The iPod touch was announced last September to moderate fanfare. Described as an iPhone without the phone (also without a camera, speaker, or any audio input), it was mainly promoted for its ability to play music, widescreen videos (including YouTube), and to connect to the wireless iTunes store. I received an iPod touch as a gift from Small Dog Electronics, and as I’ve written before I greatly enjoy it. I’ve downloaded many apps from the iTunes App Store which has made it a very valuable addition to my digital toolbox.

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One of the less-heralded features of the iPod touch and iPhone is their ability to play video out to a television. This means you can use the iPod touch / iPhone to play widescreen videos, show photo sideshows, even play YouTube videos and other H.264 Quicktime videos on your large flat panel TV. It’s like a portable AppleTV.

Well, almost. The AppleTV has more engaging photo viewing options. Also, you can rent high def videos directly from the AppleTV, which you can’t do on an iPhone / Touch. The AppleTV has much higher storage capacity, wirelessly connects to your iTunes library, works as a Airtunes base station, can automatically (and wirelessly) handle downloads of TV shows and movie purchases / rentals, and has higher resolution than the iPhone / Touch (720p vs 547p). It’s always connected to the TV, with your media ready to go.

You have to manually transfer movies, TV shows, etc from your computer to the iPhone / Touch, and then connect it to the TV. It’s not difficult to do, but many prefer the simplicity and “always on, always connected” convenience of the AppleTV.

I’d prefer an AppleTV to play all my iTunes content in my living room, but since I already own the Touch that’s what I am using. The iPod touch is connected to an inexpensive Denon AV receiver with the Apple Component AV Cable kit. The receiver sends the signal to my television. Previously I simply had a stereo cable connected to my receiver for the iPod, for listening to music. See photos of the stereo cable connection plugged into the receiver here.

And plugged into the iPod’s headphone port here.

I am now using the Apple Component AV Cable kit ($49.99) for this. It features high-quality component video cables with stereo cables for the audio. Component video has red, green, and blue plugs and is common on modern televisions and AV receivers. The stereo cable has the familiar red and white plugs. The Apple Component AV Cable kit only works with 3rd generation iPod nano, iPod touch, and iPhone. Video resolution tops out at 547p, which looks surprisingly good on my 42” Sharp HDTV.

You can see the Apple Component AV Cable plugged in here.

And here.

And with a YouTube video.

I don’t yet own an Apple Universal Dock. This would allow me to use an Apple remote to control video playback. Note that the Apple Universal Dock is different from the older iPod Universal Dock, but they look almost identical.

Apple also sells a composite video cable kit. Composite uses a single yellow video cable. Note that you can’t use the Apple Composite Video cable kit with the iPhone / Touch / 3rd Gen nano, UNLESS you use it with the Apple Universal Dock. It’s confusing. Here’s a chart that might help.

So, with the basic Apple Component AV Cable kit I’m able to watch TV shows, movies, and music videos from my iTunes library on my television. I can also share YouTube clips and photo slideshows. Further, since the AV Cable kit connects to the iPod’s dock connector, I get much higher quality, level line-out audio from the iPod into the receiver. I appreciate this by itself.

This solution is not as elegant as the AppleTV, nor quite as full-featured; if I didn’t already own the Touch, I’d probably get an AppleTV. But for $49.99, this is a more than adequate way to bring my iTunes content into the living room.

Apple Component AV Cable kit – it’s $49.99 with free shipping for the next week. Works with iPod touch, iPhone, and 3rd gen iPod nano!

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