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Apple TV version 5.0 update hands-on: new interface, new features

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Apple released version 5.0 of the Apple TV software today, and we tested it out.

Apple TV version 5.0
Apple TV version 5.0

Apple may have announced a refresh to the Apple TV today, but for those of us who already own Apple's $99 set-top box, the fun came a couple of hours later in the form of an upgrade version 5.0 of the Apple TV's software. The update is mostly an aesthetic one, with an iOS-style overhaul to the home page popping up immediately. Everything's large and icon-based, and looks pretty good on a large screen — though it's fortunate there aren't many apps, because navigating through a lot of huge icons with the overly simple remote could get frustrating. The home screen may look different, but apps haven't really changed in kind yet, and most are still heavily text-based like the Apple TV used to be.

There are a couple of new features in the new software, in addition to the new look. The best (and most obvious) is that you can now stream movies purchased through iTunes — if you've bought a movie, you can finally watch it through your Apple TV. There are some roadblocks, so not everything is available, but it's a necessary step in an obvious and right direction. Speaking of content, you can also now subscribe to Netflix using your iTunes account, so it should be trivially easy to get an account set up, and there's a new Genius feature in the Apple TV's store that shows you movies you might like based on movies you've bought and seen.

If you already own an Apple TV, this update brings you almost fully up to par with the new hardware — almost. The new Apple TV is able to stream 1080p content, but the last-generation model is unfortunately still limited to 720p. If you can live without the highest of high-def, look for the update now, and if you can't you'll be able to buy the new Apple TV for $99 on March 16th.