Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money

The Apple TV 4K remains the greatest all-around streamer, even if tvOS is falling behind in spots, because it packs more speed than ever (and now HDR10 Plus) at a cheaper price.

Apple’s most recent entertainment box, the Apple TV 4K, is also the company’s most powerful and feature-packed product to date. And the starting price has been reduced to $129, making it more affordable than before but still not exactly low cost. The new Apple TV, which is now in its third generation, is powered by the same chip as the iPhone 13 from the previous year — true overkill for a streaming player, one could argue — and it has adopted support for the HDR10 Plus format that is common on Samsung TVs, which have long lacked Dolby Vision. The new Apple TV also supports Dolby Vision, which has been absent for a long time. A USB-C port has also been added to the Siri Remote, which is a change that will undoubtedly be made to the iPhone in the near future.

The actual piece of hardware is substantially lighter and a little bit smaller than the second-generation 4K from the previous year. This is because Apple has substituted a passive thermal design for the active cooling fan that was previously present in the device (yes, there was a fan in there before). However, when viewed as a whole, it appears to be the same old Apple TV that has a matte top and glossy edges that attract dust. This is a box that can be placed on a shelf and communicates with your television through the use of an HDMI cable that is many feet in length but must be purchased separately. On top, there is only an Apple logo; there is no longer any “tv” branding. Apple officially put an end to production of the antiquated Apple TV HD after revealing the new product, which will be available for purchase on November 4th.

Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money

Apple TV 4K (third generation)

Excellent
PROS
More wallet-friendly compared to the model before it
performance that is always quick and responsive, no matter what
A demonstration of several Apple ecosystem hacks
The Siri Remote now includes a USB-C port.
CONS
Base model lacks ethernet
There is no position tracking feature for the remote like AirTag.
Integration of live TV that is not very impressive
There has has to be some approach that can breathe new life into this design by this point.

As a result, 4K video with HDR is the norm currently. However, there is still a significant gap between the two different models of the Apple TV 4K that Apple is offering. To start, the variant with 64GB of storage does not have an ethernet port. To get gigabit ethernet, twice as much storage space, and support for Thread networking, you will need to shell out an additional twenty dollars. The latter is a crucial element in terms of future-proofing, especially for those interested in smart homes. Both versions are capable of serving as hubs for Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem; however, only the version with 128GB of storage and a price tag of $149 is completely ready for Thread and Matter-enabled Thread accessories. If you go with the more affordable model, you’ll need to get a separate Thread border router (like Apple’s HomePod Mini) so that you don’t miss out on the universal smart home when it finally becomes available.

The Apple TV 4K, which now comes equipped with Apple’s A15 Bionic CPU, is much quicker and more responsive than its predecessors. To tell you the truth, the previous generation of hardware was already rather fast. The only area in which I have noticed an increase in speed due to the new hardware is when I bring up the multitasking view or the app switcher. There is never even the slightest indication of a stammer in any of the performances. Apple claims that loading times for apps have been improved, although if you’re coming from a 4K device, you probably won’t notice much of a change in this regard. Those users upgrading from Apple TV HD are the ones who will notice and enjoy this significant increase in speed the most. Nothing ever feels choppy or even comes close to feeling choppy on the tvOS operating system. It is a simple and uncomplicated user experience that does not include any of the homescreen advertisements or sponsored material that you are frequently presented with by Amazon and Roku. For a consumer electronic device geared toward entertainment, the A15 Bionic packs an absurd amount of horsepower. I believe that its primary objective is to free up additional space and increase the visual potential of upcoming games for those users of the platform who will really be playing those games. Even while Apple Arcade has never really caught on, tvOS now supports a huge number of third-party game controllers.

In the BoxApple TV 4K, Siri Remote, Power cord, Documentation
NetworkingWi‑Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
PortsHDMI 2.1
Height1.2 inches (31 mm)
Width3.66 inches (93 mm)
Depth3.66 inches (93 mm)
Weight7.3 ounces (208 g)

When viewed from a distance, the relatively low level of ambition that tvOS possesses is one of the contributing factors to its user-friendliness. The Apple TV has not been successful in revolutionizing the way in which we view and appreciate movies and television shows. Apple’s attempt to find a place on the TV screen for popular mobile apps like Airbnb never panned out: a number of early tvOS apps are buried in cobwebs and haven’t seen updates in years. The future of TV may lie in apps, but only if you’re talking about the exact same streaming must-haves that are available on competing platforms like Roku, Fire TV, and Google TV. Many people have completely given up looking for jobs.

The tvOS homescreen is still organized as a grid of apps, the same as it has been since the beginning. The Apple TV app is where you can find both the individualized suggestions and the watchlist that you created with Up Next. It is the location where users may stream Apple TV Plus originals as well as rent or purchase content. You can subscribe to some streaming services here (a idea that is scarcely groundbreaking any longer), and then watch programming from those channels without having to switch back and forth between apps.

Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money

However, the big powerhouses, like HBO, don’t interface with Apple TV channels, so you’ll still need to use their respective apps to get their content if you want to watch it. At the very least, you may find them in the Up Next row and scattered throughout the recommendations section. Shows from Hulu, Disney Plus, and a great number of other services also make appearances. The features of the Apple TV app include live sports scores as well as a section that is specifically designed for children. It’s possible that the fact that it’s separated from the homescreen in such a significant way is the reason why I don’t wind up using what’s supposed to be a key hub very frequently.

Moreover, there are still a number of areas in which Amazon, Google, and Roku are well ahead of Apple, most notably in terms of live television. Fire TV and Google TV have made the astute decision to integrate streaming TV services such as Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV directly into the operating system. This provides users with easy access to individual channels and even offers a guide that is analogous to the one found on traditional cable television.

The Live TV experience on the Apple TV 4K is not nearly as satisfying as it ought to (or might) be.

The Apple TV 4K is not capable of reaching those levels. You can instruct Siri to pull up channels in applications like FuboTV and DirecTV Stream, but the vast majority of other popular live TV providers aren’t supported to begin with. This gets you part of the way there. However, while some service providers, such as Spectrum, enable you to use the Apple TV as a set-top box and access your entire channel bundle through their software, this is distinct from the integration of these apps and programming into the core tvOS software.

In my review of the most recent iteration of the Fire TV Cube that I published earlier this week, I mentioned that I was able to tell Alexa, “Alexa, tune to ESPN on Sling TV.” From a power-off state, my television would turn on, the appropriate HDMI input would take control, and the Fire TV would launch into live programming in a matter of seconds. I really wish I could say the same thing about the Apple TV 4K, but the cohesiveness isn’t quite as strong. If you have a HomePod or HomePod Mini, the hands-free voice component is available to you, and you may use your single sign-on credentials to access particular applications such as ESPN, CNN, or CBS. However, the time has come for Apple to integrate some of these streaming TV providers in a more robust manner. Including a schedule of live content within the Apple TV app would surely encourage me to use it on a more frequent basis.

The conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that the Apple TV 4K is not going to revolutionize the way that people watch television in the way that they are accustomed to it today. But for those who are heavily invested in Apple’s hardware and services ecosystem, it has the potential to provide a delightful experience and outstanding capability that spans many devices.

tvOS is one of the best examples of how Apple’s software can be used across different devices.

This begins with the process of setting up the device; after plugging it in, simply holding an iPhone in close proximity to the Apple TV causes your Apple account information, Wi-Fi credentials, and preferred settings to be transmitted to the new device. It took less than two minutes for it to completely restore the layout of my homescreen and download all of the apps that I had on the previous device. You can use your iPhone as a remote control, and even more effectively, you can use its familiar keyboard to log in to any of those apps. This makes the iPhone a very versatile device. You can use Face ID or Touch ID to authenticate your purchases and rentals, and you can pair AirPods with an Apple TV for private listening or watch something with friends via SharePlay from a distance. Although other platforms do enable Bluetooth earphones and have capabilities that are comparable to those of Apple’s remote, in my experience using all of them, Apple’s execution is the smoothest. Apple Fitness Plus now now sync with an iPhone as well as an Apple Watch, so users who don’t have a watch can still view workout stats on their televisions. AirPlay is still available so that material can be simply beamed from another device onto the large screen, and the Siri Remote can be used to control smart home devices that are compatible with HomeKit.

It would be wonderful to have a proper Home app on the Apple TV 4K itself, especially when it serves as a hub for that universe, but for the time being, you’re stuck with using Siri commands, running your favorite scenes, and viewing camera feeds in Control Center. It would be great to have a proper Home app on the Apple TV 4K itself. Multiple user profiles can still be used with the Apple TV 4K, and later on this year, Siri will be able to discern between the voices of up to six different users so that it can swap profiles or offer up personalized recommendations for each of them. However, Apple’s approach to profiles still requires more development, including the addition of individual homescreens for each user. Streaming software developers have a bad habit of not bothering to integrate their individual user profiles with their tvOS profiles. As a result, the concept is only relevant for Apple’s first-party services and not much else.

Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money

In reference to Siri, Apple’s tvOS 16.1 has lately delivered a more condensed version of the on-screen interface for the company’s speech assistant. The pulsating Siri logo appears in the lower right corner of the screen when it is activated, and any visual responses (results of movie searches, weather forecasts, etc.) are moved to the right side of the screen in a vertical list so that they do not interfere with whatever it is that you are currently watching. It is a much-appreciated simplification that makes Siri feel not only useful but also unobtrusive. Despite this, there are still a significant number of searches that result in the message “I can’t help you search for it here.” I am aware that Siri’s primary function on Apple TV is to provide entertainment, but in comparison to Alexa and Google Assistant, it has a far narrower scope of capabilities. Siri on tvOS will not solve a straightforward math problem for you and she won’t identify the current president of the United States if you ask her. However, you can ask Siri for the latest sports scores. The Apple Assistant has to be more uniform across all of Apple’s platforms.

