It Depends… In this article, you will learn why my wife is currently using an ATV2 and why I still have another HTPC in our living room.
I decided to try out Apple TV 2 to see how well it would perform as a home theater computer. I also bought a micro USB cable as it is needed to jailbreak the device to run XBMC media center on ATV2.
As I wanted to install XBMC in the device, I needed to jailbreak the ATV2 first. Jailbreaking process was easy with Seasonpass (an ATV jailbreaking software), and in no time, I was running XBMC Eden 11 Beta on Apple TV 2. Continue reading here on how to jailbreak your Apple TV.
Wonderful Piece of Technology
The Apple TV 2 costs only $99, and it has a very small footprint. It is completely silent, so you will not hear whether it is on or not. Another advantage is a fast boot time.
The key difference between jailbroken ATV and a regular home theater PC is Apple’s own movie store. Apple’s movie store allows you to rent movies and watch them immediately at 720p video quality from your TV.
The remote control is another big advantage compared to my other living room PC. It has good responsiveness, and the IR receiver is very sensitive, so you do not need to point directly to the device to control it.
Supports Live TV Streaming and NAS Storage
I have a Tvheadend TV server running on my other home theater PC, so I left it on and streamed the live TV to the Apple TV. Live TV streaming worked without any problems.
I’m running a network attached storage, so I simply configured XBMC to stream media from my Synology NAS.
Last but not least, I installed the most important XBMC add-ons, and an Aeon Nox skin as I run it on my other media PC, too.
No Support for 1080p HD Video
The XBMC user interface is a bit sluggish compared to my Intel ION 330, but overall it did not disturb too much. However, the first real downfall was when I tried to play ripped 1080p Blu-ray backup in MKV format. In fact, it was like a slide show as the playback was really slow.
Another downfall is the lack of volume control in the remote. You will need to have an additional remote control to adjust volume on TV or A/V receiver.
The device does not support gigabit Ethernet, but it is not a big issue as you will not be able to watch 1080p videos where the gigabit Ethernet would be needed when streaming videos from the NAS.
I noticed that the ATV2 is not a fully stable environment when jailbroken. The system has a very limited amount of internal RAM memory, so you might encounter random crashes when e.g. updating movie library or scrolling through long lists.
Pros and Cons
- Great remote control with a good IR receiver
- Very small footprint
- Silent & energy efficient
- Fast boot time
- HDMI & optical output
- Supports XBMC & Plex if jailbroken
- Integrated Apple store for easy movie renting
- Low price
- Does not support 1080p HD video (only 720p)
- Does not support gigabit Ethernet
- No volume control in remote as sound is optical output
- Slower XBMC UI response time compared to HTPC
- Needs to be jailbroken to install XBMC and Plex
At the end of the day, XBMC makes Apple TV an ideal solution as a secondary home theater PC, but for your living room you still need a real HTPC if you like to watch full HD videos.
If you want a convenient way to watch and rent movies from your TV and occasionally listen to music or watch photos while controlling with an excellent remote control, Apple TV 2 might be the right choice for you.
To get started, continue reading my guide on how to install XBMC on ATV2.