Shipments of the new 1080p Apple TV began today, one day before the new iPad is set to ship to the first wave of preorders.
The diminutive Apple TV retail box is just a bit bigger than the very small unit itself, and it's being shipped within a larger cardboard box.
Inside the box is an AC power cable (the unit contains its own power supply), an Apple Remote, introductory booklet, and the small black device itself, wrapped in cellophane with a strip of tape around its middle to protect the shiny black finish. Apple doesn't include an HDMI cable for connecting to an HDTV, nor an Ethernet cable (although Apple TV works well wirelessly).
Below, the new Apple TV and its shipping contents are displayed next to the original iOS Apple TV introduced in late 2010.
The original 720p and new 1080p versions of Apple TV are identical in appearance and in ports supplied, with the only external difference being a new model number written in black on black text on the underside.
The new version is more capable in the resolution department (and can also support higher quality AirPlay streams from iTunes 10. and iOS devices), but its core features are available to existing 720p Apple TV users via a free system update, including its larger artwork for featured movies and TV shows and a revised, more iOS-like icon interface that presents Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube and sports and information services more like apps rather than buried menus.
Apple has added 1080p content to iTunes (which the new Apple TV selects by default), and Netflix is making available 1080p content to users of the new device.
Some existing users might want to upgrade to the latest Apple TV to take the fullest advantage of large 1080p HDTV sets, but the free software upgrade Apple provided for existing Apple TV users makes the new model more attractive to new buyers than a "must have" update for existing users.