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Apple TV 4K 2022 review: An Apple Arcade playground

The 2022 Apple TV 4K is the model to buy

Apple TV 4K 2022

4.5 / 5

The new for 2022 Apple TV 4K seems purpose-built for casual gamers and Apple Arcade enthusiasts. But, for everybody else, there's not much reason to upgrade beyond a USB-C Siri Remote or HDR10+.

The Apple TV is caught in a somewhat awkward place in the technological world. Users can access Apple TV+ and Apple Music on various game consoles, streaming sticks, and smart TVs, so a dedicated set-top-box appears redundant.

Apple TV 4K

2022 Apple TV 4K

The 2022 Apple TV 4K comes in 64GB and 128GB capacities, with the 64GB spec offering Wi-Fi connectivity and the 128GB model featuring Wi-Fi + Ethernet functionality.

The situation is further complicated since existing Apple TV owners will only find a few reasons to upgrade and may have to squint at the product to see them. However, first-time buyers should jump on the latest 2022 model thanks to improvements and price drops.

2022 Apple TV 4K features

The Apple TV 4K is a set-top box with access to Apple's App Store. Users can download various streaming apps, games, and other entertainment apps while gaining access to all Apple's services in one space.

The Apple TV 4K series was first introduced in 2017 with the ability to play 4K content. This third-generation model has an A15 Bionic processor, no fan, and a 128GB storage option. It also supports the Samsung-made HDR10+ spec.

The new box is smaller, and the Siri Remote now uses USB-C
The new box is smaller, and the Siri Remote now uses USB-C

The Siri Remote moved from Lightning to USB-C for its charging port. Nothing else was updated or changed, nor is there any Find My functionality.

The box itself is smaller and lighter thanks to having no fan, and the logo removed the "tv" text, so only the Apple logo remains. This won't make much difference to users since they'll likely hide it under or near the television and forget about it.

There are two versions available. The 128GB option has Thread networking and a Gigabit Ethernet port, while the 64GB option has neither.

With a $20 price difference between models, Apple clearly wanted to be able to say "now, with a new lower price" or other similar marketing catchphrases. Because of what you get for that $20, we recommend customers ignore the base model's existence.

Let's talk about the Ethernet situation. We get it, Wi-Fi is convenient.

But, if you have a peripheral on your network that you know is a bandwidth hog, you should wire it if you can. A video-streaming set-top device is the definition of a bandwidth hog.

The ultimate constraint to a device's speed is Internet speed. Unless you've got really slow internet access, in nearly every case, a Gigabit Ethernet network will be faster than wireless — and video streaming to it won't clog up your Wi-Fi network.

There are other issues beyond the scope of this review, like latency, and jitter, which will impact different aspects of the streaming and gaming experience. An Ethernet connection will lessen both to the device.

Outside of the hardware, the 2022 Apple TV 4K is identical to its previous models. It still runs tvOS, and all of the software works the same. Users might notice a slight improvement in game processing or fidelity, but only for certain titles.

We won't be diving into tvOS 16 in this review since it is unchanged for the new Apple TV 4K. Apple updated the Siri interface to be more compact alongside the new hardware launch, but that is available for all models running tvOS 16.1.

Using the 2022 Apple TV 4K

Anyone who has used an Apple TV since the HD model was released in 2015 will feel at home on the 2022 Apple TV 4K. Setup, downloading apps, and signing in to everything is the same as its been for years.

The 2022 Apple TV 4K won't be noticeably different for most upgraders
The 2022 Apple TV 4K won't be noticeably different for most upgraders

If Home Screen sync is left on and we begin filling that 128GB of storage, other Apple TVs that use the matching home screen feature will end up with a pile of grayed-out apps unable to download because of limited storage.

The sign-in experience has been vastly improved thanks to the Apple TV Remote feature on iPhone and iCloud Passwords. Our half-dozen streaming apps were signed in and ready to go in minutes.

Thread support was introduced in the 2021 Apple TV 4K model so that by itself isn't new. What is new is that the 2022 Apple TV 4K will act as a Thread border router and Homekit hub to ensure the network operates fast and efficiently. Apple's December run of operating system updates will improve HomeKit further thanks to reworking its foundation.

