Apple TV: A Magical Little Box

Users can watch computer content on their TV, but improvements are still needed.

— -- Apple TV is a magical little box that allows you to wirelessly send your digital content — music, movies and photos — from your Mac or PC to your television set.

Apple TV ($299 for 40GB/ 50 hours of video or $399 for 160GB/ 200 hours of video) isn't the first device that allows you to stream video to your TV, but it is the only one that lets you play items bought from the popular iTunes store. That means if you missed an episode of "Lost" or "Grey's Anatomy," you no longer have to watch it on your computer monitor or hand-held device. Episodes of many television shows can be purchased online through iTunes for $1.99.

Apple TV also lets you watch YouTube videos right off the Web, play music and podcasts and view photos.

Apple TV's sleek white box echoes the designs of Mac's other popular devices, the iPod and iBook. Set-up requires little more than plugging in the power cord and connecting the box to your TV.

Once it is set up, content from your computer is transmitted wirelessly to the Apple TV's hard drive or directly to your television screen.

Apple's simple on-screen guide allows you to browse content on your computer or items on the device's hard drive. Streaming at high resolution is possible if your wireless network is using the latest "n" protocol available in Apple's Extreme Base Station.

There is still, however, plenty of room for improvement. The nifty remote control does not allow you to change the volume or control any of the TV's functions. Top rated movies, music and TV shows have 30-second previews available for free, but to purchase a show you still need to be at your computer. The high resolution video output is formatted for the newer widescreen format, so HDTV owners will need to purchase HDMI or other component cables to maximize quality, as the device comes with neither.