My AppleTV arrived a while ago and I thought it might be time to share initial reactions.

My first reaction is that it was a mighty breath of fresh air in our TV room.  We dropped cable tv a few weeks ago and moved an old G4 mac into our TV room to support iTunes content.  That combination was fine, but the big and load G4 was more of an annoyance.  The mess of cables, keyboard, mouse, UPS, etc was just something get in the way.  Getting all of that out of the TV room was a big improvement.  Instead of a huge noisy box with a mess of cables, we now have a tiny box with just a power cord and HDMI cable.

The AppleTV is relatively easy to use.  It has a simple interface that even my 3 year old can use.  It also small enough to move around to other rooms, should you want to watch content on another TV and don’t want to buy another box.  So far, the watching experience using iTunes, Netflix, and YouTube has been quite good.

One thing I haven’t yet tried (and need to try) is set the Parental Controls.  We failed to use Parental Controls on Comcast’s system and that cost us $5 in an unwatched movie (thanks to our 3 year old).  Fortunately, right now it’s impossible to rent (or buy) anything since I haven’t set up the accounts.

The overall interface, however, is clearly geared to the iTunes store to rent content.  I don’t know how much of that I plan to do in the future (it’s reasonable to rent in some cases), so it’s slightly annoying that so much of the interface is based on content I’m not going to access very often.  Hence, parental controls is a must if I enter any iTunes account information.

The only real problem with the device I’ve noticed so far is hangs trying to access remote iTunes libraries.  Since the AppleTV has no hard drive, it’s critical to have good networking to the machines that are hosting the source iTunes libraries.  It appears, at times, it has a lot of trouble connecting to libraries and only pulling the plug on the device helped.  However, it’s unclear whether this is a problem with the device, with iTunes, or with my home network (non-apple 802.11n set up).  It could also be that the computers go to sleep and the connects do not update properly.  Either way, it can be annoying.

An indirect problem with this set up is the inability to set ratings on music and video content in iTunes.  I would love to be able to tag rating to all my content which would allow me to specifically allow or disallow what my kids can access in my iTunes library.  Without that ability, I find I have to have, at a minimum, 2 iTunes libraries: a master library, and a kids library.  The kids library contains just what I think is okay for them to watch/listen.  Right now, that means I have libraries set up on two different computers (although, come to think of it, it might be possible for me to do it on the same computer, which would be better since only one of the libraries would be available at a time).

The most surprising thing about the AppleTV is how much more I play music in the TV room.  We did have a Generation 1 iPod connected to the stereo, but we never used it.  We forgot what was on it, didn’t want to bother managing it, etc.  With the AppleTV, we have full access to all the music - which actually serves as a really good way to get the TV off and the kids playing.