The Computer Blog

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Our First Apple TV Rental

Ever since I bought her an Apple TV to use with our WinBook 32 inch HDTV, my wife has been dying to rent a movie from iTunes and try it out. I had some money sitting in my iTunes account from a gift card, so when Friday night rolled in and she wanted to watch a movie, I let her surf through Apple’s offerings to see if there was something she might like. She surprised me by wanting to rent “Transformers”. I mean, she’s the Walt Disney type. Anyway, using the pictorial selection buttons at the “Transformers” preview site, I selected the HD TV rental at $4.99. The Apple TV gave us a “Downloading Movie” message (i.e., something close to that…I don’t remember the exact words it used). Since this was an HD selection, I figured it would take double-digit minutes to download but after only about two minutes the movie reported it was ready to play. (We are using an Earthlink/Comcast cable set-up that often reports download speeds of 6000 kbps and 802.11N networking to connect it to the Apple TV unit.) After making the obligatory kitchen and bathroom stops, we sat down to watch the movie.

We couldn’t tell we weren’t watching a regular HD broadcast. Picture and sound quality was good (though sound is only being pitched through our TV’s internal speakers), and we experienced no picture stalls or pixilation. We paused the movie a couple of times for bathroom breaks and resumed it without any problems. When we finished the movie (and we watched it all the way through the ending credits), Apple TV told us we had 21 hours remaining on the rental. Unfortunately, I didn’t go back and try to play the rental again, though it did appear I could have.

When I checked my iTunes account the next day, I found a bill for $5.30. They obviously charged me state sales tax, which accounts for the other 31 cents. That’s not unreasonable, but the added cost is something to figure into your final bill. Whether that’s worth more to you than driving down to the local Hollywood Video, Blockbuster’s, or Mickey D’s, you’ll have to decide. It’s certainly not as cost-effective as something like Netflix. On the other hand, it cost me no more than renting “on demand” from Comcast, and iTunes has a lot larger selection, even if they’re far short of the one thousand titles Apple had promised by now. There is definitely a market for Apple TV and iTunes, even if it’s not the cheapest way to go there is.