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Apple has just released its latest Apple TV streaming box, called Apple TV 4K. It’s not the first 4K-compatible box from the company, but it’s easily the best. I’ve been testing the new streamer since just after it was announced, putting it through its paces. It’s faster, smaller and, hold the front page, cheaper.

So, should you invest in it if it’s your first Apple box, or should you upgrade? Read on.


Apple TV 4K: What’s New?

There’s plenty.

First, it’s better than the last model. More importantly, it’s cheaper. Better and cheaper is a rare combination, but this device ticks both boxes. This is the third-generation 4K model and it has come much sooner than many expected. It was four years between the first and second 4K models, but just two years between the second-gen and this one.

The new model is smaller and lighter than before. There are two versions: Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi and Ethernet, with only the latter including an Ethernet port.

It has increased storage compared to the previous one: the 32GB and 64GB models are now upgraded to 64GB and 128GB storage levels. This is good if you are planning to download games. It doesn’t make as much difference if you want Apple TV just for movies as these are routinely streamed rather than residing in the hard drive.

There’s a new processor, the A15 Bionic chip, which is the one first seen in the Apple iPhone 13 Pro and now in the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus. In other words, a humble TV box is now as powerful as the latest iPhone (though not the iPhone 14 Pro).

And there’s now support for HDR10+ which wasn’t in the last model, as well as continuing compatibility with 4K (obviously), Dolby Vision, High frame rate HDR and Dolby Atmos. If your TV already supports Dolby Vision, this benefit may be less useful, but if it doesn’t—Samsung TV owners, I’m looking at you—this is a definite bonus.

One other change: the otherwise-identical Siri Remote (I’d say the best remote control for any TV-related device) now recharges with USB-C, not Lightning.

Apple TV 4K: Design

There’s very little difference in design between the new Apple TV 4K and the old one. It’s a bit smaller in every direction, but that’s it. The previous model had the Apple logo followed by the letters “tv” but the new one has simplified things by opting for just the Apple logo on its own. The underside no longer has an Apple logo on it, either.

You might feel it’s disappointing that the Apple TV hasn’t changed its design significantly in a very long time. Fair enough, except you have to remember that this is a box you will likely never see. Since the remote connects by Bluetooth, there’s no need for line-of-sight connection, so you can squirrel the box away out of sight.

It is slightly smaller and lighter but, again, when it’s out of sight, you won’t really know this.

Apple TV 4K: Siri Remote

This is the same as last time around, save for the charging arrangement switching to USB-C instead of Lightning. Note that there’s no USB-C cable included with the Apple TV 4K, but, who are you kidding, you’ve got plenty of those around the house, haven’t you?

The fact that the remote hasn’t changed is no bad thing: it’s fantastic. Typically for Apple, there are hardly any buttons on board, but a highly intuitive interface makes it easy to do everything you need to.

Scrubbing through video is especially satisfying as you rotate your thumb round the touch-sensitive wheel, though annoyingly it doesn’t work with every streaming service. There’s a power button which will turn off your TV as well, with one long press, and the Siri button is on the right edge. That’s where you press on the iPhone, too, so there’s a logic to this. Unlike the iPhone, you can’t say, “Hey, Siri” to invoke it. You have to press the button.

Still my favorite use of Siri on the remote is to ask, “What did she say?”. The video plays the last 15 seconds of video again, with subtitles, which it then switches off again automatically. Only Apple. Later this year, Siri will be able to recognize individual user voices, which should be a useful upgrade.

This remote was arguably the biggest upgrade on the last Apple TV box, and it retains its position as an outstanding controller. Note that it is limited for gaming and in many cases you’d be better off connecting a PlayStation or Xbox controller.

Apple TV 4K: Performance

The A15 Bionic chips makes for great power efficiency, apparently using 30% less electricity than the last Apple TV 4K, which was powered by the A12 Bionic. That was already a powerful chip, but nothing like this.

It also means that there’s power to be used in gaming, where faster chips mean better, smoother graphics. This smoothness also means a better experience when you’re just scrolling through menus on the box, for instance.

The addition of HDR10+ is welcome, assuming your TV supports this format. Many do, so if your TV is unfriendly to Dolby Vision, this could make a significant difference to picture quality of compatible content. Amazon Prime Video like HDR10+, for instance.

One thing that is coming later is Quick Media Switching. Right now, if you’re switching between content with different frame rates, a black screen appears. It’s not for that long but can feel endless. With Quick Media Switching this should be near-instantaneous. I have a feeling this will be one of those features you didn’t know you needed but are reluctant to do without once you’ve experienced it.

Apple TV 4K: Verdict

This is far from the cheapest streaming box on the market, and some rivals, especially the brilliant Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, comes very close to doing as good a job for less than half the price. But the simplicity of the sensational Siri Remote, the elegance of the Apple interface and the breadth of games available through Arcade and to buy, are enough to put Apple out in front.

Then add the excellent addition of HDR10+ and the significant price drop—something unusual from any manufacturer but especially Apple—and the Apple TV 4K is hard to beat.

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