Charles Starrett of iLounge writes: Apple calls them "high-definition movie rentals," but to people familiar with Blockbuster Video, Netflix, and HD cable box alternatives, Apple TV 2.0's new ability to download and play back certain 720p movies is more of a "video on demand" service-with certain advantages and limitations. So how do Apple's HD movie downloads compare with DVDs, Blu-Ray Discs, and currently available HD video on demand content? iLounge did a direct comparison to help you see the differences.
iLounge used a very recent 40" Sony Bravia XBR4 television with 1080p and 120Hz support for our testing, and set all of our HDMI-connected playback devices to display at their best possible resolutions: the Blu-Ray Disc player was a PlayStation 3 console at 1080p, the Apple TV was set to its new 1080p mode, the Scientific Atlanta cable box was set to its maximum of 1080i, and the DVD player was the same PlayStation 3 at 1080p, set on normal upscaling mode. Four test screens were picked as representative of the film's content, and a Nikon camera was used to shoot each paused screen at 1/80 of a second.
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.