How Does Satellite TV Service Compare To Apple TV?


Satellite TV vs Apple TV

With the booming popularity of such devices as the iPod, the iPad and and iPhone, Apple Computers has bounced back from the brink of financial insolvency and technological irrelevance into the mainstream of everyday use. Millions of people use their Apple devices every day to connect with their favorite music, movies and TV shows. In recent years, Apple has also endeavored to join their technology with another device that people use every day: television. But how does the Apple TV service compare to that offered by satellite TV providers?

SEE ALSO: How Does Satellite TV Service Stack Up Against Cable TV?

How Does Satellite TV Work?

Viewers can access satellite TV signals with a receiver dish mounted outside the house, typically on the south side of the exterior. The dish must be mounted so it points up at a satellite in geosynchronous orbit above the Earth. A set-top box decodes the signals from the receiver dish and sends the picture and sound data to the television. For the best results, the dish should be mounted so that no line-of-sight obstructions can block the signal between the dish and the satellite.

How Does Apple TV Work?

The hardware for the Apple TV system functions much more like ahome computer than a satellite receiver. The eight-inch square includes an Intel microprocessor, a 40GB hard drive, 256 MB of RAM, a graphics card and connections for both wired and wireless networks. Instead of relying on a separate connection to deliver content, as cable and satellite services do, Apple TV uses the home's existing internet connection to show both standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) programming.

Features And Channels

Satellite TV offers users all of the major channels, including broadcast networks, “basic-cable” channels such as CNN and ESPN, and “premium-cable” networks such as HBO and Showtime. Customers of satellite TV providers can also view programs on-demand and pay-per-view events and, with additional equipment, can record shows to a digital video recorder (DVR). Apple TV allows users to download programs through iTunes and Netflix but, as of August 2012, does not have access to over-the-air or live cable programming.

Costs And Contracts

Most satellite TV providers require customers to sign service contracts of at least twelve months. The prices for satellite TV services can vary according to channel packages, number of receivers and additional services. By contrast, Apple TV sells their set-top box for $99 at Apple Stores, with comparable prices at most retail outlets. However, users must purchase programming either through iTunes, Netflix or another streaming content provider.

Equipment And Installation

One of the most noticeable differences between satellite TV and the Apple TV product comes from the ease of installation. Satellite service requires the installation of an 18-inch dish outside the home, as well as the wiring to connect the dish to the signal box and the television. Since the Apple TV box functions much like a computer, the connections are relatively simple. For homes with wireless internet connections, the Apple TV box picks up the signals through its wireless Ethernet connection.

SEE ALSO: What Do I Need for Satellite TV?


For customers who have become acclimated to a traditional TV viewing experience, satellite TV offers the better option. For those who are looking to lower their costs and are more accustomed to viewing their favorite shows via download or streaming media, the Apple TV service provides the more favorable choice.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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