With video content — whether it’s movies, TV shows, or short clips like those at YouTube — increasingly moving the to web, many people are buying set-top boxes that connect their living room TVs to the web to stream their entertainment. That’s better, after all, than setting up your computer and its relatively small screen in the living room!
Within the iPod/iTunes ecosystem, the set-top box of choice is the Apple TV. With its tight integration with iTunes and it movie rental system, Apple’s other i-applications, and easy-to-set-up wireless configuration, it’s a solid choice. But, when you buy an Apple TV, what else do you need to buy to ensure you’ve getting the best experience?
Apple TV – The obvious, basic purchase here, of course. Even if you can fin the first-generation model, don't bother. The second-generation model is cheaper and has built-in Netflix streaming. And, since it runs the iOS like the iPhone and iPad, other apps may be added it in the future.
HDMI Cable – In the box you get when you buy an Apple TV, you’ll find the device, a remote control, and a power cable. Conspicuously absent is the HDMI cable that will connect the Apple TV to your HDTV and/or receiver. Don’t forget to buy one – nothing will work without it. Check out About.com’s Home Theater site for guidance on choosing the right HDMI cable.
iTunes Money – While streaming the content on your desktop iTunes to the Apple TV is fun, the device is even better when you use it to rent movies from the iTunes Store directly from your couch. To do this, you’ll need an iTunes Account and some money to spend in it.
A Netflix Account – The selection of content you can stream to your Apple TV is tremendously expanded when you've got a Netflix account with streaming enabled. Netflix accounts with streaming start at US$7.99/month.
Extended Warranty – When it comes to most technology and electronics purchases, I’m generally in favor of buying a (reasonably priced) extended warranty. I’ve had cause to use these warranties many times over the years, so they’ve been a good value for me. However, with the Apple TV, it’s hard to imagine too much failing very immediately, given that there’s essentially only one moving part (the hard drive) and the device itself is basically stationary. If you normally buy extended warranties, feel free to pick up AppleCare here (one will set you back US$49), but if you don’t, you may be OK without.
When buying an iPod and iPhone, the final price tag exceeds just the cost of the device because you need all kinds of accessories to get the most out of your purchase. Not so the Apple TV. Buy it and a video cable and you’re good to go. But, you’ll get more out of the experience if add on to your Apple TV.