By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 14, 2008

Now that Apple TV offers movie rentals in high definition, the question naturally arises: how does Apple’s HD stack up against, say, a Blu-ray disk or the HD content offered by the cable networks?

To get at an answer, the folks at iLounge have done a favor for the rest of us (who don’t necessarily have an Apple TV, a Blu-ray player or even an HD TV): they’ve posted side-by-side comparisons of the latest Bruce Willis vehicle, “Live Free or Die Hard”, viewed on four systems.

  • Blu-ray
  • Apple TV
  • HD video on demand
  • Standard DVD

If you’re in the market for an Apple

TV set top box, you owe it to yourself to read Charles Starrett’s full review. But here’s the money quote:

While the Blu-Ray version was the clear winner of the bunch, we were surprised by how well the Apple TV fared in comparison to the other formats we tested. Its weakest performance was in the straight shot-for-shot resolution test, where we looked at how all four devices displayed a scene with fine details. (link)

That said, Starrett points out that resolution numbers don’t necessarily mean as much as compression, color, motion, aspect ratio, download time and price. His conclusion:

From where we stand, frequent and quality-sensitive video watchers will find Netflix or Blockbuster to be better month-to-month values for HD video rentals than Apple TV or on-demand cable services, while Apple TV provides an option that’s in the upper middle of the pack on quality and the best on convenience, so long as you’re willing to pay the $229-$329 cost of entry. The question is: are you?

Photos reprinted by kind permission of For lots more images, available full size, see here.

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