Crave has just spent an fun few hours playing with one of the first Apple TVs for the UK press.
Just in case you don't know, Apple TV is a wireless music and video streamer, designed to play content stored on your PC or Mac. It's not a new idea, but the way it's been implemented is pretty cool.
Unlike rival streamers, for example, there's a 40GB hard disk inside. This means that content on your computer can be copied to the Apple TV so that you can watch and listen to it even when the computer is off, and to reduce the reliance on Wi-Fi, which can be a bit flaky.
It uses the draft 802.11n wireless spec, which offers faster transfers and greater range than 802.11b or g standards -- although you'll notice most difference if you're streaming from one of the newer Macs.
You can only sync (copy) content from one computer, but you can stream stuff from up to five.
The box is pretty small, and has most of the connections you could reasonably ask for, such as HDMI, component video, optical digital out and analogue audio (although there's no Scart -- this was designed in America, don't forget).
The menus look as pretty as everything else Apple makes with plenty of fancy transitions, spinning things and general loveliness. It's reminiscent of Front Row, the Apple equivalent of Media Center on the PC. The header at the top tells you what source you are currently watching or listening to -- at the moment, we're looking at stuff stored on the Apple TV's hard disk.
Keep an eye out for a full review, but in the meantime, have a click through our photos to get an idea of what the product is like to use.
The music interface is very similar to the one on the iPod, letting you browse by artist name, track title and so on. You can also connect to the Internet and take a look at the best-selling songs and music videos.
Album art is displayed on the screen when you play your songs. The art flips from one side of the screen to the other periodically while you're playing to avoid screen burn, which is a thoughtful touch.
Here's the music video clips screen -- it's as pretty as the rest. The box can play any video file in the MPEG4 or H.264 format, but not DivX, which is a bit of a shame. Remember, though, that this is really designed to be used with video bought from Apple's world rather than the dodgy copies you can find on the Internet.
Although there are around 9,000 music videos available to buy from the iTunes store at the moment, you can't buy proper movies yet like you can in the States. We wouldn't worry too much about it, though -- this facility is promised for later this year, but the quality of the movies won't be amazing.
Americans can only buy clips sized at 640x480 pixels -- great for an iPod, but not so hot when it comes to displaying on a TV. We were shown a clip bought in the US from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Apple TV did a fine job of making the small video look decent, but the quality was a long way from high definition, or even DVD to be honest.
Syncing content with an Apple TV is as easy as it is with the iPod. Just put a tick next to the music, movies or photos you want to copy across and it happens seamlessly in the background.