Apple Finally Unveils a New Apple TV 4K Streamer
While we’re accustomed now to annual refreshes of many parts of Apple’s product portfolio, the brand has historically been relatively slow about updating its Apple TV streaming box. Even though most rivals do at least annual refreshes of their own streaming devices.
Finally, Apple has decided that the time has come to replace the Apple TV 4K box that’s been with us for the best part of four years now. The newly announced updated version boasts a more powerful processor, a revamped and much more useful-looking remote control, and some genuinely interesting new tricks.
The new Apple TV 4K box swaps the current model’s A10X processor for Apple’s A12 Bionic SoC platform. This will see the new model’s operating system running more slickly and fluidly than even that of its predecessor, but will also power both more complex and graphically intense games (though Apple talked surprisingly little about this element of the new Apple TV at this initial launch event), as well as a selection of new video features.
The most initially exciting of these features is high frame rate (HFR) support. Despite reports emerging in recent weeks suggesting that the beta version of tvOS 14.5 includes support for 120Hz, Apple limited its HFR talk for the Apple TV to 60 frames a second at its official launch event.
It also claimed to be working with various content providers, including Fox Sports, Red Bull TV, Paramount+ and Canal+, on creating more 60Hz streaming content.
There’s 60Hz support on the new Apple TV 4K too, for recordings made in Dolby Vision from the iPhone 12 Pro, while another welcome frame rate tweak sees Apple’s new streamer being able to deliver both true 24.000 and 23.976fps frames a second. This should tackle the stuttering issue you can experience with some streaming platforms when using the current Apple TV 4K.
The most unexpected new video feature announced for the 2021 Apple TV 4K is automated colour calibration. If you’ve got an iPhone, you can hold it up to your TV screen; have it measure the screen’s output and compare the results against video industry standards; and then feed all the information over to your Apple TV 4K so that it can adjust its output to compensate for your TV’s inaccuracies. Resulting in more accurate looking pictures without you having to adjust a single setting on your TV manually. Very clever.
Note that both the automated colour calibration and 24.000/23.976fps features will also be rolling out to the previous Apple TV 4K box.
The new Siri remote looks like a big improvement on the cool but fiddly, ultra-thin remote supplied with the current Apple TV 4K. Its silvery aluminium finish contrasts beautifully with its black buttons, and those buttons protrude better from the remote’s front edge, making them easier to find by touch.
There’s a tactile new mic activation button on the side for activating Siri too. Best of all, the flat and over-sensitive touch-response navigation track pad on the current Apple TV 4K is replaced on the new model by a new clickpad control combining five-way navigation for better accuracy. You can use the circular outer ring as a ‘jog’ control for forwarding and rewinding through video sources.
It looks as if the new remote might not be quite as effective for Apple TV gaming as its predecessor - but the upcoming tvOS 14.5 is set to help out in this respect by adding support for both the PS5 Dual Sense and Xbox Series S/X controllers.
Other upgrades for the Apple TV 4K include Gigabit Ethernet support, WiFi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0. Plus, of course, you get all the features available with the previous Apple TV 4K, such as video streaming in up to 4K resolution, AirPlay 2 support, support for both Dolby Atmos audio and Dolby Vision video, and Apple’s HomeKit system.
As usual with Apple TV systems, the new Apple TV 4K will be available in separate 32GB and 64GB versions, priced in Australia at $249 and $279, respectively. Preorders will open in more than 30 countries on April 30, with orders shipping in the second half of May. Note, too, that if you like the look of the new Siri remote but don’t feel you need to upgrade your current Apple TV 4K box, you can get the new handset for $79.
Finally, the now fairly ancient Apple TV HD box will continue to be available - complete with the new Siri remote - for people who don’t have a 4K TV for $209.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.