The new Apple TV 4K has finally arrived, bringing with it several hardware improvements over the previous fourth-generation model such as the flagship 4K support.
A lot of people were really excited to see what Apple had in store for the iPhone and Apple Watch, but I was most yearning for an updated Apple TV. 4K support has been lacking for some time now, so it was nice to see Apple cross this off the list.
Fortunately, we lucked out and got even more than just 4K.
Here are our top features on the new Apple TV 4K.
The top 12 features of Apple TV 4K
Here’s our list of the top hardware improvements of the new box.
The last generation Apple TV only came with a 10/100 Ethernet port.
This was an upsetting decision for Apple TV users because many folks preferred to hardwire their set-top box, but Apple’s push towards a wireless future meant they wanted people to use slower Wi-Fi networking instead.
Since 4K content requires much more bandwidth to handle, the new Apple TV rectifies this issue by bringing back the much faster Gigabit Ethernet port.
HDMI 2.0 is an upgraded version of the HDMI specification designed to handle higher bandwidth audio and video content. Don’t be surprised when you plug in your new box to see an alert saying you need an upgraded HDMI cable to handle the new features such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision video.
Bluetooth 5.0 is the latest and greatest version of Bluetooth. It was finalized for use in December 2016, but just recently started showing up in products. iPhone 8 also gained Bluetooth 5.0 this year and iPhone X has it as well.
Bluetooth 5.0 allows for twice the bandwidth while quadrupling the range to 800 feet. Of course, your existing Bluetooth devices (remotes, keyboards, speakers, etc.) won’t take advantage of these features unless they come with Bluetooth 5.0 chips built-in. Right now there aren’t many that do, but we will see many more in the weeks and months ahead.
Tweaked Siri Remote
The Siri remote got a minor update this time around. There is a new 3 axis gyroscope for better motion tracking, and an elevated ring around the Menu button that should make it more tactile when searching for it in the dark.
A10X Fusion chip
Apple gave a big specs bump to the Apple TV’s processor this year. The previous model used an outdated A8 chipset that cannot decode 4K video. This year’s A10X Fusion built into the new box is the same used in the latest iPad Pros. This new hardware is needed to power the extensive features like 4K while giving games developers a lot more power to take advantage of.
FLAC support has come to a few other Apple products this year, much to the excitement of audiophiles out there. Apple TV 4K joins the list of compatible devices for this high-end audio codec.
This proprietary HDR system costs money to license and is supported by Apple, LG, Vizio, TCL and some Sony TVs. With brighter and more colorful video, Dolby Vision is (arguably) the best version of HDR. It is backed by Dolby, who after conquering the audio market, wanted to stake their claim on video. As opposed to HDR10, Dolby Vision embeds brightness metadata in the stream allowing a device to dynamically adjust the video as it plays.
HDR10 is another version of the baseline HDR standard. Like HDR photos on your iPhone, HDR10 video has a much wider range of brightness. Many TV manufacturers have a different implementation of HDR10 and is a little bit muddy as far as the technical details go.
The new box obviously supports 4K resolution at 3,840-by-2,160 pixels at sixty frames per second, enabling more detailed and sharper imagery with four times the pixels of the previous model. While 4K is great, you do need a newer TV to take advantage of that 4K and HDR content.
Hardware tidbits: USB-C, cooling system & more
Other than the Gigabit Ethernet port, there are a few other minor hardware changes in the new Apple TV. First, there is no USB-C because you can now connect wirelessly for service, support and side loading apps through Xcode.
Secondly, the new processor creates a bit more heat than its predecessor. To accommodate this, there is a new set of vents around the bottom and a huge fan driven by a Nidec brushless motor. In case the fan breaks, you can swap it out relatively easily because Apple’s made it replaceable.
Live sports and news
The TV app is a great source for discovering new content, and picking up where you left off. With the new Apple TV 4K, it now supports live news and sports to make it easier than ever to find all our content in this app.
To go alongside the live sports and news, there are also smart notifications for sports. Whenever a game is close, a notification will appear and give the user the option to tune in live and see what happens.
Wrapping it up
These are all really exciting features, but hopefully we will see much more new with the Apple TV with upcoming versions of tvOS. tvOS 11 brought a few new features such as Home screen syncing, but overall was a bit underwhelming in terms of major advances.
Thankfully, Tim Cook teased at WWDC we would see more later this year. I know many people specifically are waiting for the inevitable release of Amazon Prime Video, including me.
Now time for you boys and girls to chime in.
Are these features enough for you to upgrade to the latest Apple TV model? Are you perhaps going to wait for more 4K content to become available before making a jump? Or for 4K TVs to come down in price? Let us know below.