Apple TV Movie Rentals Review

Feb 13 2008, 12:00am CST | by , in Reviews | Home Entertainment

Apple TV Movie Rentals Review
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Specifications & Setup
My Apple TV is one of the first generation versions that has a 40GB internal HDD. I still like the small form factor of the Apple TV and it is an attractive device that closely resembles a thinner Mac Mini. I connected the Apple TV to my Viewsonic 1080p LCD TV for this review.

It was nice that after all these months in a box not being used the Apple TV still had the settings for my network saved so all I needed to do was connect it to my TV via the component inputs and digital optical out for the sound.

My Apple TV hadn’t been used in months so the upgrade process took about 15 minutes, including the new upgrade for movie rentals that was released yesterday. Unlike the recent update for the iPod touch, the update for the Apple TV is free.

In Use
After several reboots the Apple Tv was updated and ready to use. The movie rental option is prominently displayed so you don’t have to wonder where to find the rentals. The library is surprisingly large, but lacks the most recent released movies that hit store shelves yesterday. This is really too bad because if Apple could offer new release when they launched the service would be so much more useful.

The newest movie I could find on the service was “The Brave One” with Jodie Foster, which released on February 5. There is an impressive collection of older titles that are often hard to find in the movie store and a wealth of children’s titles.

Some movies are available in both HD and SD versions. The HD version of a film costs $4.99 to rent and the SD version is $3.99. To test the service out I (meaning my kids) chose to rent the HD version of Ratatouille. I’ve watched streaming movies and TV programs form the web before and often found that the playback was laggy and not at all like watching it on cable or a DVD.

I was very impressed with the quality of the rental service on the Apple TV. Once I choose the movie I wanted to watch the download began immediately. I expected a long wait while the film downloaded and buffered. To my surprise the movie was ready to watch in exactly 49 seconds according to my trusty stopwatch. With the movie ready to play that quickly I was expecting stutters or outright stops during the playback for more of the film to buffer, but that never happened. The only way you could tell the movie wasn’t playing back via by Blu-ray player was that I didn’t have to trek to the movie store to get the film.

The playback never stuttered or skipped and was simply flawless. The image was what you expect from HD films with great color and quality. The sound was fantastic as well with crisp highs and deep bass. The scenes where the old lady shoots at the rats with her shotgun shook the walls in my home from the subwoofer of the Denon S301 home theater system I was using for sound.

The other bad thing about renting movies on the Apple TV is that you can only watch them for 24 hours before they expire. When I rent films from the movie store I get them for five days. This isn’t such a big deal for me since I usually only watch a movie once. However, my kids typically watch the movies they pick out repeatedly over the five day rental period. You do get 30 days to start watching the films you rent though, which is nice.

If Apple can get first run movies on the service the same day or at least very soon after the movies hit my local movie store, they will have a new customer. As it is the service is interesting, but when I want to watch a movie I am typically after the newest releases for the week which really limits the usefulness for me right now of the rental service.




  • Movie ready to start quickly
  • Large catalog of older films
  • HD titles available