The new Apple TV, along with a software update for older models, brings several welcomed improvements for Netflix users. You can now sign up for Netflix straight from an Apple TV and use iTunes billing, as well as stream movies and TV shows in full HD 1080p quality and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
Latest version: Apple TV review (2012)
If you have a second-generation Apple TV, a software update is now available to download. The update will introduce a new app-like interface and the ability to stream movies and TV shows purchased via iTunes. The new hardware, available from March 16 for $99, comes with the new software, as well as one major new addition: 1080p video streaming; older models can only stream standard definition and 720p video.
Netflix gets better
Until now, to watch Netflix on an Apple TV you had to sign up with the service ($8 per month) via Netflix.com, where you could manage your account. However, with the new Apple TV update, you can sign-up directly on the Apple TV and pay via your iTunes account. This would be the first time Netflix allowed billing for its service to be handled by another company.
If you are already a Netflix customer, you will still be able to log in with your credentials to stream videos. It is still unclear though whether it will be possible to transfer an existing Netflix account to iTunes billing, and whether an account created on an Apple TV (associated with your Apple ID) would allow users to watch on other compatible devices, such as the Xbox 360 gaming console.
Apple TV’s second major improvement is 1080p streaming, thanks to a new single-core A5 chip that powers the new model. Netflix said most of its HD programs could be streamed in 1080p high definition and with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, while Apple is also introducing full HD versions for many movies and TV shows it has on sale.
Apple recommends a connection faster than 8Mbps if you want to watch 1080p videos, so if your connections is slower, 6Mbps is needed for 720p content, and at least 2.5Mbps for standard-definition content. You can also select within the new Apple TV interface your preferred video quality based on your connection speed.