RIght as I was planning on writing this article, I ran into that rare Slashdot thread that sucked me into posting. Three times.
The posts pretty much summarize our current experience at home with the two Xbox 360s and the two AppleTVs. While it would be nice if Apple officially supported Netflix streaming, it is not a deal breaker, and the Xbox 360 is doing the job already perfectly.
For a while I was concerned that the ability to stream from the Mac to the 360 would render the AppleTVs obsolete, but it is only a matter of convenience. And by convenience I mean being able to watch something RIGHT THE HELL NOW instead of having to wait until the content is transcoded so the AppleTV can see it. If you can wait until the transcode, then the AppleTV wins.
1. Parental controls. The AppleTV will ask for a PIN if the content is rated above your threshold.This means that if PJ decides to park at my office and watch AppleTV, he’ll be watching his movies, not ours.
2. Content organization. The only thing you can do with the 360 streaming is put your content in folders. With the AppleTV, it will render all of your content tags, album art, etc. This means that you can navigate by title, subject, or just browse by looking at the covers. The 360 can’t do that yet.
The transcoding thing pisses me off because I have a hardware h.264 encoder dongle, which promised to be the ultimate solution. And it is a piece of shit. If it works, the best I get is barely faster than 1:1. If it doesn’t, it screws up the output by either pixelating the video, or losing audio sync. Both are aggravating as hell.
Even more humiliating is that handbrake is free and at its very worst it can transcode at 1:1 without using the stupid dongle. And it never screws up the output.