Pros Connects your TV with all Apple products great.
Cons Needs more apps/appstore.
Pros Streams things seamlessly, simple interface, easier to work and lower power usage compared to an HTPC, and when you consider AirPlay, nearly as flexible.
Cons Limited in native services, and not as quickly updated for new services as I'd like.
Summary The Apple TV is a good little box o'streaming. It's built in native services is fairly small, especially when you consider the absence of Hulu Plus (which I use constantly). However, when you consider airplay on an iPad of iPhone, it is possible to view Hulu Plus content on the Apple TV using Hulu's app for iOS devices. Also, because the Hulu Plus app is now found on the Wii, a desktop client for Windows, Mac, and Linux, iPhone and iPad devices, and other streaming boxes like Roku, it looks likely that Hulu Plus will soon come to the Apple TV as well.
The device runs on less power then a Nintendo Wii which burns about 19 watts per hour (think a small compact florescent bulb) if the spec sheet I read was correct, and *FAR* less then any other device able to play as much media, PS3, Xbox 360, most Blu-Ray Players, HTPCs, and even a little less then a Mac Mini. This means compared to other devices, the Apple TV can save it's cost in power over the course of a year or two.
It is amazingly small since it has no hard drive, and make no mistake, there is no power brick hanging off there somewhere. It is dead quiet, you really cannot hear it at all, this compared to the computer it replaced which was a constant source of background noise (despite me replacing the OEM fans with better, quieter fans).
The picture quality is amazing, and beats the PC I was using at 720p and compares to my Sony Blu-Ray player at 1080p with the HD downloads. Be wary, to watch them, you need a pretty fast internet connection. However, lacking that connection, you can always download the movie or TV show to a computer with iTunes and stream it to the Apple TV.
The User Interface is dead simple and really great looking, although Netflix and some of the streaming services have fallen a bit behind.
In my experience, the wi-fi doesn't lag any significant amount provided your Wireless router meets the 802.11n standard, a G or B router won't lag videos, but it takes at least several seconds to start the video depending on how busy your network is. Over all, connecting it to Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable will provide you with a much more enjoyable and snappy experience.
So, in short:
Best results with a wired network but works okay with wireless.
Get an airplay device at the least, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, PC with iTunes, doesn't matter what it is.
It's best with Airplay Mirroring from an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S or better (soon to include Macs running Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion) iPad 1 and an iPhone 4 or older will *NOT* mirror. There might be some jail breaking trick that can do it however.
This device can replace traditional TV if you are willing to work with it a bit and get the rest of the necessary hardware (Airplay device, PC to store video files on, sufficiently fast internet connection), otherwise it is best in augmenting other Home Theatre devices (Blu-ray, Cable/Satellite, etc.)
Picture Quality Awesome
Quick movie loading, even with HD.
Cons To get the most out of this device....you HAVE to have another iOS device. (iPhone/iPad/iPodtouch)
Summary I happen to own both the Apple TV and the Roku Box. Both are awesome devices. However I would have to give the edge to the Apple TV, only because of AirPlay/Mirroring. I can view and interact with anything on my iPad. Gaming, apps, internet, etc. is awesome.
But if you don't own any iDevices, Roku wins.
"We love Apple TV"on by blue5ft3
Pros The OS and the content are updated frequently. It offers every service we desire without having to purchase a new device. The picture is gorgeous. We use it daily.
Cons None that we've experienced
Summary This is the perfect device for us with all of the content that we would ever want to use. The ease of use is phenomenal and the updates to the OS which add more features are a great part of what we love about it rather than having to purchase new models as time passes.
"Awesome, but..."on by tw1975
Pros Airplay, HD video rentals from iTunes, Mac access via WiFi/wired network, iCloud, flawless HD video playback from iTunes
Cons Currently just ten apps or "channels" to choose from.
No Amazon Video or Youtube movie rental option, No Pandora
Summary Disclaimer: I have a Mac as my primary computer, iPad 2, and iPhone 4. I also have an Acer netbook that I use regularly and two rooted Android phones, and until recently, had an HP laptop as well. I'm not a particular Apple/Windows/Android "fanboy"... I like it all. I'm a tech glutton. lol
I bought the Apple TV after donating the laptop, that I used to play DVDs and online movies rented from Amazon, Youtube, etc, via HDMI to my television. So aside from the Mac, I now had no other way to play a DVD, so after considering buying a blu ray player or media box like the Apple TV or Roku, I decided to give the Apple TV a go.
Well I must say that right off the bat I was somewhat disappointed to see very few options for video and audio entertainment, and nearly all of it being premium (that is, there was no Pandora, Slacker radio), which are standard on the Roku and certain Blu ray players. There is however an option to tune into internet radio stations. But there's no way to add more apps/channels...?
But for full length movies, it was basically Netflix or iTunes to get them, or stream from the Mac's hard drive. With Netflix's streaming video selections being pretty substandard, that leaves iTunes as the sole source for renting current movies. We did rent a movie through iTunes and it played in clear HD absolutely WONDERFULLY, not one instance of buffering, skipping, stopping, etc, like it did with the old laptop over a wired modem.
So while that was all well and good, I still wished I could rent from Redbox and enjoy it on the big screen, rather than forking over $4-5 a movie that's just $1 a block from the house.
So it turns out I still really like Redbox for renting videos, and so my Apple TV went back to the store for a refund, and I came home with a web-enabled blu ray player, loaded with Amazon/Youtube/etc apps, that meets all my needs for now.
I've heard that Apple is taking another approach to the TV market, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they'll bring us.