What Is Apple TV? How Does It Work?

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If you are a little confused about Apple TV, you are not alone. There has been talk about an Apple-branded "smart" television set for years, and while this product may be released one day, one thing we know for sure is that it won't be called Apple TV. Why? Because that product already exists.

Apple TV is a device designed for streaming movies and TV shows to your HDTV, similar to Roku and Google's Chromecast.

But what really sets Apple TV apart from the competition is how it interacts with your other Apple devices like the iPad, iPhone, and MacBook.

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Apple TV: What is it?

First, let's start with the device itself. Apple TV is is less than an inch tall and less than four inches along its sides, so it won't take up much room in your entertainment center. It comes with a power cord and a remote and uses an HDMI cable to hook into your TV, though you must supply the HDMI cable yourself. It also has an ethernet port for a hardwired Internet connection, but since it also has built-in Wi-Fi, it's capable of a wireless connection.

Once you hook it up to your TV and turn it on, you'll run through a short setup program. This includes inputting your Apple ID, which is the same ID you use to sign into iTunes and to download apps on your iPad. You'll also need to type in your Wi-Fi information if you are connecting wirelessly.

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What Does Apple TV Do?

In essence, Apple TV turns your television into a "smart" TV. You can rent movies or stream your collection from iTunes, stream movies and TV shows from apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, stream music through iTunes Radio and Beats Music, stream radio through the Radio app, watch and listen to podcasts, and dozens of other apps.

And if you have iTunes Match, you can stream your entire music collection -- even the songs you didn't buy from iTunes.

Another neat feature is the ability to get at the photos you've stored in iCloud. This makes a great way to turn that custom Photo Stream into a slideshow on your TV, and you can even put some music behind it.

And if you set up Home Sharing, you can stream music and videos from your PC to your television set. Home Sharing will also allow you to stream your PC's library to an iPad or iPhone.

But what sets Apple TV apart from other similar streaming devices is the interaction between it and your other Apple devices. You can control Apple TV from your iPhone or iPad via the Remote app. You can also send video and sound from your iPad to your TV via AirPlay, which means you can play an iPad game on your TV. This is great for racing games that use the iPad itself as a steering wheel. It also means you can play movies from Amazon Prime on Apple TV even though Apple TV alone doesn't support Amazon Prime.

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