So does the new Apple TV support 4K or not?

Apple TV 4 image 004

As I was watching Apple’s media event unfold this morning from halfway across the world, I kept my fingers crossed for a 4K-capable Apple TV. Thankfully, the much improved Apple TV is at long last official but it’s conspicuous that there is absolutely no word of 4K support whatsoever.

True, 9to5Mac did report last month that the new box would “lack 4K support for streaming video and AirPlay,” but apparently the hardware itself does support 4K capability, meaning Apple has purposefully disabled 4K on the new Apple TV,

Does that mean that the company is planning on enabling 4K with a software update int the future? This has been on my mind since the event has wrapped up and I’m hoping you could help me get to the bottom of this matter.

For starters, the Apple TV Tech Specs webpage clearly states the new box has HDMI 1.4 video output on the back. That’s quite an improvement over the third-generation model that has an older variant of the HDMI standard which supports up to Full HD 1080p video output.

Among other things, HDMI 1.4 supports 3D and increases the maximum resolution to 4K (4,096-by-2,160 pixels) at 24 Hz or Ultra HD (3,840-by-2,160 pixels) at 30 Hz. So the question arises: why would Apple give its revamped set-top box an enhanced video interface that can drive 4K television sets unless it has something planned for it?

One possible explanation: there might be an option in the settings to enable 4K output to let owners of Ultra HD TV sets or 4K displays admire the user interface in sharp 4K resolution.

Apple TV Movies Big Bang Theory 001

If such an option exists, will only the interface be rendered in 4K while third-party apps, streaming video and AirPlay get to run 1080p? Some people might argue that the new Apple TV’s A8 chip cannot handle 4K video.

However, developers of the excellent WALTR app that I recently reviewed have made an interesting discovery: the iPhone 6’s A8 chip is in fact powerful enough to render 4K video without missing a beat.

So, technically the new Apple TV hardware can handle 4K.

On the downside, it wouldn’t be the first time Apple disabled certain hardware features in software. If you ask me, it’s definitely no coincidence that Apple’s new streamer has 4K-capable HDMI 1.4 video output on the back.

While this could be a simple matter of future-proofing the device, something tells me 4K video output will be turned on via a software update as soon as iTunes starts carrying movies and television shows in 4K resolution.


Does the new Apple TV hardware support 4K video output, do you think?