Should You Buy the Apple TV 4K?
The Apple TV is Apple's set-top box. The latest Apple TV 4K features the A15 Bionic chip, support for HDR10+, and a Siri Remote with a USB-C port for charging. Apple typically updates the Apple TV infrequently, releasing a new model around every three years.
Announced in October 2022, the third-generation Apple TV 4K is the newest and only Apple TV in the company's lineup and is near the start of its product cycle, meaning that now is a good time to buy it.
Apple TV 4K Feature Overview
- Should You Buy the Apple TV 4K?
- Apple TV 4K Feature Overview
- How to Buy
- Hardware and Design
- Processor and Internals
- 4K, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ Support
- Siri Remote
- tvOS and the TV app
- What's Next for the Apple TV
- Apple TV 4K Roundup Update History
- Apple TV Timeline
Apple in October 2022 introduced an updated version of the Apple TV 4K, with the A15 Bionic chip and support for HDR10+. It comes alongside a revised Siri Remote with a USB-C port for charging.
Design wise, the third-generation Apple TV 4K continues to look like the prior-generation version, with a simple black box design that plugs into a television set over HDMI. It is thinner and lighter than the previous version, and no longer requires an internal fan for cooling.
The Apple TV 4K, as the name suggests, offers 4K resolution with support for high frame rate HDR content, including HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. To get the complete experience, it must be paired with a 4K TV and 4K content is also required.
There's a faster A15 Bionic chip inside the new Apple TV 4K that delivers up to 50 percent better CPU performance and 30 percent better GPU performance than the previous Apple TV 4K. The efficiency improvements of the chip also mean that the Apple TV uses up to 30 percent less power.
The Siri Remote was overhauled last year, adding a new design with a one-piece aluminum body. There's a clickpad control wheel with five-way navigation, with the clickpad also supporting touch gestures. The clickpad's outer ring supports a circular gesture that lets you jog through TV and movie content. The Siri Remote is larger than the prior version and it includes a dedicated power button that controls a TV's power. It also includes volume buttons, a mute button, an option for pausing and fast-forwarding, and a menu button. There's a side button for activating Siri. With the 2022 model, the remote now charges via USB-C instead of Lightning.
The Apple TV 4K is priced starting at $129 for the 64GB model with Wi-Fi only. For $149, customers can buy a 128GB model that adds a gigabit Ethernet port and support for the Thread mesh networking protocol to connect even more smart home accessories. The Siri Remote with USB-C is available separately for $59.
The Apple TV runs tvOS, an operating system designed specifically for televisions. tvOS 17 is the current publicly available version of tvOS. tvOS 17 brings a number of new features, including FaceTime for the Apple TV, a revamped Control Center, camera functionality for Apple Music Sing, new screen savers, VPN support, and more.
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How to Buy
The Apple TV 4K can be ordered from the online Apple Store, Apple retail stores, and third-party retailers. The Apple TV 4K is priced at $129 for 64GB storage, or $149 for 128GB storage, an Ethernet port, and Thread support. Apple offers refurbished versions of the Apple TV at a $20 discount. The 2022 Siri Remote can also be purchased on a standalone basis for $59.
Initial reviews of the third-generation Apple TV 4K were mixed to positive, with most reviews noting that the latest version's improvements make for a small upgrade in day-to-day use.
The Apple TV 4K's performance improvements were somewhat noticeable to reviewers, particularly when switching apps, but they noted that there is little that can practically take advantage of it other than games. TechCrunch's Darrell Etherington:
If you have a 2021 Apple TV 4K, which I do, you probably aren't feeling the pinch in terms of performance. In fact, I still have a first-generation Apple TV 4K in active use, and despite it now being six years old, I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between it and my 2021 Apple TV in a blind test. That said, the 2022 Apple TV 4K does seem to generally make things snappier when it comes to navigating between the Home Screen and apps, and even potentially within apps as well. It also definitely offers a boost when it comes to using the Apple TV as a gaming device, helping it keep up with the most graphically-demanding Arcade and App Store titles available. With expanded controller support via the most recent tvOS update, the Apple TV is a better gaming console than ever combined with the A15's performance prowess.
