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Digital Life: Apple TV -- the little black box where online streams come true


Driving force: games can be beamed on to your television

Driving force: games can be beamed on to your television

Driving force: games can be beamed on to your television

Like pizza and beer or rock and roll, some couples are just meant to go together. Equally, some things just aren't complete without their other half. Sorry to go all Zen on you but it's the simplest summary of Apple TV, the little box that hooks into your telly and opens up the world of streaming online videos to your big screen.

It might seem like a statement of the bleedin' obvious but Apple TV is only half-useful until you pair it with an iPhone or iPad.

Out of the box, the latest version of Apple TV seems absolutely identical to the edition released in late 2010 -- a petite black slab with power, HDMI and Ethernet connections round the back.

Technically, all Apple has done is add a faster brain so it can spit out the highest of high-definition video, known as 1080P. That in itself is but a small step up -- the average punter may not even notice the difference compared to the previous standard of 720P.

But for purists it does mean some movies rented or bought from the iTunes Store look almost as crisp as Blu-ray. In addition to that catalogue of thousands of flicks (but still no TV as is available the UK -- boo), Apple TV also supports Netflix and a handful of other video services such as YouTube, Vimeo and, oddly enough, Major League Baseball.

All of these are presented in a redesigned interface resembling the icon rows of the iPhone, one that hints at bigger plans down the line for Apple TV. It's presumably supposed to make things easier to navigate but Apple's minimalist remote control isn't quite up to it.

That's where the symbiotic relationship with an iPhone or iPad kicks in. Using the free Remote app greatly improves navigation, particularly where typing is involved.

Better still is the AirPlay function that enables you to fling whatever's on your iPhone/iPad -- including video, music, photos, web pages and games -- wirelessly on to your telly via Apple TV with no set-up required.

It's these bonuses that turn a good set-top box into a great one. So long as you're invested in the iTunes eco-system and own an iOS device, the €110 Apple TV makes a faithful viewing companion. Others might prefer to investigate cheaper boxes from the likes of Roku or Philips.


My favourite new app is Scanner Pro for iPhone or iPad that puts the power of a bulky flatbed in your hands. Using the camera, Scanner Pro can quickly capture a good image of a document (bills, newspaper, photo, whatever), automatically straightening its perspective and finding edges.

Then you can easily offload the resulting PDF by email, to a sharing site such as Dropbox or just into your library. At €5.50, it's a good investment that lacks only text recognition.

Game On

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13


RATING: 8/10

Tiger is a man in transition. The game that bears his name is too, with Tiger 13 trying to fully embrace motion-control as an option.

On Xbox, the Kinect control appears almost magically promising.

Clasp your hands as if clutching a club and Kinect tracks your swing including your shoulder movement.

Raise hand to eyebrow as if in salute and the camera zooms to where your shot should land, enabling you to adjust direction or just get the lie of the land.

But as much fun as it is, niggles soon creep in. Kinect just isn't accurate enough and often misrecognises little movements when switching between addressing the ball and aiming the shot.

Navigating the menus is similarly a pain.

If you ignore the Kinect options, you'll find a game that, while eminently enjoyable, hasn't changed much from the previous outing save for an improved swing control.

Like Tiger himself, maybe the game will rediscover its hot form next year.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Nintendo 3DS

RATING: 8/10

Reviving a videogame character after two decades is a risky proposition when so few remember the original. But Uprising throws caution to the wind with a strangely compelling yet convoluted reboot.

Part on-rails-shooter, part dungeon-brawler, KI:U stuffs the 3DS cartridge with so many ideas some players will be intimidated, not least by its tiring controls. There's a risk-reward option, where you bet on the difficulty of each level to reap higher bonuses.

There's a vast selection of weapons and equipment to be discovered and tinkered with. Gear earned in single-player gives an edge in multiplayer battles.

But for all its innovation, Uprising never feels accessible enough to be anything other than a cult classic.

Street Fighter X Tekken


RATING: 8/10

A crossover between two of the biggest fighting franchises, SFXT could be expected to be complicated, merging 2D with 3D and wildly different styles. And, sure enough, the tutorial goes on for hours (or seems like it at least).

The gameplay derives its DNA far more from Street Fighter than Tekken, though. The introduction of power-up perks such as extra damage adds a new layer of complexity to the heady brew. Casual players may not have the patience to learn SFXT's intricacies but Street Fighter fans will lap it up.

Kinect Rush


RATING: 7.5/10

From the same people who produced the excellent Disneyland Adventures, Kinect Rush mines the Pixar back catalogue for similar fun.

As usual, Kinect isn't a perfect substitute for a controller, often failing to interpret jumping motions.

But the target market of under-10s will extract plenty of mileage from the recreations of exciting scenes from the likes of Cars, The Incredibles and Toy Story 3.

Bits and Bytes

• Netflix has finally migrated on to the Windows Phone platform. So if you own one of those nice new Nokia Lumias (or other WP handsets), you can watch thousands of hours of film and TV on your phone, on the move.

Still with Netflix, the site now makes it possible to buy gift certificates for its subscriptions.

If Digital Life had one wish for Netflix, though, it's for the site to start to expand its catalogue, which at a casual browse does not seem much larger than when it first launched in Ireland back in January.


• Mac users were jolted out of complacency last week when the Flashback trojan infected 600,000 Apple machines within a short space of time.

Apple responded slowly but has finally acted to patch the bug that could allow hackers access to their machines.

The attack on the Mac is a sign of things to come as Apple computers enjoy a resurgence in sales. Get the patch from the automated Software Updates.


Irish Independent