In the world of $ 50 streaming sticks, the $ 180 Apple TV 4K looks like an outrageous purchase. But even the biggest Android nerds over Apple TV 4K faint when they see it in person. Its high price comes with premium features and for some people it is the best streaming device available today.
Note: To be clear, this article focuses exclusively on the Apple TV 4K (2021). Cheaper Apple TV (4th Gen) was released in 2015 and it is no longer worth buying at full price.
First, what is Apple TV?
Apple struggled to make television hardware throughout the 1990s. But products like Macintosh TV have proven unsuccessful, probably due to their high cost and lack of useful features. As people often say when describing unfinished technology from the past, these early products are “ahead of their time”.
But with the advent of iTunes in the early 2000s, Apple suddenly had a reason for sale of television hardware. In 2006, it launched the original Apple TV set-top box, which provides customers with an easy way to watch their collection of movies, shows and music videos from iTunes on the big screen.
Modern versions of Apple TV focus more on streaming, although they also integrate with services such as Apple Arcade, Fitness + and HomeKit. And remarkably, these streaming boxes run on Apple’s A-Series chipsets – the same chipsets used on iPhones and iPads.
Top hardware with a long service life
Of all the streaming devices and set-top boxes, the Apple TV 4K is the most powerful. And I’m not exaggerating – Apple TV 4K runs on the A12X Bionic, a 2.5 GHz chipset that originally debuted on the third-generation iPad Pro.
To put things in perspective, the Apple TV 4K outperforms many Windows laptops. Thanks to Apple’s software optimization, this power provides a very reliable system. It also provides a range 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.
Now you don’t need a lot of horsepower to stream video, and some streaming drivers offer these features for less than $ 70. However, raw performance is not the only advantage of the Apple A12X Bionic chipset – the lifespan of the device is also a factor.
Most streaming bars last two or three years to become unbearably slow or unreliable. But because the Apple TV 4K runs on powerful hardware, it will still come in handy very long. The fact that it runs on 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 is true 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 would not recommend buying an old device, because Apple TV 4K is of course a much better (and newer) option, but the proof is in the pudding.
Performance and longevity are, in my opinion, the best reason to buy an Apple TV 4K. But I’ll notice one thing – NVIDIA Shield TV with a similar price also runs on decent hardware and offers some unique features, such as upscaling AI.
Unobtrusive streaming interface
The streaming interfaces you know the most, such as Fire TV and Android TV, are a bit confusing. They look very impressive, but they make it harder to find apps because they fill your screen with ads, promotions, and flashy spam.
When building its streaming interface, Apple opted for a minimalist design language. The applications are neatly distributed on the home screen, without any crazy distractions or flooding of “recommended” content.
Obviously, Apple TV is not perfect. There is a large banner ad above your applications, and the recommended content occasionally reaches the top line of the application. But Apple TV largely avoids turning your TV into a billboard and makes it easy to perform simple tasks.
This simple interface makes Apple TV 4K a solid choice for people who want clean streaming. However, I should note that the Year interface offers a similar level of simplicity at a much lower cost.
For Binging all content
With Apple TV, you can play all your favorite TV shows and movies from a variety of streaming applications, including Apple originals.
Advanced features and support for Apple Arcade
This is where things are really clean, especially if you’re deep in Apple’s “walled garden.” Apple TV 4K includes a lot of advanced features, many of which rely on the iPhone or one of Apple’s subscription services.
My favorite of these features, called “Adjust color balance,” turns your iPhone into a calibration tool for your TV. Just attach your iPhone (with Face ID) to the TV screen, wait a moment and let Apple TV 4K calibrate with the exact 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 automatically brings up the keyboard on your iPhone every time you want to sign in or search the app. (Of course, you can also type with the remote control. And because the remote control 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 send content from your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch directly to the big screen. (To be fair, Vizio 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. It’s an interesting feature that should appeal to families with young children, as it opens up a huge library of games without the need for a console.
I should note that Apple Arcade has some great games for adults. Here is fantasyexclusive game developed by 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 extra content.
Integration with Apple HomeKit and Fitness +
Like Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV 4K places great emphasis on smart homes. In fact, it acts as a HomeKit and acts as a Thread Border Router. It also comes with a microphone equipped with a Siri Remote, which you can use to control your TV or other devices in your home.
HomeKit smart homes now do not require a hub. But using an Apple TV 4K or HomePod as a hub will give you remote access to your smart home. And the Thread protocol built into these devices actually increases smart home performance and reduces the delay between entering and executing a command.
Apple TV 4K also comes with some unique smart home features, such as the ability to stream content from smart cameras.
And surprisingly, Apple TV 4K integrates perfectly with Apple Fitness +. The Fitness + subscription requires Apple Watch, but includes some amazing controlled workouts that you can watch on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
If you’re not exercising on a treadmill, using an iPhone for guided video training isn’t very enjoyable. Apple TV 4K offers a much better experience, especially when practicing yoga, core training or dancing.
Should You Buy an Apple TV?
The benefits of Apple TV 4K are hard to overestimate. It’s the most powerful streaming device on the market, gets nearly a decade of support from Apple, and integrates seamlessly with Apple’s ecosystem.
For many people, and especially Apple fans, these features are worth $ 180. It certainly helps that the Apple TV 4K acts as a HomeKit hub, which could eliminate the need to buy a HomePod Mini for $ 100.
But throwing $ 180 at a streaming box is not the most attractive idea. Other streaming products, such as Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV, cost just $ 50 and provide content with 4K HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. If these are the only features you really care about, you may want to skip the Apple TV box.