Apple TV 4K test: the best TV streamer – if you're ready to spend money – CNET

Apple TV 4K

Update: summer 2019

This review was first published in September 2017 when the Apple TV 4K was first released, and has been updated significantly since then. After almost two years on the market and numerous upgrades, the Apple TV 4K is still our first choice for video streamers Dolby Vision HDR and a first-class user experience.

Apple TV 4K has had one since launch App for Amazon Prime Video and added Dolby Atmos As part of the TVOS 12 update, make it best streamer also for Atmos fans, The The Apple TV app was updated in May 2019 with a new channels option and iTunes integration. A software update for TVOS 13 that will be available in fall 2019 will add support for multiple user accounts as well as Xbox and PlayStation game controllersthat will be particularly useful once the Apple arcade game service will also start later this year.

In other words, Apple TV 4K is getting better. The original non-4K Apple TV HD remains on sale for $ 150, however my advice pay the additional $ 30 for the Apple TV 4K. If you own a 4K or HDR TV, you benefit immediately, and even if you don't, chances are that your next TV will be available 4K and HDR compatible,

The biggest competition for the Apple TV 4K comes from Roku and Amazon, especially the Roku Streaming Stick Plus and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, At less than half the price, both are better values ​​than the Apple TV 4K for most people, and the Roku is still our preferred streamer for the money.

No price, but the Apple TV 4K is the best. And it's not really that expensive, especially considering the cost of the high-end TV and audio devices that make them look and sound great. With its extensive support for 4K, HDR and audio formats, its slim design and its constant upgrades, the Apple TV 4K is awarded the Editors & # 39; Choice Award.

Apple TV 4K

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Apple TV 4K is the best 4K streamer ever.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Apple's 4K streaming box is undoubtedly the best product of its kind. However, you should only buy one if you want a premium experience and are willing to pay for it.

It combines the best streaming quality available today – including Dolby Vision HDR video that no other streamer offers and Dolby Atmos audio – with the smoothest and most elegant feel. It's as fast and powerful as any other streamer. And if you've just bought an expensive 4K HDR TV, the price of upgrading to an Apple TV seems like a very worthwhile drop in the bucket.

The Roku Streaming Stick PlusIt now costs less than half and is almost as good. Both basically do the same very well, and Roku has its own key advantages that go beyond the price. Roku has even more 4K apps, including YouTube, whose numerous 4K and HDR videos are not available on Apple TV 4K. Rokus's platform is more content neutral and I like the price-oriented search results.

So what do I mean by "experience"? Apple TV has one path More beautiful remote controls, slimmer controls, better looking menus, updated apps, superior voice search and control, and great access to movies and TV shows bought by other services like Vudu and Amazon thanks to the integration of Movies Anywhere in iTunes. In everyday life, Apple TV simply feels better.

In the end, Roku's value proposition is a better choice for most people. However, if you are looking for the best product regardless of price, this is the Apple TV 4K.

Apple TV 4K basics

Before I go into the details, here's a look at the latest additions and key facts about Apple TV 4K.

  • The Apple TV 4K has all the important video streaming apps you could want and is the only streamer with Apple's TV app, which provides a central location for browsing videos from a variety of services.
  • In addition to Atmos Audio, the current tvOS 12 operating system brings a number of improvements, such as zero sign-on for TV apps for some cable subscribers, compatibility with third-party remote controls, and new screensavers. Here are all the details,
  • With a software update, you can adjust settings to disable video, menu and game conversion to HDR and a fixed frame rate. Check the details and my recommended settings. exactly here,
  • When this review was originally published, Apple's iTunes was unique in charging the same price for 4K and HD movies. Competing services such as Vudu have now followed, most of which are offered at the same price.
  • Apple TV can recognize it and pair it with it AirPods for private listening, adds AirPlay 2 Support with multiroom audio and an automatic activation setting Dark room mode based on local time.
  • You can synchronize the home pages of multiple Apple TVs in your household and automatically mirror their arrangements and folders. When you download an app onto one, it is added to another.
Apple TV 4K

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Remote control upside down? Put a ring on it

I've always loved the Apple TV remote that comes with a touchpad. Browsing menus and videos with one thumb feels smooth and futuristic. I appreciate the size and number of buttons and the quality of the materials, from metal to glass to the matt touchpad.

Read: Best Apple TV remote control cases for less than $ 10

For many others, the Apple TV remote is the least-loved feature of Apple TV. In fact, if I don't attach the lanyard or a removed bag, I occasionally pick it up the wrong way round and start wiping the bottom glass, not the top pad. A clever, ultra-minimalist design touch solves this problem admirably on the Apple TV 4K remote control: the menu button has a white ring. It is now clear at a glance which end is imminent. Apple also adds this white ring to the original Apple TV remote. Bravo!


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Left: Apple TV 4K. Right: Apple TV (with the old remote control).

Sarah Tew / CNET

Back in black

The box itself looks exactly like its predecessor. The only visible difference between the two is absence a USB-C port on the back of the new one. Apple told me that it was only used for service and is no longer needed.

Apple's A10X Fusion processor is under the hood – the same one used in the iPad Pro – for faster processing and graphics than the A8 chip in the 2015 model. However, both boxes felt equally fast to me. Maybe future games will use the new processor.

The Apple TV 4K is available in 32GB and 64GB configurations. If you don't download a lot of big games, 32 GB is enough because the box streams pretty much everything else (videos, photos, etc.) and the storage is primarily used for apps.

The updated connections include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi with simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and Bluetooth 5.0. The video is now out HDMI 2.0a Support 4K HDR video. The Apple TV 4K can handle Dolby Digital Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos Audio.

However, the Apple TV 4K is still not compatible with YouTube's 4K or HDR videos. "YouTube relies on the VP9 codec "The new Apple TV doesn't support VP9, ​​so we can't deliver 4K resolution on this device." In other words, don't expect 4K and HDR videos / or HDR YouTube videos on Apple TV anytime soon.

This is not a big loss as YouTube's normal 1080p videos look very good. However, YouTube fans who insist on top-quality images should choose another device that delivers them in 4K quality, like Roku's 4K players or the Chromecast Ultra,