Get the Lowest Prices anywhere on Macs, iPads and Apple Watches: Apple Price Guides updated April 9th
 


Introduced during Apple's September event, the Apple TV 4K is the fifth generation Apple TV, with the newest version of the set-top box primarily adding the ability to stream at the higher resolution, making it a useful purchase to owners of Ultra HD televisions. This model is the new premium at $199 pushing the fourth generation down to a single 32GB $149 model.

AppleInsider 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 fourth and fifth generation models, 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 HD'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100Mbps Ethernet port has been switched out for Gigabit Ethernet, and the HDMI 1.4 port found on the Apple TV HD has been replaced by a HDMI 2.0a port. 

Apple TV 4K sees some minor changes to its external design compared to the 4. Apple TV 4K sees some minor changes to its external design compared to the Apple TV HD

The only other externally visible change between the two generations is the seeming removal of the USB-C connection. This port was intended for servicing the device, and not for use by customers, so the removal from view is unlikely to be a major issue for users. 

Despite the removal, it seems Apple retained a way to perform testing for support purposes. In October 2019, over two years after the initial launch of the device, it was discovered Apple hid Lightning connector terminals within the Ethernet port.

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

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 for controlling volume and a 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.  

The Siri Remote that ships with the Apple TV 4K (left) with the one from the fourth-generation Apple TV (right) The Siri Remote that ships with the Apple TV 4K (left) with the one from the Apple TV HD (right)

The Apple TV 4K supports output up to 4K 60fps and supports HEVC Dolby Vision and HDR10. Which means it can display high dynamic range content, allowing for more vibrant images when used with a compatible TV.

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.

Software

The latest Apple TV's runs tvOS which is a variant of iOS made for the large displays and remote control. With its integrated App Store, users can download apps across hundreds of providers. Apple Arcade, Apple Music, and Apple TV all live here alongside your favorite entertainment 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.” 

The Apple TV app aggregates data from multiple streaming services into one app experienceThe Apple TV app aggregates data from multiple streaming services into one app experience

There is also support for AirPlay 2, a connectivity protocol introduced with the HomePod, which allows 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 to be heard throughout a household. 

The Apple TV 4K can also be set up to match displayed contents original resolution and frame rate. Otherwise the Apple TV will attempt to apply HDR at 60fps to anything on screen, including the home menu. It is recommended that users set the default resolution to 4KSDR, then enable "match dynamic range" and "match frame rate" for best possible picture across all content.

To ensure best picture across all content, enable content matching and default to 4K SDR To ensure best picture across all content, enable content matching and default to 4K SDR.

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. 

Apple TV Channels

With the release of tvOS 12.3, Apple introduced a new Apple TV app experience across iOS devices and Apple TV, which fundamentally changed how users can sign up for streaming services. Under Apple TV Channels, users can subscribe to a selection of TV channels and offerings from streaming providers via the main Apple TV interface, all without requiring a download of a separate dedicated app, and allowing it all to be viewed within the same user interface.

Channels are a part of your Apple account and sync across all devices, including Apple TV 4KChannels are a part of your Apple account and sync across all devices, including Apple TV 4K

In effect, Apple TV Channels acts as an a-la-carte pay-TV subscription, with users being offered the opportunity to select and pay for just the channels they want to watch. Normal pay-TV services like cable and satellite typically require customers to buy large bundles, consisting of channels they want and others they have no interest in viewing, increasing the overall cost for consumers. 

Channels subscribed to via the system can be viewed by others within a household via Family Sharing, in a similar way to other online Apple services, with up to six family members able to share their subscriptions using their Apple ID and password. 

As of this writing you can subscribe to the following channels: HBO, Starz, CBS All Access, Showtime, epix, BET+, Cinemax, Smithsonian Channel, Shudder, Acorn TV, History Channel Vault, MTV Hits, Comedy Central Now, Sundance TV Now, IFC Films unlimited, PBS living, Curiosity Stream, Lifetime Movie Club, Urban Movie Channel, Up faith and family, Tastemade, Mubi, and Arrow Video Channel. 

tvOS

An update released in September 2019, Apple revised the interface in tvOS 13 to include a new Home screen that offered full-screen video previews of content.

Multi-user support was also added to enable users to enjoy personalized playlists and recommendations. This came in handy for Apple Music, which enables personalized playlists and recommendations for music, as well as showing onscreen lyrics to songs timed to appear in sync to the playing track. 

Support for Apple Arcade was also added to tvOS, allowing users to play games from Apple's game subscription service. As part of the service, users could play a selection of games on their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, and Apple TV, without needing to worry about microtransactions or other payments, aside from a monthly fee. 

To go along with the Apple Arcade support, the ability to connect the Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth and the PlayStation DualShock 4 to the Apple TV was also included, giving users a more familiar game console controller to use with the service. 

Apple also expanded the range of 4K HDR screen savers available on the tvOS. The videos included films made in collaboration with the BBC Natural History Unit, the team behind "Blue Planet," to show creatures and other entities that live within the world's oceans. 

Pricing and Sales

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. 

For a brief period before launch, the 64GB 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. On December 20 2017, Amazon ended its two-year block on Apple TV sales, reintroducing listings for the products in its online store.

 

Essential Reading