Apple TV 4K review: Better streaming will cost you

Update: summer 2019

This review was first published in September 2017, when the Apple TV 4K was first released, and has been substantially updated since then. After nearly two years on the market and numerous updates, Apple TV 4K remains our top choice of video streamer for Apple fans and for those who don’t mind paying extra for its perks, namely Dolby Vision HDR and a premium user experience.

Since launch, Apple TV 4K has added a Amazon Prime video app and added Dolby Atmos as part of TVOS 12 update, making it the best streamer for Atmos fans too. The The Apple TV app was updated in May 2019 with a new Channels option and iTunes integration. And a software update for TVOS 13, coming in fall 2019, will add support for multiple user accounts as well as Xbox and PlayStation game controllers, which will be especially useful once the Apple Arcade games service will be launched again this year.

In other words, Apple TV 4K continues to improve. The original non-4K Apple TV HD remains on sale for $ 150, but my advice pay $ 30 extra for Apple TV 4K. If you own a 4K or HDR TV you’ll get an immediate advantage, and even if you don’t, chances are your next TV will be. Compatible with 4K and HDR.

The biggest competition from Apple TV 4K comes from Roku and Amazon, particularly from Roku Streaming Stick Plus is Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. At less than half the price, both are higher values ​​than the Apple TV 4K for most people, and the Roku is still our favorite streamer overall for the money.

Price no item, however, the Apple TV 4K is the best. And it’s not that expensive, especially when you consider the cost of the high-end TV and audio equipment that makes it better. With its 4K breadth, HDR and audio format support, sleek design and constant updates, Apple TV 4K earns our Editors’ Choice award.

Apple TV 4K

Money no items, Apple TV 4K is the best 4K streamer of the bunch.

Sarah Tew / HDOT

Apple’s 4K streaming box is the best product of its kind. But you should only buy one if you want a premium experience and are willing to pay for it.

It combines the best streaming quality available today, including Dolby Vision HDR video, which no other streamer offers, and Dolby Atmos audio, with the smoothest and most refined feel. It’s as fast and capable as any streamer out there. And if you’ve just bought an expensive 4K HDR TV, the price to upgrade to an Apple TV might seem like a very worthwhile drop in the bucket.

The Roku Streaming Stick Plus, meanwhile, it costs less than half and is almost as good. They both basically do the same things very well, and Roku has its own substantial advantages beyond price. Roku has even more 4K apps, including YouTube, whose numerous 4K and HDR videos aren’t available on Apple TV 4K. Roku’s platform is more content neutral and I love its price-focused search results.

So what do I mean by “experience”? Apple TV has a way nicer remote control, sleeker controls, nicer menus, more up-to-date apps, superior search and voice control, and, with Movies Anywhere’s integration with iTunes, excellent access to movies and TV shows purchased from other services like Vudu and Amazon. Every day, using Apple TV just gets better.

Ultimately, Roku’s value proposition makes it a better choice for most people. If you are someone who only wants the best product regardless of price, however, that’s Apple TV 4K.

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Basics of Apple TV 4K

Before we get into the details and details, here’s a look at the recent additions and high-level facts about Apple TV 4K.

  • The Apple TV 4K has all the major video streaming apps you could ever want and is the only streamer with Apple’s TV app, which provides a central place to browse videos from a variety of services.
  • In addition to Atmos audio, the current tvOS 12 operating system brings some neat improvements, such as zero sign-on for TV apps for some cable subscribers, compatibility with third-party remotes, and new screen savers. Here are all the details.
  • A software update allows you to adjust settings to disable the conversion of videos, menus and games to HDR and a fixed frame rate. Check the details and my recommended settings, right here.
  • When this review was originally published, Apple’s iTunes was unique in charging the same price for 4K and HD movies. Now competing services like Vudu have followed suit, matching prices for the most part.
  • Apple TV can detect and pair AirPods for private listening, he adds AirPlay 2 support with multiroom audio and a setting for automatic activation Dark Room Mode according to local time.
  • You can sync the home pages of multiple Apple TVs in your family by automatically mirroring their layouts and folders. Downloading an app on one adds it to another.
Apple TV 4K

Sarah Tew / HDOT

Remote control upside down? Put a ring on it

I’ve always loved the Apple TV remote that comes with a touchpad. Whipping menus and videos with a thumb is fluid and futuristic. I appreciate the tidy size and number of buttons, as well as the quality feel of its materials, from metal to glass to the matte touchpad itself.

To read: The best Apple TV remote cases for under $ 10

For many others, the Apple TV remote is the least loved Apple TV feature. In fact, unless I attach the lanyard or a remote control case, I occasionally pick it up upside down and start sliding the bottom glass, not the top pad. A touch of smart, ultra-minimalist design solves the problem admirably on the Apple TV 4K remote: there’s a raised white ring around the menu button. Now it is obvious at a glance what the end is. Apple also adds this white ring to the original Apple TV remote. Good boy!


Left: Apple TV 4K. Right: Apple TV (with the old remote).

Sarah Tew / HDOT

Back in the dark

The box itself looks exactly like its predecessor. The only visible difference between the two is the absence of a USB-C port on the back of the new one. Apple told me it was used for service only and is no longer needed.

Under the hood is Apple’s A10X Fusion processor, the same one used in iPad Pro – for faster processing and graphics than the A8 chip in the 2015 model. However, both boxes felt just as fast to me. Perhaps future games will benefit from the new processor.

Apple TV 4K is available in 32GB and 64GB configurations. Unless you download a lot of large games, 32GB is enough, as the box streams pretty much everything else (videos, photos, and so on), and storage is mostly used for apps.

Upgraded connections include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi with simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and Bluetooth 5.0. The video is now available HDMI 2.0a to support 4K HDR video. The Apple TV 4K can play Dolby Digital and surround sound Dolby Atmos Audio.

However, the Apple TV 4K is not yet compatible with YouTube 4K or HDR videos. “YouTube relies on VP9 codec for 4K and HDR video distribution and playback, “a YouTube rep told me.” The new Apple TV does not support VP9 and therefore we cannot provide 4K resolution on this device. ”In other words, don’t expect 4K and / or YouTube HDR videos on Apple TV anytime soon.

That’s not a huge loss, since regular 1080p YouTube videos look very good. However, YouTube fans who insist on maximum image quality should choose another device that provides it in 4K, such as Roku’s 4K players or the Chromecast Ultra.

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