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Thursday, March 29, 2012, 09:30 am PT (12:30 pm ET)

In-depth review: Apple's third generation 1080p Apple TV and Software Update 5




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Movies

Select the Movies button and you'll see larger art representing your Purchased movies or Rentals and other Top Movies available for purchase or rent.

Thanks to iTunes in the Cloud, Apple TV is now a lot more useful, as you can call up the content you've bought without having to figure out how to shuffle around gigabyte sized files from your desktop iTunes to the box. There's little storage on the box itself, so rather than working like an iPod classic, the new device streams content.

This also has an impact on how it can be used. To download and watch rented movies or authorize cloud purchases, you need a network connection. If you preferred the old model of having a box storing all your content you could watch from your cabin in the mountains, you'll have to find an original first generation Apple TV that worked more like an iPod, incorporating a hard disk for gigabytes of storage.



Click the Movies button and you get six movie subcategories. Purchased shows everything you've ever bought, categorized into genres. Note that some studios' movie content is not yet possible to download from iTunes, although the contractual movie rights situation is being worked out.



Top Movies presents popular titles available, including new releases and other highlighted content.



Genius presents recommendations based on movies you've already bought or watched.



Genres lists iTunes content by subject or audience. Click on a genre and Apple TV presents a variety of subcategories within that type of movie.





Movie reviews and search

Select a specific title, and you get a synopsis, trailer preview, the option to buy or rent (not all movies are available as both purchases and rentals), related content, and a "more" option that presents reviews from Rotten Tomato critics and customers.







The Search option lets you type what you're looking for, either with the directional buttons of the included remote, or from your iOS device using Apple's free Remote app (which requires connecting your Apple TV to the Home Sharing Apple ID you use in iTunes).





Trailers

A final Trailers option lets you watch previews of movies in iTunes, as well as theatrical movies that aren't yet available to buy or watch. The separate, top-level Trailers icon provides identical access to this page as well.



Netflix

Netflix features, introduced with the second generation Apple TV just over a year ago, enable digital subscribers to access content in their Instant Queue using an interface in common with the rest of Apple TV.

The only thing that's changed with the latest Apple TV is the ability to stream higher quality 1080p content from Netflix. Select content also includes Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio (as does most iTunes content). You can now also sign up for Netflix using your Apple ID.



Apple TV provides one of the best interfaces for Netflix content, which is now priced at $8 per month for the digital downloads only plan. This provides a cheap alternative to iTunes for watching unlimited movies and TV Shows, although the overall selection is somewhat limited. Apple lacks any support for alternative video sources, including Amazon or Microsoft's video on demand and Google's YouTube theatrical movies.

On page 3 of 7: TV Shows & Networks