Firstly, hooking up the cables is incredibly easy: 1 power cable, 1 HDMI, 1 ethernet. You don’t even have to use ethernet because the Apple TV has built-in wifi, but seeing as my router is six inches from the Apple TV and the wifi at LowFidelity Towers is a bit flaky (blame the Victorian architecture) I thought I’d settle for trusty CAT-5.
Once I’d plugged everything in, I immediately got a picture on my telly from the Apple TV, so no problems there. However, I couldn’t find my iTunes library under the “Computers” menu. When I went to it, the Apple TV told me I’d need to enter my Apple ID username and password so that it could use the Home Sharing feature of iTunes. I dutifully entered those details, and… nothing. It told me that I’d need to activate Home Sharing on my Mac too. I was fairly certain it already was on, so I went and checked. Sure enough, yes, it was already enabled. So what gives?
I decided that the age-old IT remedy of “turn it off and on again” might help, so I went to iTunes “Advanced” menu and turned off Home Sharing. Then I reactivated it, re-entering my password. Hey presto, there’s my iTunes library showing up on the Apple TV now. Don’t know why this step was necessary, but it worked.
Next thing was to play back some media. I’m routing the HDMI through my Sony STR-DA2400ES home cinema receiver, so the theory went that this should carry both video and 5.1 audio signals. Music worked just fine and dandy, the sound coming through in stereo just as I’d expected. I then played one of my Handbraked m4v files. Picture was lovely, and the sound was coming through – but only in Pro-Logic, not Dolby Digital 5.1.
I went into the Apple TV’s “Settings” menu, then into “Audio & Video” and found the option for “Dolby Digital Out”. There are three settings: Off, On and Auto. I opted for “On” and tried the movie again, and this time got beautiful 5.1 straight away.
Next step was to get the Apple Remote app working on my iPod Touch. The app was already installed, so I then went into the “Settings” menu again, then “General”, “Remotes” and finally to “Remote App” where it tells you to turn on Home Sharing in the app itself. Sure enough, on the Touch it was now asking for my Home Sharing username and password again. I typed them in, and immediately I had access to an “Apple TV” library from the main screen.
Finally, I wanted to set up my Logitech Harmony 555 universal remote to work with the Apple TV, rather than use the bundled Apple remote from the box. I went into the Logitech software on my Mac, and added a new device. I opted for “Media PC”, then “Apple” as the manufacturer and typed the name in as (rather obviously) “Apple TV”. I didn’t get a lot of feedback as to whether this was correct or not from the software itself so I had no clue if it would work, or if the device even existed in Logitech’s archives. I decided to take a chance that it was okay, and set up a new activity as “Watch Apple TV”, which turned the TV on, the AV receiver on and set it to the correct input and then turned the Apple TV on. I updated the remote (still no clue whether this was right or not at this point) and once it had done its thing, I pointed it at the system and hit the button. Sure enough, everything worked seamlessly. Everything on, on the right inputs and all the buttons on the Harmony working correctly. Not only that, but because the Harmony has buttons for previous and next chapter as well as fast-forward and rewind, I could also skip chapters in my movie files – something that I couldn’t work out how to do with the Apple Remote.
All in all, absolutely superb so far. I’m very impressed!