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Introduced during Apple's September event, the Apple TV 4K is an update to the fourth-generation Apple TV, with the newest version of the set-top box primarily adding the ability to stream at the high resolution, making it a useful purchase to owners of Ultra HD televisions. While it is a new model, Apple will be selling the Apple TV 4K alongside the current Apple TV, rather than replacing it. 

AppleInsider has reviewed the Apple TV 4K, giving it a score of 4.5 out of a possible 5. 

Hardware

At face value, there is little to differentiate between the Apple TV 4K and the Apple TV, with both having almost identical external appearances. The Apple TV 4K measures 3.9 inches square and 1.4 inches high, and weighs 15 ounces, all of which match the Apple TV's dimensions and weight. 

To the front of the unit is an IR receiver, used to accept commands from the Siri Remote. Around the back and alongside the power supply connection, the 100Mbps Ethernet port has been switched out for Gigabit Ethernet, and the HDMI 1.4 port found on the Apple TV has been replaced by a HDMI 2.0a port. 

This change in video connection is important due to bandwidth. While HDMI 1.4 is capable of delivering a 4K picture to a compatible television, it is limited to 24 frames per second. By comparison, HDMI 2.0 is capable of up to 60 frames per second, making it more suitable for higher frame rate 4K content. 

The only other externally visible change between the fourth-gen Apple TV and the Apple TV 4K is the removal of the USB-C connection. This port was intended for servicing the Apple TV, and not for use by customers, so the removal is unlikely to be a major issue for users. 

Internally, the A8 processor used for the Apple TV has been switched out for the 64-bit A10X Fusion Chip, giving the Apple TV more performance when used for graphically intensive apps such as games, as well as making it easily capable of handling 4K video footage. 

For wireless connectivity, the Apple TV 4K includes Bluetooth 5.0 as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, with Apple improving this to include dual band support for 2.4GHz and 5 GHz networks. 

The accompanying Siri Remote is functionally identical to the version released with the fourth-gen Apple TV. At the top is a glass touch surface for navigating menu screens, as well as dual microphones for issuing requests to Siri. Below are buttons for volume control, play/pause, home, the menu, and for triggering Siri. 

Internally, the Siri Remote includes an accelerometer and three-axis gyroscope, and Bluetooth 4.0 radios for communicating with the Apple TV. An IR transmitter and Lightning connector for charging are also built into the handset. 

The only change between the original Siri Remote and this version is the addition of a white circle around the Menu button. It is likely that this addition is intended to make orienting the remote the right way around easier in low light situations.  

As the name strongly suggests, video output for the Apple TV 4K goes up to 4K, also known as 2160p, and can play H.264/HEVC SDR video at that resolution at up to 60 frames per second. Its support of HEVC Dolby Vision and HDR10 at 4K means it can display high dynamic range content, allowing for more vibrant images when used with a compatible screen. 

For audio, it includes support for HE-ACC(V1), AAC up to 320Kbps, protected AAC files from the iTunes Store, 320Kbps MP3s, MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV. There is also support for Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound. 

Lastly, it can display photographs, in the HEIF, JPEG, GIF, and TIFF formats. 

Software

As an improved model, the Apple TV 4K uses the same tvOS as the non-4K model. The platform allows content producers and app developers to easily create apps for the set-top boxes, which has led to a steady increase in the number of available services that users can use. As of August 2017, there are over 1,600 video apps that work with the Apple TV. 

For the 4K model, video services can take advantage of both the higher resolution and HDR for their content catalogs. Netflix has been named as adding support to its tvOS app for 4K content in the near future, and Amazon Prime Video have been named as bringing its 4K catalog later this year. 

Other app categories can also be created for tvOS, including shopping interfaces, social apps, and games, the latter of which can take advantage of third-party Bluetooth game pads and the stock remote. All of the apps are also able to respond to a Bluetooth-connected keyboard, making it easier for users to enter text into apps. 

A key part of tvOS is the ability to use Siri, Apple's famous digital assistant. Using the dedicated button on the Siri Remote, users can speak queries into the remote's dual microphones, with the results displayed on-screen. 

Siri can be used to search for movies and TV shows, to control playback, and for typical non-video queries usually handled by Siri on iOS devices, such as weather reports and sports scores. With the inclusion of 4K content, it is also possible to use Siri to seek out high-resolution content across multiple apps at the same time, by asking “Show me movies in 4K.” 

There is also support for AirPlay 2, a connectivity protocol introduced with the HomePod and arriving later in 2017. This will allow the Apple TV to control multiple AirPlay 2-compatible speakers, alongside any traditionally connected speakers as part of a home theater system, effectively making it possible for the audio from a TV show or movie played on the Apple TV 4K to be heard throughout a household. 

Home users will also be able to force the Apple TV 4K to match the HDR settings of content instead of defaulting to the fastest available frame rate in a future update. The beta of tvOS 11.2 gives users the "match content" option, with toggles each to matching the frame rate and dynamic range, keeping HDR content from switching over to SDR if that is what the user wishes to see. 

For HomeKit, Apple's smart home platform, it is possible to set up the Apple TV 4K as the central device of a HomeKit network. This allows the set-top box to control other HomeKit-compatible appliances and accessories, including when the user is outside the home. 

Content Changes

Just as with the Apple TV, users of the Apple TV 4K can rent and buy TV shows and movies from the iTunes Store. To give 4K TV owners more content to watch, Apple has signed agreements with a number of major studios to offer 4K HDR versions of their films and shows in the iTunes Store. 

While the 4K movies will be available alongside 1080p versions, only the HD edition of the movie will be downloadable to the Apple TV 4K's storage. All 4K versions will only be available for streaming playback

At launch, Apple announced some movies and TV shows bought from the iTunes Store in the past will receive upgraded versions of the content in 4K, at no extra charge. In order to stream owned and rented copies of films from the store in 4K, customers require at least a 25 megabit per second connection, otherwise they may endure buffering or a loss of quality during viewing. 

Apple's TV app is billed as a single place that users can browse for content from over 60 video services, without switching between apps. The app is also available on the iPhone and iPad, as well as tvOS, allowing users to continue watching where they left off on a different device. 

During the Apple TV 4K announcement, Apple advised that the TV app will be available in more countries, expanding from the US to Canada and Australia in September, and reaching France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the UK by the end of the year. Local services, including pay TV networks and regional video startups, will be listed in each country's version of the app at launch. 

Pricing & Release Date

Pre-orders for the Apple TV 4K commenced on September 15, and will be available to buy from stores and online from September 22. Two different capacities are offered, with the 32GB model priced at $179 while the 64GB will sell for $199. For reference, the fourth-generation Apple TV with 32GB of storage is priced at $149. 

Reception

AppleInsider's review of the Apple TV 4K gave the set-top box 4.5 stars out of five.

For a brief period before launch, the 64-gigabyte model of Apple TV 4K was visible on Amazon, before being removed from view. Amazon had withdrawn the Apple TV and Chromecast on October 29, 2015 after the retailer claimed compatibility with its Amazon Prime Video service was required, and stocking the items potentially confused customers. 

As Amazon's Prime Video service is arriving on the Apple TV later this year, it would be expected that the set-top box would make a reappearance in the retailer's listings. It is possible it was briefly listed in anticipation of Amazon Prime Video's availability on the Apple TV, with it becoming a permanent listing when it becomes available to use. 

A teardown by iFixit reveals that Apple's cooling system for the Apple TV 4K was brand new, combining a large fan with a heat sink and EMI shield. The lack of glue, the use of modular components, and standard Torx screws helped give the Apple TV 4K a repairability score of eight out of ten. 

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