On the other hand, CNET's Eli Blumenthal found gaming on the Apple TV 4K underwhelming and noted that the A15 Bionic chip still does not help the Apple TV rival games consoles:
NBA 2K23 loaded quickly, and the game finally has commentary which brings some console-like quality that was lacking in earlier editions, but that's where the similarity ends. In my few games, the title looks and feels a bit slower than the console version. Even with an Xbox controller paired to the Apple TV 4K, there is no direct passing and animations lack the fluidity and sharpness of the game on Xbox One, let alone Xbox Series S/X. Face models are fine, but lack detail in players' tattoos like D'Angelo Russell and Marcus Smart. Standard basketball game staples like instant replays and quick or batch substitutions also remain absent as do 2K23 game modes like The City. Gameloft's Asphalt 8 Plus similarly loaded quickly and played fine using the Apple TV's included Siri Remote. But there isn't ray-tracing or other modern graphical improvements that would make anyone confuse this title for a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series S/X game. All told, there doesn't appear to be anything extra that the A15 Bionic brings to gaming on Apple TV 4K...
The Verge's Chris Welch said that while the USB-C charging port of the new Siri Remote is a welcome change, there is still much more that the remote could do:
Other than ditching Lightning for USB-C, the included Siri Remote is identical to the prior generation. This is largely positive: it's ergonomic and easy to use, and once you get down the clickpad's rotational gesture for quickly scrubbing through a movie or show, you'll rarely bother with the old less efficient way of fast-forwarding and rewinding. I do badly wish that Apple had included a U1 chip in the new remote that would've made it easy to hunt down with precision using a nearby iPhone. Failing that, even a built-in speaker would've been nice for a "Siri, find my remote" command. This remote isn't as easy to lose as the previous stupidly thin version, but it still happens to the best of us. You can add backlighting and a raised nub on the play / pause button (making it easier to find by feel) to my wish list for the next iteration of the Siri Remote.
Hardware and Design
Apple did not change the design of the Apple TV 4K with the 2022 refresh, and it continues to be a simple black box that's about the size of the palm of your hand. Apple did tweak the size and weight of the Apple TV, and it is now smaller and lighter.
It measures in at 3.66 inches on each of its four sides (down from 3.9 inches) and it is 1.2 inches tall (down from 1.4 inches. It weighs in at 7.5 ounces, which is half the weight of the prior-generation model.
There is an Apple logo at the top, and aside from that, the device is unobtrusive, with the black design blending in well with home decor. It is small enough that it can fit on any shelf or TV unit next to a television set.
There are two Apple TV variants. One has an HDMI 2.1 port and a port for the power supply, while the second has the same ports with the addition of a Gigabit Ethernet port for a wired connection. Both models feature an IR receiver for connecting to the Siri Remote.
Processor and Internals
The third-generation Apple TV 4K is equipped with an faster A15 Bionic chip. CPU performance is up to 50 percent faster than the prior generation that was equipped with an A12 chip, and GPU performance is up to 30 percent faster for improved gameplay.
Apple says that the new Apple TV offers improved responsiveness, faster navigation, and snappier UI animations. The Apple TV is available with either 64GB or 128GB of storage.
The Apple TV 4K supports 802.11ax WiFi 6 speeds. WiFi 6 brings improved speeds, expanded network capacity, lower latency, better power efficiency, and upgraded performance in locations with many smart home devices. It is not as fast as WiFi 6E, but it does outperform WiFi 5.
Along with WiFi 6, the more expensive version of the Apple TV has built-in Thread support. Thread is a low-power networking technology that offers a secure, mesh-based system able to interface with other Thread-enabled smart home devices for improved connectivity.
The Apple TV 4K also supports Bluetooth 5.0 and it comes with an IR receiver for remote input.
There are now two Apple TV 4K configurations at different price points. The entry-level model features 64GB of storage and a $129 price point, while the upgraded version features 128GB of storage, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and support for the Thread mesh networking protocol for those who use smart home devices. It is priced at $149.
4K, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ Support
Like prior versions of the Apple TV 4K, the third-generation Apple TV 4K supports 4K HDR content for brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail than is available with the 1080p resolution.
