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Apple TV: iOS app directly supports AirPlay
The NPR Music app is another example of public broadcasting outshining the corporate media. I wrote a review of the NPR Music app, which is worth reading if you want more details. If you want to watch an episode of Law & Order, go elsewhere. The NPR Music app does one thing and does it well. It is a portal for music and hosts some amazing full length concerts in HD quality. NPR Music is one of the few free content providers with HD content.
If you don’t mind waiting a while for the content to load, the NPR app is a great way to explore new music. Typically, the music tends to be oriented toward classical, jazz, and alternative/indie rock tastes. However, they do have a lot of mainstream music. Most people can find something to enjoy in their video archive. Some of the more popular acts in the video archive include Chick Corea, Tori Amos, and McCoy Tyner.
There’s one quirk with the app. If you go to the “all videos” view and pull up the page to load more videos, it doesn’t work. At first I thought they keep a limited number of videos online. When I browsed concerts, however, I found dozens of videos.
The videos range in length. Sometimes there’s just a clip. There are many full length concerts that are over an hour long. There are no commercials in the video streams. NPR Music is quite impressive — HD quality with no commercials and direct AirPlay support.
You Get What You Pay For
There is plenty of free content for Apple TV, especially if you have an iPad or recent iPhone. I have just scratched the surface. The services covered are the ones I feel are the best. There are others, like TV.com, which I find to be horribly buggy.
You can expand on free content by using AirPlay screen mirroring. I sometimes use AirParrot on my Mac to watch free episodes of Star Trek. It doesn’t look great, but it gets the job done.
The problem with most free content is that it just doesn’t look good. You’re rarely going to experience HD quality. Many of these offerings aren’t even SD. They look like CD-ROMs from the mid 1990s — “pixellated” with poor resolution. You get what you pay for.
If you have the means, I would strongly recommend subscribing to Netflix or Hulu Plus. Subscribing to both would be even better. For a mere $8 a month, there’s simply no better deal out there. Both services can be put on hold or discontinued when they’re not in use. If you want to get the most out of your Apple TV, a small investment in content goes a long way. For cord cutters who have cancelled cable, the price of both services is nominal when compared to a $100+ cable bill. Both Netflix and Hulu Plus are mature and stable on Apple TV. This wasn’t always true. If you used these services when they were first introduced and cancelled due to poor quality, you may want to try them again. I put Hulu Plus on hold for a while, because it was just didn’t work well. After recent updates, it seems to perform even better than Netflix. Both services offer free trials, so there’s nothing to lose.