Like the fourth-generation Apple TV, the fifth-generation Apple TV 4K is a simple, unobtrusive black box that’s about the size of the palm of your hand. There’s an Apple TV logo at the top, and aside from that, the Apple TV is black on all sides and blends well with any home decor. It’s small enough that it fits on any shelf or TV unit, taking up very little space.
At the back of the Apple TV 4K, there’s an HDMI 2.0a port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a port for the power cord. Compared to the previous-generation Apple TV, the Apple TV gains the Gigabit Ethernet port (instead of 10/100) and loses a USB-C port that used to be available for things like downloading developer betas and taking Apple TV screenshots.
The Apple TV 4K measures in at 3.9 inches on each of its four sides, and it is 1.4 inches tall. It weighs just under a pound at 15 ounces. Inside, there’s a replaceable fan and a total of eight exhaust ports to support the improved processor.
Processor and Internals
Inside the Apple TV, there’s an A10X Fusion chip, which is the same chip used in the 2017 iPad Pro models. The A10X Fusion is a much faster chip than the chip that was available in the fourth-generation Apple TV, with 2x the CPU performance and 4x the GPU performance. The Apple TV also has 3GB RAM to support 4K.
With the updated chip, the Apple TV 4K can run much more system intensive games and apps, allowing for games that can take advantage of the 4K display.
For storing games and downloaded content, the Apple TV is available in either 32 or 64GB capacities. Most people do not need more than 32GB of storage, but those who plan to download many apps or games may want to go with 64GB.
For connectivity, the Apple TV 4K supports simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO and Bluetooth 5.0.
Sold alongside the Apple TV as an input method, the rectangular Siri Remote features a built in touch surface used as a general “select” button and touch pad, a Menu button, a Home button, a Siri button for activating Siri, play/pause buttons, and standard volume controls. The Siri Remote connects to the Apple TV using a Bluetooth 4.0 connection, and can also control elements of a TV set like Bluetooth using an IR transmitter.
The touch surface on the remote is used as a touch-based navigation method, allowing users to swipe through the App Store, the Home screen, and content within apps, as well as fast forward, rewind, and perform other TV control gestures. It takes up about one-third of the remote.
When held down, the Siri button on the remote activates Siri, and Siri on Apple TV works much like Siri on iPhone. There are two microphones built into the remote so Siri commands can be heard, with Siri relaying information back on the television screen.
The 2017 Siri Remote has been slightly redesigned. There’s now a white ridge around the Home button, which makes it easier to determine which end of the remote is in your hand without needing to look down at it. At the bottom of the Siri Remote, there’s a Lightning port that’s used for charging with a standard Lightning cable. The Siri Remote needs to be recharged every few months.
Because there’s an accelerometer and a gyroscope built into the Siri Remote, it can be used as a controller for many Apple TV games.
The Siri Remote is only available in a handful of countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the United States. In other countries, there is no built-in Siri support, and the remote is called “Apple TV Remote.” Instead of bringing up Siri, the microphone button on these remotes brings up an on-screen search app.
Along with the physical Siri Remote, the Apple TV can be controlled using a Remote app that’s available in the App Store for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The Remote app has a layout that’s similar to the Siri Remote, offering virtual controls for navigating the Apple TV interface, accessing Siri, and controlling volume. On the iPad, details about what’s playing are also shown in the app.
The Apple TV also supports third-party Bluetooth gaming controllers that can be used in lieu of the Siri Remote when playing a game from the tvOS App Store, and a Bluetooth keyboard can be connected.
4K and HDR
4K delivers four times more pixels than standard HD (3840 x 2160 vs. 1920 x 1080) and paired with HDR support, the Apple TV 4K offers brighter, more realistic colors along with much greater detail. Both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are supported, with the latter being the preferred HDR standard because it offers a wider range of colors.
HDR and 4K are both noticeable upgrades over 1080p high definition, especially so when it comes to HDR. 4K (also called ultra high resolution) offers more pixels and with HDR, you get deeper reds, more vivid greens, brighter blues, clearer yellows, and more contrast and color range in scenes with both light and dark elements.
4K on left, 4K HDR on rightThe Apple TV 4K requires a compatible 4K television to properly display content at a 4K resolution, and you also need to supply an HDMI cable for connecting the television to the Apple TV. Apple recommends a cable compatible with HDMI and Dolby Vision, and more specifically, an HDMI cable that has a Compatible Dolby Vision mark.
For the best experience, a TV that supports 4K and HDR at 60Hz (50Hz in Europe) is required, but it works with 4K Standard Dynamic Range, 4K High Dynamic Range, and 4K Dolby Vision.
The Apple TV 4K also works with a TV that has a 30Hz HDR refresh rate (25Hz in Europe) but lower refresh rates can result in choppy video, so Apple’s recommendation for TVs that don’t support HDR at 60Hz is to lower resolution to 1080p at 60Hz and letting the television upscale to 4K.