With the A15 chip, the Apple TV 4K supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for the best possible quality for movies and TV shows on compatible TVs. Prior versions of the Apple TV supported Dolby Vision and HDR10, but not HDR10+.
The addition of HDR10+ will improve HDR performance when the Apple TV is used with television sets that do not support Dolby Vision.
The Apple TV 4K requires a compatible 4K television to display content at a 4K resolution, and features like Dolby Vision require a TV that supports Dolby Vision. The Apple TV 4K connects to a television set using HDMI, and an HDMI cable is not included.
Supported Photo, Video, and Audio Formats
The Apple TV 4K supports SDR video with AVC/HEVC, Dolby Vision (Profile 5), HDR10+/HDR10/HLG with HEVC, H.264, and MPEG-4 video. Photo formats supported include HEIF, JPG, GIF, and TIFF.
Supported audio formats include HE-AAC (V1), AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV; AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1), E-AC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound), and Dolby Atmos
The Apple TV supports Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos and standard lossless audio, ranging from 16-bit at 44.1 kHz to 24-bit at 48 kHz. Apple says that the Apple TV 4K "currently doesn't support Hi-Res Lossless," leaving the door open to the possibility of a future software update with Hi-Res Lossless support for the device in the future.
The third-generation Apple TV continues to use the Siri Remote that was introduced alongside the second-generation version. It features a silver aluminum body and a touch-enabled clickpad with gesture support.
A single click on the remote brings you into a TV show or move, while a swipe moves through long lists of content. The outer part of the clickpad can be swiped across to scrub through shows and movies, fast-forwarding and rewinding as needed. The remote includes a TV/Home button, a Back button, a Play/Pause button, a Mute button, and a set of volume buttons.
There is a dedicated Power button for turning the television off or on, and on the side of the remote, there's a dedicated button for activating Siri. The Siri functionality is limited to a select number of countries, with a list available on Apple's website.
In countries where Siri support is unavailable, the Siri Remote is called the "Apple TV Remote."
Siri on the Apple TV works much like Siri on the iPhone. You can speak into the remote, with the Siri command relayed back to the Apple TV. Siri can be used for
The bottom of the Siri Remote features a Lightning port that can be used to recharge it every few months. The prior version of the Siri remote included an accelerometer and gyroscope that allowed it to be used as a controller for Apple TV games, but the new remote does not have that functionality and Apple instead expects users to play games with Bluetooth controllers.
Along with the physical Siri Remote, the Apple TV can be controlled using a Remote app that's available in the App Store for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The Remote app has a layout that's similar to the Siri Remote, offering virtual controls for navigating the Apple TV interface, accessing Siri, and controlling volume.
Popular controllers from PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo can be paired with the Apple TV for gaming purposes, and Apple expects Apple Arcade and other games to be played with a controller rather than the Siri Remote.
The Apple TV 4K can also be paired with Bluetooth keyboards, though typing for searches and other purposes can be done with an iPhone tied to the same iCloud account as well.
tvOS and the TV app
tvOS is the operating system that runs on the Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, offering a an easy-to-navigate television watching experience on Apple's set-top box. The current version of tvOS is tvOS 17.2, released in December 2023. tvOS 17.2 introduced a new design for the Apple TV app with a sidebar to make it easier to get to content from Apple and other streaming services, and it removed the option to use the iTunes TV Shows and Movies apps. Apple is now directing people to the Apple TV app to purchase content.
Apple has also seeded the first beta of an upcoming tvOS 17.3 update to developers.
With a full App Store, tvOS supports downloading a range of different apps and games that can be used on the Apple TV, and the interface design puts content front and center. Get to what you want to watch using Siri commands, the Apple Remote, or the Remote app on iPhone and Apple Watch, and keep track of shows with "Up Next."
tvOS includes several built-in apps like Photos for accessing your Photo Library, Apple Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV, an app that aggregates TV and movie content from tons of sources, including the Apple TV+ streaming service.
Channels are included in the Apple TV app, so you can subscribe to and watch content from paid services without having to open up a third-party app, and Apple will make suggestions on content you might like to watch. You can even control your smart home products with the Home app.
Upcoming TV App Changes
In a tvOS 17.2 update that's coming later this year, Apple is overhauling the Apple TV app.
