Apple of the eye

Updated: Dec 8 2013, 09:08am hrs
If you havent heard of Apple TV, its time you did. Apple TV was launched in India without much fanfare earlier this year and is barely marketed at all, compared to its iPhones, Macs or other products, which is surprising, considering just how nifty a device it really is. Its basically similar to your digital set-top box, except smaller and sleeker; it almost fits in the palm of your hand. If you have a widescreen TV, getting an Apple TV connection opens up your viewing options to a substantial degree. Plugging in Apple TV gives you access to films and music from the iTunes store, plus sports, YouTube, and news from The Wall Street Journal. You get access to thousands of HD films from iTunes, from classics to contemporary blockbusters, from Hollywood to Bollywood, and you can even play music and music videos from your iPhone, iPod or Mac on a large-screen TV. However, each time you want to download a movie or music video, you have to pay a fairly reasonable amountexactly what you pay for (in rupees) from your iPhone, and this is after you have bought the Apple TV set-top device, which currently costs R8,295.

Whats noteworthy is the truly outstanding content interface, using the remote that comes with it or any of your Apple devices that can be configured to work with Apple TV. You can even stream music, photos and more from your Mac or iOS device with AirPlay, thanks to the tie-up Apple has with Hulu Plus and Netflix. Since everything streams wirelessly to Apple TV using your Wi-Fi network, you can play your purchased movies or iTunes music directly from iCloud. If youre an iTunes Match subscriber, you can even access songs youve imported from CDs. And any music you buy from the iTunes Store via Apple TV is accessible across all your Apple devices. Apple claims to have the worlds largest library of concert films and music documentaries on demand and in HD. You can watch one song performed from every concert and over 30 channels of Qello TV for free. And a Qello All-Access subscription gives you as much music as you want. From YouTube, watch the latest viral videos everyones talking about and view your favourite TV shows. For instance, if you missed the first two seasons of Homeland or Mad Men, or even an episode of Koffee with Karan, its there for instant viewing. There are movie trailers, previews of new music releases, podcasts, as well as streaming radio from all over the world. Apple launched its iTunes store in India also this year, so HD movies, Hindi or English, can be viewed for less than R500 or cheaper if its not a recent release. One of the best features, if you have widescreen HDTV, is to see your latest pictures and videos from your Photo Stream album or those shared by family and friends.

There are a couple of other offerings in the market, like the Micromax Smart Stick, which converts a TV into a smart TV and allows you to surf the Net, stream videos on YouTube and connect with your friends on social networks. It costs R6,490. Theres also the Woxi Smartpod, which has a multi-user interface, so up to eight members of a household can get a personalised Internet experience. It also allows access to social media and acts as a Wi-Fi router for the home to connect to other devices. It retails for R9,499. Then theres Amkettes Evo TV, which allows you to access videos, games and websites. The remote works as a mouse and you can video-chat using VoIP services like Skype. Finally, theres the Akai Smartbox, which also allows you to browse the Web, or use any Android application, as it includes support for Google Play. Its priced at R6,990. For sheer range of content and user interface, however, Apple TV is miles ahead of the rest.