This is an old review I wrote and never posted, but it’s still relevant today. My conclusion is up to date for 2011.
Having just purchased and watched seasons 1 and 2 of The Tudors from iTunes (I missed them on Showtime), I was searching the net for other peoples thoughts on the quality of these TV shows. One review I came across was from AllForces.com, concering iTunes quality vs Bit Torrent. Since their blog post in 2005, Apple seems to have upped the standard of their TV show offerings.
I’m be the first to admit that I’m an Apple fan, with my Mac laptop the primary downloader of these TV Shows, syncing to my iPhone and also viewing the shows via front row on my Mac Mini. It’s the viewing of these on the Mac Mini I will review.
For the review I was watching iTunes video files using the following:
- 2009 Model Mac Mini
- Sony KDL-46W4500 1080p LCD Television
- DVI to HDMI connection from Mac to TV, set at 720p resolution
- Apples Front Row for playback, with the TV Shows sourced on a remote Mac Laptop over 54g WiFi
One of the things All Forces addressed was the DRM vs Bit Torrent downloads. Apple has come a long way since 2005 with their music, having the majority of the catalogue as “iTunes Plus”. This has their musical offerings in 256Kbps DRM free AAC audio. It’s an advancement since 2005, even though others offer better music quality.
There are still DRM restrictions in place for video, and I don’t see this abating any time soon. The TV and Movie industry is a lot less lenient to the removal of Digital Rights Management, and with Blu-ray winning the HD wars we wont see DRM removed from video any time soon.
One of the key points in the review by All Forces in 2005 was the low resolution of the iTunes video files. Quality of the TV episodes have increased since 2005, and Apple seem to be on a winner with H264 encoding. The files for The Tudors video files are 640×360 H264 encoded MPEG4 files, with an average size of 600MBytes per episode.
In 2011 I also use an Apple TV. Pricing is a MAJOR sticking point with people using iTunes for TV Shows. In Australia they sell at AUD$2.99, only in standard definition, and only via the iTunes Store. In the US one can purchase HD versions for the same price or SD versions for USD$1.99. It’s ridiculous. You can’t even watch TV shows in Australia on Apple TV. Why?!
The quality of the iTunes show, as seen with The Tudors Season 1 is great. Apple have come a long way over the last 4 years to be able to offer all major TV shows as electronic downloads. Ease of access, and a decent price point makes it viable for consumers to use Apple as their source of entertainment. However, the disparate pricing across markets and the lack of HD shows in some countries is the final blocker to making iTunes your first and only stop for watching TV shows.