The app now includes a sidebar that houses content from both Apple's services and streaming services that integrate with the tvOS Watch Now feature. There are dedicated sections for Search, Watch Now, Apple TV+, MLS Season Pass, Sports, the Store, and the Library at the top of the sidebar, along with dedicated sections for streaming services like ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, Hulu, ESPN, Discovery, Peacock, Prime Video, and more.
You can click into each streaming service to see content that's available specifically on that service, and there's also a new My TV section that replaces "My Channels."
tvOS 17 Features
Apple adds new features to tvOS on a regular basis, and the 2023 update to tvOS is tvOS 17. tvOS updates never bring as many changes as iOS or macOS updates, but there are still some notable features in tvOS 17 that you should know about.
FaceTime for Apple TV
With FaceTime for Apple TV, you can use your iPhone or iPad as a FaceTime camera through Continuity Camera, but the FaceTime interface will show up on your TV screen. It's basically a much bigger canvas for FaceTime calls, with all of the familiar FaceTime features.
Center Stage keeps you front and center as you move around the room, and every participant in the call shows up on your TV screen in a tiled view. You can also use the multi-person view to initiate the wide-angle camera to keep everyone in frame.
With Split View, you can have your FaceTime call on one side of the Apple TV and a TV show or game on the other side, which is ideal for SharePlay. Calls can be transferred from an iPhone/iPad to Apple TV and vice versa using Handoff.
There are a new set of FaceTime video effects that can activate based on hand gestures, similar to Messages effects. There are options like fireworks, confetti, rain, and more.
Later in 2023, video conferencing apps like Zoom will be able to use Continuity Camera so you can take work calls on your TV through your iOS device.
Apple Music Sing
Apple Music Sing, the Apple TV's karaoke feature that lets you sing along with songs, can use Continuity Camera too so you can see yourself as you sing along with songs, and even add filters.
Updated Control Center
Control Center has been redesigned to make it easier for users to get to key settings and information without having to open up the Apple TV Settings app. Control Center also now displays system status like time and the profile of the person signed in, plus it can be expanded with other useful shortcuts and tools based on the user's activity on the TV set.
Apple Remote Find My
If you have a second-generation Siri Remote and happen to misplace it, you can use the Apple TV Remote section of Control Center on an iPhone to track it down. As you get closer to the remote, an onscreen circle will get bigger to let you know you're near it.
Also, if you use the remote on the iPhone to activate the Apple TV, the Apple TV can automatically switch to your profile if there are multiple user profiles set up.
Other tvOS 17 Features
- Screen savers based on the Memories section of the Photos app.
- New aerial screen savers like Monument Valley in Arizona and coastal redwoods from California.
- An enhance dialogue option makes it easier to hear what's being said in a TV show or movie over effects, music, and action. This requires an Apple TV 4K paired with a second-generation HomePod.
- Dolby Vision 8.1 is supported on Apple TV 4K.
- Apple Fitness+ users can access Custom Plans for creating custom workout schedules and Stacks for queuing up multiple workouts. An Audio Focus option prioritizes either the volume of the music or the trainers' voices.
- Developers can now create VPN apps for the Apple TV with third-party VPN support.
tvOS How Tos
What's Next for the Apple TV
Apple will release a new Apple TV with a faster processor and the same design as the current version in 2024, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. A next-generation version of the Apple TV could also be less expensive, with Apple aiming to lower prices, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Apple is also developing a smart display that would serve as a home hub for making video calls and controlling HomeKit devices, plus it is working on a product that combines an Apple TV, smart speaker, and FaceTime camera. The home hub display could come as soon as 2024, but there is no word on a launch date for the Apple TV/speaker/camera combo.
Apple TV 4K Roundup Update History
- December 12 - tvOS 17.2 release info added.
- October 24 - Added info about an overhauled Apple TV app.
- September 18 - tvOS 17 release update.
- June 9 - Added new section for tvOS 17.
- May 18 - Updated tvOS version following tvOS 16.5 release.
- May 19 - Updated with tvOS 16.6 beta information.
- May 17 - Added pricing info on refurbished Apple TV models.
- January 18 - Added details on future Apple TV/smart speaker/camera hybrid that could replace current Apple TV models.