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Apple's little box is an expensive buddy for your big 4K HDR TV

With the capability to stream in 4K and high dynamic range, Apple's latest TV box offers peak picture, for a high price.

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David Katzmaier
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The Apple TV 4K delivers 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR), the highest-quality streaming formats available. It starts at $179, £179 or AU$249.  

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The Apple TV (left) and the Apple TV 4K (right) look almost exactly the same.

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The back panel of the 4K box is spare and lacks the USB-C port found on its predecessor. It was only used for service, and Apple says it's not necessary anymore. 

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The touchpad remote is the same too -- except for the raised white ring around the menu key.

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It allowed me to easily tell which end was up, making acidental swipes less of an issue. Apple is adding the ring to the 1080p box's remote too.

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To get the best picture quality, hook the Apple TV 4K up to a TV with 4K, HDR and/or Dolby Vision.

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Apple's "TV" app is on-board too, but unfortunately it doesn't yet break out 4K TV shows.

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All the familiar apps are on-board, but only Netflix and iTunes support 4K (for now). Amazon, complete with 4K and HDR, is coming before the end of 2017.

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Anyone who's used the old box will be familiar with the new one. That touchpad remote makes navigation slick and fun.

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Apple's awesome Aerial screensavers get a 4K makeover too.

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The Apple TV 4K delivers Dolby Vision HDR to compatible TVs, which is great...

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...unfortunately it also delivers non-Dolby Vision content in Dolby Vision, which can get confusing. This movie, despite the pop-up, isn't actually in Dolby Vision. LG is working on a fix.

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Since Dolby Vision and HDR make the menus brighter too, you might want to turn on Dark mode.

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It puts a nice black background behind the menus.

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You can hold the mic button and talk into Apple TV 4K's remote.

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Just ask for 4K movies...

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...and a list appears.

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There are limits, however.

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Apple's iTunes Movies store has a good selection of 4K titles.  

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4K and HDR rentals and purchases aren't cheap...

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...but many of them cost less on iTunes than competing services, at least for now.

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4K on iTunes also typically costs less per movie than buying the 4K Blu-ray disc.

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iTunes is missing some popular titles in 4K that are available from other services. But if it does get them in 4K, people who bought the HD version will get an automatic upgrade, for free.

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Netflix has a lot of titles in 4K and Dolby Vision, although they're mostly original series.

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The Vudu app is newly available on Apple TV, allowing access to your Vudu library. You can't purchase movies directly from Vudu, however.

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Despite the fact that I own the UHD (4K with HDR) version on Vudu, it won't stream that way. On Apple TV 4K, Vudu only supports "HDX" (1080p HD) quality for how.

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Apple's TV app is a convenient way to resume watching stuff across apps.

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It also surfaces what's available to stream from your various subscription services...

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...shows you what's trending and allows searches...

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...and can suggest new stuff from various apps.

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Apple's iTunes also has a separate TV app for shows to purchase.

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And movies, 4K and otherwise.

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Apple TV often gets the newest features on other apps too. Here's ESPN's multicast function.

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It lets you watch up to four live ESPN channels simultaneously.

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Apple TV 4K also has plenty of games.

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Few are yet optimized to take advantage of its new hardware, but that will likely change soon.

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In the meantime plenty of old favorites are on hand.

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And many of them are optimized for the big screen. 

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Some games on Apple TV now require a game controller.

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The Apple TV 4K's settings menus allow you to set up and test different formats.

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It can output in pretty much any mode. 

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Here's the test for Dolby Vision. In my tests, every HDMI cable I tried worked fine.

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The Apple TV has a special Remote app that allows you to control it without the little included clicker.

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It's available for both the iPad and iPhone.

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Competition among 4K streamers is heating up, and most cost less than the Apple TV 4K. 

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Each has its advantages and weaknesses. And new ones might be coming out later this year.

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The first Apple TV came out in 2007 and was huge and included a built-in hard drive. Subsequent generations have slimmed down a lot and focus on streaming.

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The Apple TV has come a long way, and if the past is any indication, the 4K model will get a bunch of meaningful updates soon enough.

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