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Apple TV may get 4K video this year, according to report

A new version of the Apple TV box with 4K video could ship as early as this year. Better late than never.

Sarah Tew

The next Apple TV could finally get a feature that's been available on competing devices for almost two years.

That feature is 4K resolution output, also known as Ultra High Definition, which would likely allow the device to stream the highest-quality video available from services like Netflix and YouTube to compatible 4K TVs.

A new Apple TV box with 4K and "more vivid colors" will be available "as soon as this year," according to Bloomberg. An Apple representative declined to comment on the report.

4K video streams from services like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Vudu have been available for years. Netflix was the first to debut 4K streaming in April 2014, followed by Amazon and YouTube in 2015. They deliver improved video quality compared to standard high-definition streams. The quality improvement is often tough to discern in our testing, however, and to see it at all requires a 4K TV. 4K also requires a relatively fast internet connection and, in some cases like Netflix, a more expensive subscription tier.

Despite its relatively high price of $150, the current Apple TV doesn't offer 4K video, an omission we noted in our review when the device debuted in October 2015. That was five months after the introduction of the first 4K streaming device, the original Nvidia Shield. Since then numerous 4K-capable competitors have hit the market, including the $60 Chromecast Ultra, the $80 Roku Premiere and the $100 Amazon Fire TV. Most 4K TVs also have 4K-capable apps.

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Want my educated guesses?

The following is my speculation based on the unconfirmed report cited above, so take it with a grain of salt.

Apple's iTunes video service currently lacks 4K movies and TV shows, which are available from competitors such as Google Play, Vudu and Amazon. Since none of those services are currently available on the Apple TV, it makes sense that Apple will also debut 4K stuff on iTunes when (and if) the new 4K-capable box hits the market.

Since many streaming services, TVs and competing devices offer high dynamic range (HDR) video, which in our tests often delivers a more noticeable improvement than 4K resolution, it's likely that the new Apple TV will too. "More vivid colors" could refer to the wide color gamut used by most HDR video.

And what about price? One big criticism of the Apple TV is its high cost compared to competitors. If Apple really wants the device to take off, I think it should price it at $100.

Perhaps Apple will provide more information on June 5, the opening day of its annual World Wide Developers' Conference.