The Photos entry has changed significantly. While you can still view photos you've synced to your Apple TV, you also have the option to view photo-streams from .Mac Photo Web Galleries and Flickr contacts. I tested each and they work well and don't require a lot of text entry.
To view a .Mac Web Gallery just enter a .Mac member name. Any photo galleries that this member has created for general viewing (meaning they've allowed everyone to view the photos) will appear in a list on a screen devoted to that person's .Mac member name. You can't access password protected galleries, however.
Viewing the pictures of Flickr contacts is just as easy. Enter a Flickr user's member name and any public photos they have will be available to you. Better yet, you can view that person's contacts and add them as favorites. This is a great way to quickly add a wealth of Flickr contacts.
Pretty much the same as before. You can view Features, Most Viewed, Most Recent, Top Rated, and choose History, Search, and Log In options.
Many of the settings are similar to the original Apple TV's--here you find settings for your network, screen saver, audio, video, and connected computers--with a couple of intriguing additions.
The first is the AirTunes option within the Audio setting. As you can with an AirPort Express Base Station you can stream audio from your computer's iTunes Library to an AV receiver or powered speakers attached to your Apple TV. Very cool.
The other is a Downloads entry where you can view the progress of all the files being downloaded to your Apple TV. Within this area you can prioritize what's being downloaded. For example, if you've rented an HD movie and then purchased an album, the movie will occupy the Apple TV's attention and the album will just have to wait. However, if you select that movie and press Play/Pause on the Apple Remote, the movie will be demoted one position so that the next item in the list becomes the priority download. You can promote items by similarly selecting them in the queue and pressing Play/Pause. Yes, it would be nice if you could select a movie and find a way to drop it to the bottom of the queue but I haven't discovered a way to make that happen.
Darned good. I've watched the first 15 minutes of Live Free or Die Hard and the picture is great on my 42-inch Panasonic plasma display. With a digital audio cable connected to my AV receiver the movie caused the receiver's 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio light to glow and the resulting sound was bigger than anything I've heard come out of the box previously.
I'll be giving that movie and Apple TV's new features a far more careful look in the days to come. Stay tuned for more.
This story, "A Test Drive of Apple TV, Take Two" was originally published by Macworld.