The only difference between this generation’s Siri Remote and the one that came before it is that this one uses USB-C instead of Lightning. Once you master the rotational gesture for quickly scrubbing through a movie or show using the clickpad, you’ll rarely bother with the older method of fast-forwarding and rewinding because it’s not as efficient. This is one of the many reasons why this is a largely positive aspect: it’s ergonomic and easy to use. I really, really wish that Apple had incorporated an U1 chip in the new remote, since this would have made it simple to locate with pinpoint accuracy by using an iPhone that was in close proximity. Even if that wasn’t possible, a built-in speaker would have been helpful for issuing commands like “Siri, find my remote.” Even while this version of the remote isn’t as ridiculously thin as the one that came before it, it’s still possible for any of us to misplace it. My wish list for the next version of the Siri Remote already includes illumination, and you can add a raised nub on the play/pause button to make it easier to find by feel as well.

Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money

When it comes to its capabilities as a home theater device, almost everything remains the same as it was with the previous generation of Apple TV 4K; however, HDR10 Plus and Dolby Vision have also been added to the video output options. Apple’s original programming is now available to stream in the format, which is excellent news for owners of Samsung TVs. Additionally, many movies that can be rented or purchased in Dolby Vision should also fall back to HDR10 Plus on televisions that are compatible with that format. Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus both offer the same primary advantage, which is the use of dynamic metadata to enable alterations to be made to the picture on a per-frame basis that are in line with the director’s vision. You can still use the standard configuration options for synchronizing the frame rate and dynamic range, but you should prioritize the former if you want to prevent the Apple TV 4K from operating in HDR mode at all times.

The third-generation Apple TV 4K comes with yet another piece of future-proofing up its sleeve: later this year, a software update will add support for a feature that is known as QMS VRR. This makes it possible for compatible TVs to switch between different frame rates without any black screens or noticeable picture interruptions. You want to know how many TVs can be used with QMS VRR, don’t you? As of right now, there are none. However, you should start to see them on the market the year after next; in the meantime, look watch for more news regarding this feature to be announced at CES. Even while the brief flicker that occurs when switching frame rates has never really troubled me, I can say with certainty that I won’t miss it.

Compare Apple TV products

2022 Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wifi2022 Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi‑Fi + Ethernet2021 Apple TV 4K2021 Apple TV HD
Capacity64GB128GB32GB, 64GB32GB
Video Output2160p, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and High Frame Rate HDR2160p, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and High Frame Rate HDR2160p, Dolby Vision, HDR10 and High Frame Rate HDR1080p up to 60fps
Audio OutputDolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound and Dolby AtmosDolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound and Dolby AtmosDolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound and Dolby AtmosDolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound
ProcessorA15 Bionic chip with 64-bit architectureA15 Bionic chip with 64-bit architectureA12 Bionic chip with 64-bit architectureA8 chip with 64-bit architecture
Siri RemoteYesYesYesYes

Anyone who is still using the antiquated HD model might consider purchasing the Apple TV 4K, which can be purchased for $129. If you want to have the most immersive and satisfying experience possible with your home theater, this streaming box is a speed demon that checks off all the essential requirements. And the price has been reduced to a level that is more acceptable. It is still more expensive than budget streaming sticks like Roku and Fire TV, but paying the additional money allows you to avoid having ads plastered all over the homescreen and provides some peace of mind that Apple isn’t as interested in tracking your viewing habits at every waking moment as some of its competitors are. If you consider yourself to be an audio/video nerd, I wouldn’t think twice about shelling out the additional twenty dollars for the 128GB edition that offers compatibility for both Thread and ethernet. It will not prevent the Apple TV 4K from degrading over time, but it will extend its lifespan. This upgraded model, which costs $149, is still less expensive than the previous-generation 4K television, which cost $179 and only came with 32GB of storage space.

Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money

If you already own an Apple TV 4K and have been waiting with bated breath for HDR10 Plus, there is no compelling reason to switch from a previous model to this one. The only exception to this is if you have a Samsung 4K TV in your living room and have been waiting with bated breath for it. There is a low probability that you will notice any of the performance enhancements, and considering that Thread / Matter is just just getting off the ground, there is plenty of time to wait for whatever Apple has in store for the next iteration of the Apple TV. It is no longer necessary to innovate television. The Apple TV 4K, much like a lot of other items that Apple has released this year, makes its case through progressive refinement.


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Apple's most recent entertainment box, the Apple TV 4K, is also the company's most powerful and feature-packed product to date. And the starting price has been reduced to $129, making it more affordable than before but still not exactly low cost. The new Apple...Review of Apple TV 4K (third generation): superior performance for less money