Apple just announced its next-generation Apple TV 4K – the most powerful one yet, according to the company. And with a starting price of $129 / £149 / AU$205, it’s also notably less expensive than the previous Apple TV 4K released in 2021.
The biggest change over previous Apple TV 4K versions is the company’s use of the A15 Bionic chip, the same one used in recent model iPhones and the iPad Mini (6th generation). Another key update is HDR10+, which is now supported along with the Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range formats.
Apple’s new streaming box will be sold in two configurations. One is Wi-Fi-only with 64GB of storage. A step-up model packs 128GB of storage and also features Gigabit Ethernet with thread mesh networking for enhanced smart home device support.
The company's press release touted the speed benefits brought on by the A15 Bionic chip, which will boost CPU performance of the already speedy Apple TV 4K by 50 percent. Notably, GPU performance gets a speed boost of up to 30 percent over the previous version, which will improve responsiveness and graphics performance when playing games.
Apple's 4K streamer will also feature a new Siri remote with USB-C charging – a big change from earlier generations, which used a Lightning connection. According to the company, new features coming to tvOS this fall will improve Siri voice search and control functions, with the ability to recognize and respond to different users’ voices so they can easily resume navigation where they left off.
The new WiFi-only Apple TV 4K can be ordered today for $129 / £149 / AU$205, and the Wi-Fi plus Gigabit Ethernet version for $149 / £169.00 / AU$240. Both models will be available starting on Friday, November 4.
Analysis: One more small step for Apple TV 4K
Apple’s unveiling of a next-gen Apple TV 4K amidst its scheduled iPad and iPad Pro announcements took me by surprise. A new version of the company’s streaming box was expected by the end of the year, but not this far in advance of the Black Friday selling season.
Looking over the list of specs and features on the new Apple TV 4K, I’m not feeling any pressing need to make an upgrade from the last version that the company released in 2021.
HDR10+ support is a benefit, although 4K movies and TV shows featuring that HDR format are considerably more limited than ones with Dolby Vision and regular HDR10. And the new Siri remote with a USB-C port is another advancement, although one that’s not entirely unexpected given international pressure on Apple to switch over to USB-C from its proprietary Lightning port for charging. (USB-C ports can also be found on the new iPad models that Apple just released.)
And that’s where my list of welcome Apple TV 4K updates ends. The speed boosts that the A15 Bionic chip brings about almost seem like overkill in a device that was already sufficiently fast and responsive – more so than other streamers.
Let’s also discuss what the next-gen Apple TV 4K is lacking. There’s no support for 8K video output. And while it could be argued that availability of 8K content is extremely limited, that sort of feature is something you’d expect from a premium product like Apple’s streamer. Also, while the bundled Siri remote control now has the more universal USB-C port for charging, there’s no MagSafe or Qi wireless charging option.
Remote controls also regularly get lost between the sofa cushions, right? That’s why it was surprising to learn the new Apple TV 4K’s Siri remote is missing the company’s proprietary U1 ultra-wideband chip.The U1 is the same chip used in AirTags and for using your iPhone to locate the AirPods Pro 2’s case – another small object that can get easily lost.
The Apple TV 4K’s best new feature just may be its lower price compared with the previous models, although it’s still high enough that most will instead opt for a cheaper Roku Ultra or Fire TV Stick 4K Max for streaming, or simply rely on the apps in their smart TV’s interface.
Apple’s new streaming device is certainly an upgrade – just not enough of an upgrade that I imagine anyone will be motivated to run out and buy it.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.