|AppleTV “Take 2”||An “Old” Windows PC|
|YouTube||Limited Access||All of it|
|Storage||Fixed, NO EXPANSION||Expand to your budget|
|Networking||Internal 802.11n, Ethernet port||USB or PCI wireless (802.11a/b/g/n), Ethernet port|
|Video Out||Component or HDMI||RGB (pc monitor), or TV-out card (which I don’t have)|
|Video Formats||H.264, AAC, 320x240 up to 1280 x 720 (24fps)||H.264, AVI (DivX/Xvid), MPG, MOV up to 1280 x 720|
|Audio Out||HDMI, RCA||Stereo Phono, USB or PCI card|
|Data Ports||USB 2.0 (useless)||USB 2.0, Serial, Parallel|
|Photo Cache||Requires Synch First||Pull from Anywhere|
|Photo Libraries||Flickr||Flickr, Picasa, etc.|
|Photo Formats||Almost Anything|
|Audio Formats||AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF||Almost Anything|
|Parental Control||Some, Password Based||NTFS, Group Policy, User Account properties, scripts, third-party apps, Vista Parental Control|
|Remote Control||Single Device, One button||Wireless Mouse & Keyboard|
|Games||None||Any Windows or Flash-based game|
|Web Surfing||YouTube, Flickr (sort of)||IE, Firefox, Opera, Chrome|
|Beyond||Photo Screensaver||Remote Control (RDP) to other computers, FTP, Telnet|
|Premium Content||iTunes||iTunes, NetFlix, Amazon|
|Backup Capability||None||Network, USB, Secondary Drive, CD/DVD RW, etc.|
|Gadgets||None||Desktop Gadgets (weather, stocks, news, status, etc.)|
|Power Consumption||48 watts||180 watts|
|Heat Dissipation||egg-frying or coffee heater||500 btu/hour|
A few minutes playing with Google Earth on a big screen is enough to convince anyone there’s really no comparison. I haven’t had time to analyze relative system uptime. I do know this: AppleTV normally runs hot enough to cook eggs on top of. It also can lock-up at times and require unplugging until it cools off.
There are trade-offs of course. The Apple TV has better support for HDMI output built-in. The menu interface is more purpose-driven by design as well. But the PC approach provides far greater flexibility in terms of capability to do more than just be a media viewing device. The Apple TV is much more compact than a typical PC as well. That makes it easier to "fit" into a living room environment. However, I placed my PC behind the TV, which is on a stand, rather than wall-mounted, so the PC is hidden from view entirely.
I’ve been asked if Windows Media Center is a better logical alternative, but I find that having the PC-like capabilities with a wireless mouse and keyboard to be more “open” and I can instantly switch from watching or listening to something - to “doing” something. After reading some Twitter comments about the forthcoming WMC in Windows 7, I may change my mind, who knows.
I'm not saying this is the ideal solution for everyone, but it works for me and my family loves it. I would rather have seen Apple crank out a device that combined Apple TV, Mac Mini, and Time Capsule into a single box, but that doesn't appear to be anything more than rumor. The HP Media Smart home server is really cool, as is the Via home server product line, but I think those are aimed at a different role.