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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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Photos

As noted earlier, you can share photos on your PC from iTunes via Home Sharing, and you can also send slide shows you've composed on an iOS device to Apple TV via AirPlay.

Apple TV can also tap into photos you've stored in the cloud, either using the old MobileMe gallery feature or iCloud's new Photo Stream, which iOS 5 devices and the latest version of iPhoto can automatically populate with the pictures you take from any of your devices.





Presenting photos from Photo Stream, AirPlay or Home Sharing are all easy, fun ways to show off your pictures on your HDTV (and they look a lot better than our photographs of the TV screen represent), but Apple also offers slideshow features similar to iPhoto's to help add some extra flair.

Most of the slideshow options from iPhoto are available, including a selection of "Classic" transitions (optionally using Ken Burns animations) or a new set of animated transitions including Snapshots, Shifting Tiles, Scrapbook, Reflections, Photo Wall, Photo Mobile, Origami and Flip-up.



iPhoto also has a Shatter transition effect and a map-based Places slideshow feature that Apple TV doesn't offer, and iPhoto also has some extra music options and other settings that Apple TV's slideshows do not. It's kind of odd that iPhoto doesn't offer any way to push its fancier slideshows to Apple TV via AirPlay, but new Macs will be able to do this via AirPlay Mirroring when OS X Mountain Lion appears later this year.

AirPlay


Screen Savers & Flickr photos

You can configure, under Settings, an option to start a Screen Saver slideshow that can play back while you're streaming music. You can select pictures from iCloud, a local Home Sharing library, Flickr, or one of the professional photo galleries Apple provides, including a new set of pictures from National Geographic.

Using the new Flickr app button, you can both follow the photos posted by other users, or perform searches to create slideshows of pictures using search terms (here's a random selection of Apple TV photos from Flickr users, for example).



It's noteworthy that Apple TV's lack of a third party apps store means you can't view photos from services Apple hasn't created a client to view, including Google's Picasa service, Pinterest, Photobucket, Shutterfly, DeviantART, Imgur or image search via Microsoft's Bing or Google. There's also no client for browsing photos or other content from Facebook, and no support for viewing Twitter pictures.

Vimeo & YouTube video sharing

Three additional apps provide alternative sources of videos: YouTube, Vimeo and Podcasts. Google's YouTube is geared primarily toward watching amateur videos and browsing them by popularity. Google has added support for viewing theatrical movies in YouTube, but the Apple TV client ignores these features.



Vimeo offers channels, feeds and categories, oriented more toward prosumer and professional video producers. Apple appears to be working to support Vimeo at the expense of YouTube, even offering Vimeo video sharing in OS X Mountain Lion without similar support for YouTube. This appears to be connected to Google's scaling back of its support for H.264 on YouTube and its threats to abandon iOS users entirely in its push to replace H.264 on the web with its own WebM video codec.



Podcasts

Apple has always supported the podcasting industry with Apple TV, and the latest version continues to offer the same access to a vast array of of episodic content. Oddly enough, there isn't an iTunes U app on Apple TV, although there's nothing from stopping you from watching iTunes U podcasts if you can find them. You can also stream them from your local iTunes libraries via Home Sharing for content you've already subscribed to or downloaded.





There doesn't seem to be any special showcasing of new 1080p podcast content. Given that Apple maintains the largest directory listing of Podcasts in iTunes, as well as managing the vast content library available through iTunes U, it's a bit of a mystery why the company isn't showing them off better in Apple TV.

On page 7 of 7: H.264 hardware capabilities, iTunes' 1080p vs Blu-ray disc, 3D, Apple TV advantages, where's the apps?