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Apple TV 4K: New $179 Apple streamer adds HDR, better gaming

Apple bulks up on specs and content to take on Roku, Google and Amazon for streaming supremacy.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
4 min read

A new box for the next generation of video.

The Apple TV 4K revamps the company's streaming media device and TV portal to all your iTunes content. Along with new and updated streaming video options, the upgraded box brings 4K-resolution and high dynamic range video to the biggest screens in your home.  

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Last fully updated in 2015, the fourth-gen Apple TV lagged behind its major streaming competitors on hardware and price, despite software updates and attractive features like Siri voice search, the ability to go directly to a live channel inside supported live TV apps and one of best remotes on the market.

With Apple investing up to $1 billion in original content, though, it was high time for some fresh hardware. The upgraded box will sell for $179 with 32GB of storage or 64GB for $199. (In the UK it's £179 or £199; in Australia it's AU$249 or AU$279.) It adds compatibility with 4K as well as HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR video. That means the new box will deliver the best 3,820x2,160-pixel resolution and -- more importantly -- the improved color palettes and contrast ratios of high dynamic range (HDR) video when connected to compatible TVs.

Of course, if you don't have a 4K HDR TV or plans to get one very soon, you can save your money and stick with the fourth-gen Apple TV, still available for $149, £139 or AU$239 with 32GB of storage. While you can get that model now, you'll have to wait until Sept. 15 to order the 4K model, which will ship on Sept. 22. 

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Under the hood

Rumors of the new box running on an A10X Fusion processor (the same used in the iPad Pro) turned out to be correct. That makes it twice as fast as the fourth-gen Apple TV and with four times the graphics performance, according to Apple. The updated components promise to not only keep performance zippy with the higher-resolution interface and content, but will give you a better experience with casual games.

The Apple TV 4K will also have a built-in 4K video scaler to improve the look of HD content so it looks better on a 4K-resolution TV. Apple also said it will output at the highest resolution possible for your TV and automatically detect your 4K TV's capabilities to tweak your setup for the best experience.

Updated connections include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and Bluetooth 5.0. The video out is now HDMI 2.0a to support 4K HDR video. 

And if you were hoping for a new remote, you're essentially out of luck. The only change seems to be a new white ring around the Menu button. 

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What to watch

As you'd expect, you'll be able to buy 4K and HDR-enabled videos on iTunes. Apple didn't just announce their availability, however, it's also letting anyone update their HD-resolution collections to 4K for free if available. Pricing for HD and 4K content will be the same, too. You'll also be able to ask Siri to show you 4K HDR movies so you won't have to work too hard to find stuff to watch.

As for services, Apple said it is working with Netflix and Amazon to bring their 4K offerings to the new box later this year. There was no mention of the recently added Vudu service, however. 

Other content updates include the addition of live sports and news. The TV app, which supports more than 60 services now, can be searched by voice for games and scores. If your favorite team is playing, you can simply ask Siri to watch it and if it's live on ESPN, say, it will automatically switch and stream. A new dedicated Sports tab lets US users get right to the point and check up on all your favorite teams and leagues. 

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Listen up

The Apple TV 4K will support AirPlay 2 when it arrives later this year. Not only will this make it easy to send photos, video and music from your other iOS devices to your TV, but it will also allow your Apple TV to control multiple AirPlay 2-compatible speakers, including Apple's own upcoming HomePods

More, but still more

Apple may have hit a sweet spot with features with the Apple TV 4K, simply by supporting both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards. Then again, so does the Google Chromecast Ultra, which is expected in November and is more than $100 cheaper. Google's puck might not be as powerful as Apple's box, its search not as unified and it lacks the convenience of a dedicated remote control, but it will stream 4K from Netflix, YouTube and Vudu at launch. And again, it's over $100 less. 

Roku's 4K HDR boxes -- the $100 Premiere+ and $130 Ultra -- only support HDR10, but you do get a nice remote with a built-in headset jack (plus basic voice search on the Ultra), a much greater selection of apps including Amazon and, on the Ultra, an optical audio output for use with older receivers and sound bars.

Basically, if you're planning to get a 4K HDR TV or already have one and you've racked up a lot of iTunes purchases, the Apple TV 4K looks like the answer, albeit a pricey one. We'll hopefully be back soon with a full review. 

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