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The new Apple TV 4K: New remote, faster processor, same $179 price

The latest version of the Apple TV 4K streaming box is available Friday, May 21.

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An all-new remote marks the biggest change in the new Apple TV box.

Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

After nearly three years -- an eternity in streaming -- Apple is finally giving the Apple TV 4K an upgrade. Available at Apple stores and online starting Friday, May 21, the new Apple TV 4K streaming device costs $179 (£169, AU$249) with 32GB storage, or $199 (£189, AU$279) with 64GB.

The biggest upgrade is the all-new Siri remote control. Silver in color instead of the original's black, it features a directional pad at the top (with gesture support), a Siri toggle on the side and a power button for controlling your TV. The new d-pad should address some of the complaints users had with the original remote, with its larger touchpad and lack of directional cues. If you have an original Apple TV 4K or Apple TV HD you'll be able to buy the new remote as a separate add-on for $59 to replace your existing clicker. 

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The new box itself looks basically the same as the old one, but insider there's an upgraded A12 Bionic processor. It should be better suited for modern home theaters and handling Apple's latest services, particularly its Apple TV Plus streaming video platform and Apple Arcade gaming service. The new box also has the ability to support high frame rate video, and AirPlay has been updated to support high-frame-rate HDR. 

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The old Apple TV 4K was introduced in September 2017 but has remained the company's go-to streaming device despite running a much older A10X processor. Like that model, the new Apple TV 4K can use higher-end technologies like Dolby Vision for picture and Dolby Atmos for sound, so long as you are streaming the proper content and have the box connected to a compatible TV, speaker or home theater setup. Apple TV also has a color balance feature that will pair the box with your iPhone to fine-tune the TV picture -- a new setting available on both the old and new Apple TV boxes.

Apple's latest TVOS software, which was announced at WWDC in June 2020, runs the show. It features support for 4K AirPlay streaming, picture-in-picture for video apps and camera integration from HomeKit-supported smart video cameras and doorbells. Apple Arcade, the company's video game subscription service, can also now support multiple Apple TV profiles and can be paired with the Xbox Elite Series 2 and Xbox Adaptive controllers, as well as the latest remotes for the Xbox Series X and the DualSense controller for the PlayStation 5.

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The new box comes amid increased competition in the fields of media streamers and smart TVs, with Roku and Amazon making up the lion's share of the market with their respective platforms, Roku and Fire TV. 

Google, which has its own rival smart TV options in Android TV and Google TV, sells its own $50 dongle, the Chromecast with Google TV.

We look forward to reviewing the new Apple TV 4K soon.