Apple TV 4K review: Apple is finally selling more for less

Apple TV 4K review: Apple is finally selling more for less

advantage

  • Lower price than previous model
  • Better and faster performance
  • Better image than other competitors
  • Compatible with Bluetooth speakers

Cons

  • Without HDMI cable
  • Expensive if you only use it as a streaming device
  • No remote tracking

It’s been a good year for Apple as it released fresh new lineups of most of its devices: the iPhone 14 models, the new M2 MacBooks and iPads, and more. and a new one Apple TV 4K streaming device arrives on November 4, with a new price tag to match.

This third-generation Apple TV 4K is $50 cheaper than the previous model, starting at just $129. Yet it’s also faster, thanks to its more compact and more efficient A15 Bionic chip, with 30% lower power consumption. It supports Dolby Vision, Atmos, and HDR10+ for clear, high-contrast video streaming.

With this device, Apple aims to unite everyone around the television, from moviegoers to gamers to smart home users, offering faster performance and more personalization than ever before.

specs

Dimensions 1.2 x 3.6 x 3.6 inches
remote dimensions 5.4 x 1.4 x 0.3 inches
remote weight 2.3 ounces
Storage 64GB and 128GB
Processor A15 bionic chip
connectivity Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6, Dual Band 2.4 GHz and 50 GHz – Thread, and Gigabit Ethernet on W-Fi + Ethernet model
Frames per second up to 60fps
video formats 4K – Dolby Vision – HDR10+

What is Apple TV 4K?

Apple TV 4K and remote control upright on a table

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Apple TV 4K is a little black box that plugs into your TV to serve two or more of three purposes: to become your new streaming device, to make your TV smart, and to be a smart home hub for HomeKit.

The new generation of Apple TV 4K comes in two versions: The $129 model it uses Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, and has power and HDMI ports, and a storage capacity of 64GB. the $149 model it supports Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as Thread networking, and has power, HDMI, and Ethernet ports, and doubles the storage capacity to 128GB. Both devices feature the A15 bionic chip and support Wi-Fi 6, 4K, SDR video up to 60fps, Dolby Vision, and HDR+.

Compared to the previous generation of the product, it is 4mm shorter in height and 5mm smaller, as well as half the weight, at just 7.5 ounces.

Also: 10th-gen iPad review: Confusingly good

Both versions of the new Apple TV 4K also come with the Siri Remote, a slim but surprisingly sturdy rechargeable Bluetooth remote, complete with Siri built-in. By speaking to the remote, you can ask Siri the usual things, like a joke or where your iPhone is, and you can also search for a movie title, ask what the on-screen character just said, or tell her to show you the feed. of your outdoor camera.

With the new updates, Siri will be able to recognize up to six people, so everyone in your household can have a personalized profile with personalized selections. If someone was watching TV and left their profile on, you can ask Siri to switch to yours and it will recognize and do it.

Outside the Box

The setup process for Apple TV 4K is pretty straightforward if you have an iPhone and an HDMI cable: just plug in your new device, place your phone nearby, and follow the instructions to set it up.

I found the setup process to be very easy to use, especially since you can simply use your iPhone to complete it instead of having to enter your passcode multiple times on a streaming device. Your iPhone also works as a remote control, so you can use it to easily enter login information.

But keep in mind that while the Apple TV 4K comes with a power cable and Siri remote, it doesn’t come with an HDMI cable, which must be purchased separately.

Not including an HDMI cable is a very Apple thing, I know. But that makes this device not as accessible as it could be. Someone who is not very tech-savvy might be disappointed to bring it home only to find that it requires finding or buying another cable to make it work.

Furthermore, critics have long pointed out that Apple has been selling the same square black box for years, while competitors switch to more aesthetic designs or formats that are less noticeable, such as transmission sticks. That’s still true for the new version – if you’re wondering how the latest Apple TV 4K device would fit into your home decor, I’m here to tell you that it probably isn’t.

Better performance for a lower price?

Apple TV 4K from above

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

In picture quality, the Apple TV 4K outperformed our other 4K-resolution streaming devices at home, which are the Fire TV Bar 4K and the Roku Stick 4K, as well as the quality of the image when using WebOS on our LG TV. Not only was the picture much sharper and more detailed with Apple TV 4K, but the dynamic range was superior.

The $129 Wi-Fi-only model has the same storage capacity as the most expensive previous-gen model, which retailed for $199 (usually now available at a discount). Even without the Ethernet port, the new base version is still an upgrade over previous best models, with faster performance, a smaller size, and less power consumption at a lower price.

