Still the best streaming box by a long shot

Still the best streaming box by a long shot

after apple Finally gave us a decent Siri remote last yearcouldn’t imagine the Apple TV 4K It’s getting much better. Not that anyone is crying out for an 8K upgrade – all we need these days is support for fast 4K streaming, as well as the multitude of HDR (high-definition range) formats out there. The new Apple TV 4K can easily meet those demands, but what’s really impressive is that it’s so much faster than before. Y it’s much cheaper at $129 (down from $179)! There is finally an Apple TV that I can recommend to anyone without hesitation.

Let’s start with what’s new: This year’s Apple TV 4K is powered by an A15 Bionic chip, which launched with the iPhone 13 (and is still used in the iPhone 14). That’s a huge leap forward from the 2018-era A12 in the previous model. The new box also comes with 64GB of storage, instead of a meager 32GB. If you plan on loading up on a ton of games and apps, there’s also a 128GB model for $149, which adds an Ethernet port and support for the Thread internet of things protocol. Finally, Apple has integrated support for HDR10+, which works similarly to Dolby Vision to deliver more accurate HDR in every scene.

At first glance, the Apple TV 4K looks the same as previous models: a sleek black box with obscenely rounded corners. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll notice that it’s actually smaller, like a rendering of its predecessor. Apple says it has 20 percent less volume than before, as a result of losing the fan from previous models (this one runs silently) and being powered by more efficient hardware. Apple didn’t say what, exactly, led to the dramatic price drop. But I bet it’s due to simpler manufacturing, as well as a drop in component price across the board.

If you want to hear me wax poetic about Apple’s Siri Remote, just check out my review of the latest Apple TV. I’m still in love with it a year later: it’s easy to hold, has all the basic features you want, and is much harder to lose than the previous super-slim remote. I’m still baffled why we were forced to use a glass-backed remote and shoddy touchpad on the original Apple TV 4K. Long live the new model and its touch-sensitive directional clickpad.

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Sure, the hardware is great, but what’s the software like? Setting up the Apple TV 4K is now surprisingly easy, assuming you’re already beholden to the Apple ecosystem. After plugging it in, I just had to tap my iPhone on the box to send my WiFi and iCloud credentials. I chose to sync my home screens, which made all the apps from my current Apple TV appear. At that point, all I had to do was log in to my usual streaming spots and I was good to go.

After using every Apple TV the company has released over the past decade, I had an immediate thought when I started using this new model: My God, this is fast. That’s not to say that the latest version was slow, by any means. But there’s a freshness to this year’s box that feels liberating. I can scroll through all the apps on my home screen with ease, launch Netflix a few seconds faster than before, and browse my movie library without breaking a sweat. No more slight loading delays or turnstiles.

It could just be that I’m experiencing the rush of a new device, one ordered for a year’s worth of use. But using the new Apple TV 4K feels like the difference between using an iPhone X and an iPhone 14 – it all just happens. fasterwith a greater sense of urgency. I found it most useful when I was switching between apps and different videos. As I catch up Cabinet of Curiosities of Guillermo del Toro on Netflix, I could quickly skip to my YouTube channels while my wife needed a bathroom break, then resume the spooky one when I got back. Again, this is something I frequently did with the previous box, but now the Apple TV feels completely clutter-free.

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Amid my display speed, I was also impressed to see that the Apple TV handles HDR 10+ without a hitch. The initial chase in no time to die it looked glorious, with excellent reflections on brightly lit European streets, but also solid shadow detail in darker scenes. That is the main attraction of HDR10 +. Like the original HDR 10 standard, it offers both brighter highlights and darker shadows. But, you can also adjust those settings based on the scene you’re watching, just like Dolby Vision. That avoids some issues commonly seen with HDR 10, where one HDR profile setting might not work well across a wide variety of scenes.

While testing Apple TV 4K on Samsung’s 55-inch Odyssey Ark monitor, I was also able to watch Dolby Vision titles from iTunes via HDR10+. That feature is particularly useful in Ark, as it doesn’t support Dolby Vision on its own. You can expect HDR10+ to work across all Apple TV+ offerings, as well as many titles available for rent or purchase. Amazon has also been pushing the standard for years, so you’ll find native HDR10+ support in all of its originals. (He looked particularly cool during the opening of The Peripheral.)

If you weren’t a fan of the Apple TV interface before, this new model won’t change your mind. But as someone who has tried much Of streaming devices, I continue to feel most comfortable with Apple TV. I appreciate its wide variety of apps, its seamless integration with iOS devices, and the overall polish that you don’t see in Roku’s software. Sure, you can use the Apple TV app on competing devices today (including Roku!), but that’s just a gateway to content. It’s not the same to live with an elegantly designed streaming interface on a day-to-day basis.

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Another advantage? The Apple TV actually has games you might want to play. I was able to load up Sonic Racing in a few seconds, pair an Xbox controller and start zooming around the track without much trouble. The A15 Bionic should allow for smoother performance in the most demanding games, but I’ve personally never seen anything that stresses these boxes that much.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the AppleTV this year: you don’t have to pay such a high premium to have it. At $129, it’s a bit more expensive than the $100 Roku Ultra, but you get a much stronger app platform and more features in return. The $149 model we reviewed is a smarter buy if you demand Ethernet or want to start using Thread IoT devices. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Thread-compatible hardware to test.) But even that model is a bit cheaper than the previous $179 Apple TV.

If you already bought last year’s Apple TV 4K for your new Siri remote, it’s probably not worth upgrading to this new box. But if you recently bought an HDR10+ TV, it may be worth taking the plunge, just to see the best possible HDR picture.

It took a while, but Apple finally managed to create the ideal streaming box: one that’s relatively inexpensive, packed with modern features, and fast. so damn fast.

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