November 16, 2012, 2:19 PM — The Apple TV has evolved from a slow, hard-drive-based extension of your computer to a fairly capable media streamer. Although it doesnt offer as many content choices as Rokus set-top boxes, say, it gives you access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, major sports subscriptions, and more. On top of that, its the only media player on the market that lets you access your iTunes library and previous purchases from Apple, as well as stream content directly from a Mac or iOS device using Apples AirPlay technology.
If you have a second- or third-generation Apple TV in your home entertainment setup, here are several tips for getting the most from it.
1. Update your software
Apple has added many Apple TV features over the past year (including some of the ones discussed below) via software updates. Before you continue, make sure youre running the latest version of the Apple TV software by navigating to Settings > General > Update Software and following the instructions. As of this writing, Apple TV Software Update 5.1 is the current version.
2. Move icons around
Thanks to expanded content options, the Apple TV now displays 20 icons on your TV screen from its main menu. Those extra icons make it harder to navigate around and select the item you want with the fewest clicks of the remote, however.
Thankfully, you now can rearrange the icons to better fit the way you use the Apple TV. To do so, use your Apple Remote to highlight an icon, then press and hold the round button until the icon begins to shimmy like a poodle-skirt-wearing teen on American Bandstand. (The effect will be like when you tap and hold an iOS app icon until it starts shaking, but on the Apple TV only that particular icon wiggles about.) You can then use the navigation controls on your remote to move the icon where you want it. Repeat for each icon you want to relocate.
Do you watch a lot of Netflix and NBA games, and like looking at photos on Flickr? Move those icons up (and while youre at it, group ones you dont use muchRadio and Hulu Plus, sayat the bottom).
Keep in mind, however, that you cant move or replace any of the icons in the first row. So youre stuck with Movies, TV Shows, Music, Computers, and Settings (in that order) whether you want them there or not.
3. Sign up for (some) pay subscriptions directly
Apple has slowly but surely added the ability to access non-iTunes paid content on the Apple TV. You can now watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, and professional baseball (MLB), basketball (NBA), and hockey (NHL) if you subscribe to those services. It used to be that to sign up for any of those options, however, you had to do so on your computer and then enter your subscription information on the Apple TV.