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With the proliferation of inexpensive LCD technology, large-screen televisions are fast replacing projectors in company boardrooms across the country. Not only are televisions competitively priced against projectors, but their image quality, reliability and total cost of ownership make a business case that is hard to refute.
Along with these large-screen televisions, set-top boxes that facilitate streaming media are also growing in popularity. One such device, Apple TV, is moving beyond the consumer’s living room and into the board room, taking the place of the familiar VGA cable. It allows for easy delivery of media content to televisions in 1080-pixel resolution — wirelessly.
Apple TV requires little time or technical expertise to set up and even less to operate. While the unit offers additional MicroUSB, Optical Audio and Ethernet ports, most users will likely plug the power cord in, attach an HDMI cable and turn on the TV.
Once the device is powered on, the user is asked to select a language, connect to a wireless network, and decide whether to send anonymous data to Apple. After responding to these prompts, a home menu appears that lets the user choose among the device's built-in media options.
Apple TV accepts both audio and video content from a number of sources: PCs can stream via iTunes software, while Mac, iPhone and iOS devices can send audio, video and pictures using AirPlay. For Mac OS X Mountain Lion users, there is also the option of desktop mirroring, which effectively duplicates everything on the local screen to the “connected” television. This can be used for anything from product demonstrations to PowerPoint presentations.
The affordable Apple TV lets users display media from any number of devices without the headaches and confusion involved in physically connecting to those devices. Less user confusion equals a better end-user experience — and fewer support calls to the help desk.
Apple TV also eliminates any hassles with the client’s display resolution. When Display Mirroring is enabled, the client's screen resolution is automatically set to the aspect ratio and optimum resolution of the television it is connecting to.
This means good-bye to the trial-and-error process of trying several resolutions in an effort to make the connected display look presentable — an awkward challenge that has plagued projector users for years. However, if users want to set the external display to match that of their notebook, this can be quickly configured using AirPlay settings.
The compact, portable unit is ideal for travel. As long as the venue has an HDMI-capable television, setup will be the same and the end-user experience will be predictable.
Naturally, full-screen scrolling isn't quite as smooth over Apple TV's wireless connection as it would be on a wired display. This is most noticeable when scrolling full-screened web pages or swiping between desktops on a Mac. Fortunately, this latency does not affect the actual performance of the connected machine, so while a little lag may show up on the television, the local notebook's display will be as smooth and responsive as it normally is.
When lag does occur, it is generally confined to larger animations within the desktop environment itself. Full-screen video, though, does not distort this way and runs at a strong frame rate.