In a $ 50 streaming world, the $ 180 Apple 4K TV looks like an unheard of purchase. But even the biggest Android nerds faint from Apple TV 4K when they see it in person. Its high price comes with top features, and for some it is the best streaming device available today.
Note: To be clear, this article focuses entirely on Apple TV 4K (2021). Cheaper Apple TV (4th Gen) came out in 2015 and it is no longer worth buying at full price.
First, what is Apple TV?
Apple tried to produce television hardware during the 1990s. But products like the Macintosh TV have proved unsuccessful, probably due to their high cost and lack of useful features. As people often say when describing half-prepared technology from the past, these early products were “ahead of their time.”
But with the rise of iTunes in the early 2000s, Apple suddenly had reason for the sale of television hardware. It launched the original Apple TV set-top box in 2006, providing users with an easy way to watch their collection of iTunes movies, shows and music videos on the big screen.
Modern versions of Apple TV focus more broadly on streaming, although they also integrate with services such as Apple Arcade, Fitness + and HomeKit. In particular, these streaming boxes run on Apple A-series chipsets — the same chipsets used in iPhones and iPads.
Top quality and long lasting hardware
Of all the streaming and set-top box devices, the Apple TV 4K is the most powerful. And I’m not overestimating things here — Apple TV 4K runs on the A12X Bionic, a 2.5GHz chipset that originally debuted in the third-generation iPad Pro.
To put things in perspective, the Apple TV 4K outperforms many Windows laptops. Along with Apple’s software optimizations, this power provides a very reliable system. It also provides a host of features, including 4K HDR 60FPS video with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos surround sound, game support, smart home integration, AirPlay and fast pairing with AirPods headphones.
Now you don’t need a ton of horsepower for streaming videos, and some streaming sticks offer these features for less than $ 70. But raw power isn’t the only advantage of Apple’s A12X Bionic chipset – the longevity of the device is also a factor.
Most streaming sticks take two or three years before they become unbearably slow or unreliable. But since Apple TV 4K is running on powerful hardware, it will still lurk very for a long time. The fact that it runs the A12X Bionic chipset is just the icing on the cake. Apple has tended to support its iPhones and iPads for almost a decade, and the same goes for Apple TV boxes.
Just look at the old fourth-generation Apple TV – it’s still on the market seven years after its launch. I wouldn’t recommend buying an old device, as the Apple TV 4K is obviously a much better (and newer) option, but the proof is in the pudding.
Power and longevity are, in my opinion, the best reasons to buy an Apple 4K TV. But I will notice one thing – NVIDIA Shield TV with similar prices also works on respectable hardware and offers some unique features, such as increasing the level of artificial intelligence.
Unobtrusive streaming interface
The streaming interfaces you are most familiar with, such as Fire TV and Android TV, are a bit crowded. They look very impressive, but make it harder to find apps by filling your screen with ads, promotions, and glittering trash.
Apple took on a minimalist design language when it created its streaming interface. The applications are clearly arranged on the home screen, without any crazy distractions or flooding of “recommended” content.
Obviously, Apple TV is not perfect. There’s a large banner ad above your app, and the recommended content occasionally finds its way to the top of the app. But for the most part, Apple TV avoids turning your TV into a billboard and makes it easier to perform simple tasks.
This simple interface makes the Apple TV 4K a solid option for people who want a pure streaming experience. However, I should note that the Roku interface offers a similar level of simplicity at a much lower cost.
For Bingo all content
With Apple TV, you can watch all your favorite TV shows and movies from a variety of streaming apps, including Apple originals.
Advanced features and support for Apple Arcade
Things get really tidy here, especially if you’re deep in Apple’s “garden with walls.” Apple TV 4K features a host of advanced features, many of which rely on the iPhone or one of Apple’s subscription services.
My favorite of these features, called “Color Balance Adjustment,” turns your iPhone into a calibration tool for your TV. Just place your iPhone (with Face ID) on the TV screen, wait a bit, and let the Apple TV 4K calibrate itself with precise color, brightness, and contrast ratios.
But I’m also a big fan of typing on Apple TV 4K. Other devices force you to type with the remote control, which sucks, but Apple TV 4K will automatically display the keyboard on your iPhone every time you want to log in or search through the app. (Obviously, you can also type with the remote control. And since the remote has a microphone, you can use it to control Apple TV 4K with Siri.)
In addition, Apple TV 4K supports AirPlay. This feature allows you to stream content from your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch directly to the big screen. (To be fair, Roku devices and Vizio smart TVs also support AirPlay.)
And if you have an Apple Arcade subscription, you can use Apple TV 4K to play games. This is an interesting feature that families with small children should like, because it opens a huge library of games without the need for a console.
I should mention that Apple Arcade has some great games for adults. Here Fantasyan exclusive game he developed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. And for players who can’t get enough Alto’s OdysseyApple Arcade offers a unique version of the game with additional content.
Integration with Apple HomeKit and Fitness +
Like Amazon’s Fire TVs, Apple TV 4K puts a lot of emphasis on smart homes. In fact, it serves as a HomeKit hub and acts as a Thread Border Router. It also comes with a Siri remote control equipped with a microphone, which you can use to control a TV or other devices in your home.
Now, HomeKit smart homes do not require a hub. But using Apple TV 4K or HomePod as a hub allows you remote access to a smart home. And the Thread protocol built into these devices actually increases the performance of the smart home, reducing the delay between giving and executing a command.
The Apple TV 4K also comes with some unique smart home features, like the ability to stream content from smart cameras.
And strangely enough, the Apple TV 4K integrates perfectly with Apple’s Fitness + program. Subscribing to Fitness + requires an Apple Watch, but it comes with some amazing guided exercises that you can watch on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
Unless you’re exercising on a treadmill, using an iPhone for guided video workouts isn’t too comfortable. Apple TV 4K offers a much better experience, especially when you practice yoga, basic training or dancing.
Need to buy an Apple TV?
The benefits of Apple TV 4K are hard to overestimate. It is the most powerful streaming device on the market, will receive almost a decade of support from Apple and integrates perfectly with Apple’s ecosystem.
For many people, and especially Apple fans, these features are worth the $ 180 price tag. It certainly helps that Apple TV 4K doubles as a HomeKit hub, which could eliminate the need to purchase a $ 100 HomePod Mini.
But throwing $ 180 on a streaming box is not the most appealing idea. Other streaming products, such as Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV, cost only $ 50 and deliver content along with 4K HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. If those are the only features you really care about, maybe you should skip the Apple TV box.