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We tested renting a 1080p HD movie using a standard Sky broadband connection at home and found it took about 5 minutes before it was ready to play, which is acceptable.
Apple TV tells you how many minutes are left before your movie can play, but its way of calculating time seemed highly flawed with estimates jumping from 1 minute left, to 2 hours 40 minutes, then back to two minutes!
It seemed better to ignore the messages and look at the download bar at the bottom of the screen instead. Once playing there was no buffering and the connection didn't ever drop. As you'd expect for 1080p, the picture quality was superb.
Netflix was equally smooth in playback, and most programmes started playing pretty much instantly. Obviously the performance will be effected by the quality of your Internet connection, but if there are problems we don't think it will be Apple TV's fault.
AirPlay over our Wi-Fi network to the Apple TV was rock solid - you simply tap the AirPlay icon on your iOS device, or click the button in iTunes, as a video is playing, select Apple TV and it starts playing on your TV a few seconds later.
The big disappointment for most people here will be how restrictive Apple's AirPlay is - it only officially works with content that you have inside your iTunes library on a Mac or PC, or content you have on one of your iOS devices. However that's not the end of the story - there are work arounds.
For example, if you want to play unsupported video formats like WMV, XVID or MKV on an iPad then you can thanks to third party apps, like AVPlayerHD. Attempting to send these videos from the app to Apple TV using your iPad however results in only the audio being played.
However, if you turn on AirPlay Mirroring on your iPad (which mirrors its entire screen on your Apple TV) then you can watch these videos on your Apple TV. It adds an extra step to the process, but it works well although you are limited to a pillar box sized screen with mirroring
For full 16:9 resolution you need the help of an app called Air Video which installs a server program on your Mac or PC that encodes the video, while an iOS app beams it to your Apple TV.
When it comes to watching paid-for content everything just works flawlessly, as you'd expect it to. Purchasing content is handled effortlessly with your Apple ID, which the Apple TV remembers, so you simply need to enter your password whenever you want to buy something and it's yours.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of Apple TV though is just how easy it is to use. It's still better than all the other media streamers we've tried.
You're in Apple's world here and in Apple world everything just works. Even the potentially troublesome issues of software updates are like water off a duck's back to Apple TV - you just get a message saying there's a software update available and would you like to install it now.
Navigating the menu system is child's play - and the fact that the remote has so few buttons means that children can use it too, without accidentally resetting the time zone or something equally dire. The number of clicks required to get to your content is also refreshingly small, and the way the whole menu system responds quickly and intuitively to your clicks means you genuinely enjoy using it, rather than it feeling like the thing that stands between you and your content, which is so often the case in media streaming interfaces. Apple has put a lot of thought into the Apple TV interface, and it shows.