see pretty clearly even in these photos that the quality is low since these video files are usually only about 50MB in size.  None the less, having the option to watch the video podcasts on my main TV was fun and at least opens up the possibilities of HD content in the future.

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Finally, just for fun, I included a shot of the very popular “Ask a Ninja” website — their content is available on podcast too but is of the same quality as their online YouTube videos; and thus the quality is pretty low when blown up to a full screen TV.  But the ability to show funny clips like this to your friends and family on the TV is a great improvement over having to get out a laptop and making them watch it on a small screen and YouTube sized video.  Hopefully sometime in the future we’ll get even more access to streaming content on the Apple TV or other media extenders. 

When the kids were watching the copy of AirBuddies that I bought, I was paying attention to the quality of the video; I would compare it to a slightly worse than standard-def experience.  There were some notable artifacts that arise when you enlarge a video of a smaller resolution to be output at 1280×720, but the kids didn’t notice or seem to care about it.  

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