That said, it still ranks as one of the most expensive streaming sticks on the market, with competitors like the Fire TV Stick 4K, Roku Streaming Stick 4K, and chrome cast Retailing as low as $50, even lower during sales.

Still, if you enjoy Apple products and the way they work together, then this is the streaming device for you – it even lets you control compatible smart devices.

Apple TV 4K as a smart home hub

Apple TV 4K and remote control on a table with home decor

The Apple TV 4K keeps the previous design with a matte top and glossy Apple logo and sides, albeit in a slightly more compact box.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

HomeKit, which is Apple’s smart home automation system, requires a HomePod Mini or Apple TV 4K as a hub. If you’re looking for a new smart home system or already have smart home devices but want to control them with a single app, Apple TV 4K gives you this capability.

Once you set up your new Apple TV 4K, just follow the steps to add it to the Home app on your iPhone. Then simply add your HomeKit-enabled devices on your iPhone and you can control them using Siri through your TV. You can ask Siri to run scenes or show you a live feed from a security camera.

Although HomeKit is one of the most demanding smart home systems for security and data privacy reasons, the release of matter it should expand the spectrum of compatible devices available in a matter of months. The Apple TV 4K Wi-Fi + Ethernet model also supports Thread, a wireless communication technology for smart home devices, making it a better choice for smart home users than the Wi-Fi model.

I already have a HomePod Mini at home, so I didn’t need to use the Apple TV 4K as a hub. I enjoyed using the HomePod Mini with the Apple TV 4K, combining its video stream with the speaker’s rich audio, for a more immersive listening experience.

You can also create a stereo pair of two HomePod Minis for a full home theater feel, and I’ve had good experience pairing the Apple TV 4K with an Echo Studio. You can even connect the device to another Bluetooth speaker, like a sound bar.

Siri’s remote

Siri Remote on a table

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Siri Remote’s design is thicker and larger than the original Siri Remote that came with the first-generation Apple TV a few years ago. Supposedly this is to make it harder to misplace or lose it among the sofa cushions, but I’m not too sure about that. Apple has not met my husband.

This man is the reason we switched to keyless door locks: he’s lost phones, more keys than I can count, and about three pairs of headphones; he even accidentally dropped his car keys once.

Not more than 12 hours after the Apple TV 4K was temporarily housed with us, it went and lost the remote. (Unsurprisingly, we found it later among the sofa cushions.)

Turns out you can see the remote when it’s connected via Bluetooth to the Apple TV 4K device, but you can’t track it. AirTag maker Apple didn’t think putting a Find My-compatible tracker on the Siri remote would be a good idea.

An AirTag costs, what, $30? But then this is the same company that sells a 4K-quality streaming device without an HDMI cable.

Which Apple TV 4K should I buy?

Model Comparison

Maria Diaz/ZDNET | Apple
Comparison wifi only Wi-Fi + Ethernet
Price $129 $149
Storage 64GB 128GB
connectivity WiFi 6 Wi-Fi 6, Ethernet, Wire
Processor A15 bionic chip A15 bionic chip

Both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Ethernet models are great options, especially if you’re deep in the Apple ecosystem. If you’re an Apple fan and just need a great streaming stick that delivers fantastic picture quality, I’d recommend the 64GB Wi-Fi-only model.

If you’re a smart home user, and especially if you like HomeKit, then the Apple TV 4K Wi-Fi + Ethernet will give you all the benefits of the base model, plus a future-proof smart home hub with Thread, Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. and double the storage capacity.

When making these comparisons, keep in mind that if you choose the Wi-Fi model, you can still use your Apple TV 4K as a HomeKit hub and add a Thread router to your home, such as a HomePod Mini, Echo, Nest Hub, or Hub Max, or a Eero mesh systemfor instance.

Bottom line: Is an Apple TV 4K worth it?

This device costs more than its competitors, and that’s mostly because of all the extra features you get with it. You’re not just buying a streaming device; you’re buying an ecosystem, one that can make your home smarter, more convenient, and more enjoyable. So I would say that if you are just looking for a streaming device then this may not be worth it for you.

The Apple TV 4K is definitely worth a look for those who will enjoy those features beyond everyday streaming the most, like smart home control and immersive home theater. And it boosts picture quality noticeably, so I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an upgrade over video from their current streaming device.

Are there any alternatives worth considering?

If you’re looking for a high-quality 4K streaming device and you’re not sure if the Apple TV 4K is the best for your needs, there are plenty of alternatives worth considering. Here are some:

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