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Apple TV 3 unboxed: in pictures

So you’ve placed five crisp £20 notes in the hands of an Apple Store sales unit and received a white cube and a pound coin in return.

The sticker on the side – presumably covering the US specs on the original box – teases with talk of Full HD movies from iTunes, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, wireless and Ethernet networking, and a gaggle of new content providers.

Apple TV is no longer the exclusive preserve of iTunes, so if you’ve got a Netflix account you can stream film and TV shows, you can access YouTube’s world of cat videos, browse Flickr’s millions of photos, read the Wall Street Journal, and if baseball’s your thing – there’s Major League Baseball TV.

As you’d expect, Apple TV connects to iTunes on your local computers, iPhones, iPods and iPads, and on iTunes-compatible network drives.

There are extra features for iTunes Match subscribers, such as Photostream to to show off your photo collection, and streaming your music and videos from the iCloud.

iPhone and iPad owners can also throw their handheld screens onto the TV via Airplay Mirroring, for gaming and movies, but we’ll get onto these features in our full review.

It’s a big box for a slim, square Apple TV, so what else can be tucked inside? Click the next photo to find out.

Your first initiative test is to extract the inner core from the sleeve, and there sits your Apple TV, all plastic-wrapped and clean.

Extract it from this to expose the fingerprint-hungry surfaces, and peel away the extra protection from the ultra-shiny surround.

The Apple TV is a thing of simple beauty, dwarfed by other set-top boxes and mocking their gaudy displays, indicators, front-panel controls and logos. It may cost £99, but the one thing it doesn’t look is cheap.

Gently, gently, turn it upside-down and ease your Apple TV from its cradle.

Here they are – the contents of your mostly-recyclable packaging: as well as your Apple TV, there’s a slim remote and a power cable.

The Apple Remote’s aluminium finish adds to feeling of a high-value product that you’ll be happy for people to notice, unlike the monolithic slabs that come with even simple Blu-ray players.

What’s obviously missing is an HDMI cable. That’s a bit cruel, we think, because there’s no other way to connect your Apple TV to your TV. 

If you weren’t warned about this (to be fair, you will have been asked), return to the Apple Store and hand £15 to a sales unit for their standard HDMI cable (or get one for £2 online).

There’s not much to look at on the front of the Apple TV, which is part of its none-more-black chic style – just a pinpoint power light and remote response light.

The back panel hosts five connections: power, HDMI, SPDIF optical digital audio and 10/100 Ethernet. The WiFi antenna (802.11a, b, g or n) is hidden in the case.

The HDMI port supports the HDMI 1.4 standard, so it will also carry Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, but you can also use the optical digital audio output.

The USB port is for servicing only – Apple’s determined to make you rely on network or cloud storage, even if you have photos on an SD card.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the original Apple TV remote – I’m all for stripping things down the basics, but not even having a power button? It’s just a little too counter-intuitive to have to learn a special key combo to put a device to sleep.

That’s still a problem with the new Apple Remote, but it is a very responsive device for controlling your Apple TV, once you’ve got used to the Menu button also being the back-up button, and the centre of the D-pad being OK/Enter.

The old Apple remote was also too small, as though designed for a child’s hand. It’s not just easy-to-lose but also strange to hold, and with a metallic finish that looks great but doesn’t feel planted in your hand. Maybe someone will make a gel-case like they do for equally-slippy phones.

The lightness has one advantage: it doesn’t get heavy as you browse through menus and input your details. Maybe Apple’s on to something here as the TV remote becomes less of a simple channel-zapper and the instrument of exploration and transaction.

This being Apple, the remote is almost superfluous because you can download Apple’s Remote app to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and control the device entirely from the touchscreen.

Coming soon: we’ll plug in Apple’s little black box and see how it performs.