To stream content in 4K from iTunes, Netflix, or another source, Apple recommends that customers have a minimum connection speed of 25Mb/s. If an internet connection isn’t fast enough for transferring 4K content, Apple downscales the video quality.
Apple does not allow users to download 4K content from iTunes, with 4K content limited to streaming.
Supported Photo and Video Formats
The Apple TV 4K supports H.264, HEVC (H.265), HEVC Dolby Vision, and MPEG-4. As for photos, it can display images in the following formats: HEIF, JPEG, GIF, and TIFF.
Supported Audio Formats
Supported audio formats include HE-AAC, AAC (320Kb/s max), protected AAC, MP3 (320Kb/s max), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound, and Dolby Atmos.
The Apple TV 4K can play 4K content from a range of sources. Apple has made deals with movie studios to offer a wide selection of 4K movie titles in iTunes, which are available for the same price as HD movies. Apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (released in late 2017) also offer content that can be streamed in 4K.
YouTube offers 4K content but it is not compatible with the 4K Apple TV at this time as Apple does not support the VP9 format YouTube uses for 4K.
The Apple TV 4K is designed for 4K content and the picture looks the best when streaming or playing 4K resolution TV and movies, but non 4K HDR content is compatible. With non-HDR and lower resolution movies and TV shows, the Apple TV upscales the content.
Regardless of your setup and the content you’re watching, Apple TV 4K always chooses the settings that are going to give you the best picture.
Apple TV as a Cable Box Replacement
Apple has been working with some cable providers to offer the Apple TV as a replacement for a traditional cable box. CANAL+ in France, Salt in Switzerland, and DirecTV in the US all allow customers to replace their cable boxes with Apple TV, gaining all of the same functionality through dedicated apps.
In early 2019, Charter Communications began offering the Apple TV 4K to its customers, with Charter users able to access all of their live channels and on-demand programs through a Spectrum TV app on Apple TV 4K, iPhone, and iPad.
Verizon also offers the Apple TV 4K for free to customers who subscribe to its 5G broadband service, available Indianapolis, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The fourth and fifth-generation Apple TVs run an operating system called tvOS, which was built to offer up a simple, easy-to-navigate television watching experience.
tvOS puts content front and center with an app-centric design that includes an App Store, Siri integration, a dedicated TV app for highlighting content from a range of different apps from content providers, HomeKit support, and more.
The fourth and fifth-generation Apple TVs run tvOS 13, the latest version of tvOS that’s publicly available. The current release version of tvOS 13 is tvOS 13.4, which was released on March 24.
Apple in 2019 took a greater interest in services, unveiling plans for television-related content that are designed to bring in more entertainment revenue. >Apple revamped the TV app available in tvOS and iOS, inked deals with third-party content providers to bolster TV app offerings, and introduced a new Apple TV+ service that houses original TV shows and movies funded by Apple.
Apple in iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 overhauled the TV app, introducing a cleaner, more streamlined look for the app along with better content recommendation algorithms. The overall app interface has been improved with sections for Movies, TV Shows, Sports, and Kids content at the top on both Apple TV and iPhone, while Library houses a list of content that you’ve purchased from iTunes.
“Watch Now” with its “Up Next” function is still front and center in the TV app, but there’s a new machine learning-based recommendation engine that surfaces personalized content suggestions for you based on what you like to watch.
Up Next continues to keep track of what you’re watching so you’ll never forget what episode of a TV show you’re on or where you left off watching a movie, while the new “For You” recommendation feature draws in content from more than 150 streaming apps, including Hulu, Amazon Prime, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and more. In addition to the “For You” section, the TV app also offers “Because you watched…” recommendations much like Netflix.
The TV app includes a “Channels” section, which is a key new services feature that Apple added with the revamp. Channels are subscription services that you can sign up for and watch within the TV app without having to open up another app. So, for example, if you come across a show you want to watch on your iPhone or Apple TV that’s on Showtime, you can tap to subscribe to Showtime right in the TV app, and then you can watch that show without leaving the app.
Some of the Channels that are supported include CBS All Access, Starz, Showtime, HBO, Nickelodeon, Mubi, The History Channel Vault, Epix, Comedy Central Now, and tons more.
You’ll still get recommendations for content from services that aren’t a part of Channels, so while Hulu isn’t something you can subscribe to and watch in the TV app itself (you need to watch Hulu content in the Hulu app), you can still see Hulu content suggestions just like the original TV app.
The TV app is available on iPhones, iPads, the Apple TV, and Samsung TVs at the current time, but in the fall, Apple is expanding it to the Mac. Apple has also brought the Apple TV app to Roku and the Amazon Fire TV, plus smart TV offerings from companies that include Sony and Samsung.
Apple TV+ is available on all devices where the TV app is available, which includes iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, Macs, and the web through the tv.apple.com website as well as on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and select smart TVs. Apple TV+ is priced at $9.99 per month, but Apple is providing a free one-year subscription to customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, or iPod touch, and that price tag allows up to six family members to watch.
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