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You can now use your Apple TV to transmit audio to an AirPlay receiver. By going to Settings > AirPlay, you can activate AirPlay compatible speakers. This can come in handy if you have a high-end audio receiver with AirPlay built-in. It’s also useful if you want to play music throughout your home with your Apple TV. Unfortunately, if you want to play Apple TV’s audio on your Mac, this doesn’t work natively. You can install an app such as AirPlayer that allows your Mac to become an AirPlay receiver. I think the other way makes more sense — use iTunes on your Mac to control Apple TV and other AirPlay compatible speakers. You don’t even have to control the music with your Mac. You can use the Apple TV remote or the Apple Remote app for iOS. There may be some special cases where Apple TV driving AirPlay external speakers is useful. I won’t be using it.
The new “Up Next” master playlist is now supported on Apple TV. With iTunes running on your Mac or PC, you can now view and manage the “Up Next” playlist with your Apple TV remote. You can even change the order of the “Up Next” queue on your Apple TV with the remote! Well done, Apple!
Unfortunately, Apple didn’t improve audio quality on Apple TV with this release. The high frequencies still sound harsh and tinny. A 256 Kbps AAC file, which is iTunes’ standard format, sounds much better when played through my Mac to my stereo. This is the main reason I use a wireless audio transmitter and iTunes on my Mac. It sounds much better.
You can now move most of the icons on your Apple TV main menu. To do this, select any icon below the top row and hold down select. The icon will wiggle, and you can move it. Press select again when you are done moving it. You are not allowed to move any of the top-row icons.
The Apple TV update offers some less sensational features. You can easily switch between iTunes accounts, which is useful for large households. It is now possible to search movie trailers. There is improved support for subtitles. Users can now access shared Photo Streams and comments. Advanced network configurations can be set using the Apple Configurator. This may be useful for people using an Apple TV at work or those with a complicated home network.
Apple TV is still missing some features that would make it far more useful. One should be able to browse the music or video library of an iOS device. This isn’t a huge deal. Since iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches are so portable, it’s easy enough to push the content onto Apple TV. Still, it would be nice to be able to navigate this content with the Apple TV remote. (continue…)