Theoretically, the A15 Bionic should improve some aspects of the smart home, though there's no way to tell and Apple hasn't said so. However, when the Apple TV is acting as a Home Hub, it helps process HomeKit requests and is constantly being fed streams from HomeKit Secure Video for analysis. More processing power and an improved neural engine likely help in this.

Users invested heavily in Apple Home gear should upgrade
Users invested heavily in Apple Home gear should upgrade

Users who routinely game on the Apple TV are a niche subset, but the 128GB of internal storage is significant for them. Install all the Apple Arcade titles and App Store games you care to play, and there will likely be space left over.

We enjoy titles like "Fantasian," "What The Golf," and "SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom" on the big screen in the living room, and the large game files are no longer an issue.

We hope that other game devs take advantage of the new Apple TV 4K. There is little reason why games like "Genshin Impact" or classic "Grand Theft Auto" titles shouldn't be available. We'd especially like to see Microsoft bring "Minecraft" back to the Apple TV with support for realms.

The increased storage is also good news for anyone who loves Apple TV screensavers. These video files are saved locally and are shown in 4K, so they take up a significant amount of storage. With 128GB of storage, users can easily store every screensaver and all their apps with room to spare.

Should you buy the 2022 Apple TV 4K?

Anyone in the market for a set-top box should get the 128GB Apple TV 4K, no questions asked. It is computationally the strongest one available and will perform much better than built-in smart TV operating systems, Amazon Fire, or Roku streaming boxes.

Streaming services know what you're watching, and you can't help that. With a smart TV app, Amazon Fire, or Roku, the streaming hardware manufacturer does too. As far as we can tell, Apple doesn't monitor this beyond what you watch on Apple TV+, so that's one less company keeping track of your viewing history.

The new Apple TV 4K has a smaller fanless design
The new Apple TV 4K has a smaller fanless design

Defining the market is a little more complicated. Anyone who doesn't already have an Apple TV, but subscribes to multiple Apple services, should consider the Apple TV 4K. Owners of the 2017 or older Apple TV models should upgrade for Thread support and faster processing.

Anyone with the 2021 Apple TV 4K can still consider upgrading despite the minimal changes in user experience. We recommend buying the new model for anyone with an HDR10+ television or who needs more internal storage for things like Apple Arcade games.

One of the best things about Apple TV 4K is its mobility as a product. Each time Apple releases a new model, we can buy it knowing the previous model will rotate to the bedroom TV, then other models moved further down. It is a good strategy for a multi-TV household.

If you take away anything from this review, take this: do not buy the 64GB Apple TV 4K. The $20 price difference is negligible, and the feature difference is everything. The only people that should consider the base model are those looking to put one in their elderly parent's home where smart home accessories will never be used, and even then, wait for a sale.

But connect it with Ethernet it if you can, even at Grandma's place.

Apple TV 4K Pros

  • 128GB storage
  • USB-C in Siri Remote
  • Improved performance for gaming
  • Potential for improved HomeKit functionality thanks to better neural engine
  • HDR10+ support

Apple TV 4K Cons

  • Almost no user-facing changes (besides USB-C and HDR10+)
  • 64GB model shouldn't exist or at least should be much cheaper

The Apple TV 4K is a purpose-built product that does its job well. Improvements in the 2022 model are welcome, but as with the last Apple TV 4K update, they only address some concerns.

The existence of the cheaper 64GB model offsets the score from being perfect, but that isn't the only thing. Apple needs to rethink tvOS and how users interact with media because the current app-based model doesn't feel right.

The 128GB Apple TV 4K is great for casual gaming
The 128GB Apple TV 4K is great for casual gaming

Apple should have designed the entire experience around Apple TV, not made it an app that users have to navigate to. This, of course, requires more streaming services to buy into the concept — which we're not certain will ever happen.

Regardless, this is a topic of discussion for another day.

Apple could also improve the Apple TV lineup with a cheaper model dedicated to streaming and nothing else. The sub-$99 price range isn't served at all by Apple, and the market could use an model in that range. Perhaps the entry 64GB model can take that place once components become cheaper to build.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV 4K is currently on sale at Amazon, with prices for the 2022 models dipping to as low as $124.99 at press time.

Markdowns on closeout versions of the streaming box are also available at Amazon, with prices falling to as low as $99.99 for 2021 models. You can find the latest deals and discounts in the AppleInsider Apple TV 4K Price Guide.