In a world of $50 streaming, a $180 Apple TV 4K sounds like an outrageous purchase. But even the biggest Android geeks outgrow the Apple TV 4K 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.
Class: To be clear, this article focuses entirely on the Apple TV 4K (2021). The cheapest Apple TV (4th generation) came out in 2015 and isn’t worth buying at full price anymore.
First, what is an Apple TV?
Apple tried to produce televisions throughout the 1990s. But products like the Macintosh TV have proven unsuccessful, likely due to their high price tag and lack of useful features. As people often say when describing semi-baked technology from the past, these early products were “ahead of their time.”
But with the advent of iTunes in the early 2000s, Apple suddenly had a file the reason To sell TVs. It launched the original Apple TV set-top box in 2006, providing an easy way for customers to watch their collection of iTunes movies, shows, and music videos on the big screen.
Recent versions of the Apple TV focus more broadly on streaming, although they also integrate with services like Apple Arcade, Fitness+, and HomeKit. Notably, these streaming boxes run on the Apple A- chipset, the same chipsets used in the iPhone and iPad.
High quality and long lasting equipment
Of all the streaming devices and receivers, Apple TV 4K is the most powerful. And I’m not exaggerating here – the Apple TV 4K runs on the A12X Bionic chip, a 2.5GHz chipset that debuted in the third generation iPad Pro.
To put things into perspective, Apple TV 4K outperforms many Windows laptops. With Apple software improvements, this powerhouse provides a highly reliable system. It also enables a host of features, including 4K HDR 60fps video with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos surround sound, game support, smart home integration, AirPlay, and quick pairing with AirPods.
Now, you don’t need a lot of horsepower to stream video, and some streaming devices offer these features for less than $70. But raw power isn’t the only benefit of Apple’s A12X Bionic chipset — device longevity is a factor, too.
Most streaming devices last for two or three years before they become unbearably slow or unreliable. But since Apple TV 4K runs on powerful hardware, it will continue to scream for a very long time. The fact that it runs on the A12X Bionic chipset is just icing on the cake. Apple has tended to support its iPhones and iPads for nearly a decade, and the same is true for Apple TVs.
Just look at the old fourth-generation Apple TV – it’s still on the market seven years after its launch. I’m not suggesting buying the old device, as the Apple TV 4K is clearly a better (and newer) option, but the proof is in the dessert.
Power and longevity are, in my opinion, the best reasons to buy an Apple TV 4K. But I will mention one thing – the similarly priced NVIDIA ShieldTV also works on decent hardware and offers some unique features, such as an AI upgrade.
Unobtrusive streaming interface
The streaming interfaces you’re most familiar with, like Fire TV and Android TV, are a little cluttered. They look very cool, but they make the apps more difficult to find by filling your screen with ads, promotions, and flashy junk.
Apple took a simple design language when creating the broadcast interface. The apps are clearly placed on the home screen, without any crazy distractions or floods of “recommended” content.
The Apple TV is clearly not perfect. There is a large banner ad above your apps, and recommended content sometimes finds its way to the top app row. But for the most part, Apple TV avoids turning the TV into a billboard and makes it easier to perform simple tasks.
This simple interface makes Apple TV 4K a powerful choice for people who want a clean streaming experience. However, I must point out that Roku’s interface offers a similar level of simplicity at a much lower price.
For Binging All Content
With Apple TV, you can enjoy all your favorite TV shows and movies from different streaming apps, including the original Apple apps.
Advanced Features and Apple Arcade Support
This is where things get really neat, especially if you’re in the depths of “Apple’s walled garden.” The Apple TV 4K has a lot of advanced features, many of which are based on the iPhone or one of Apple’s subscription services.
These my favorite features, called Adjust Color Balance, turn your iPhone into a calibration tool for your TV. Simply place your iPhone (with Face ID) on the TV screen, wait a bit, and let your Apple TV 4K calibrate itself with accurate colors, brightness, and contrast ratios.
But I’m also a big fan of writing on Apple TV 4K. Other devices force you to type with the remote, which is bad, but the Apple TV 4K will automatically display a keyboard on your iPhone every time you want to sign in or search through an app. (Obviously, you can type with the remote. And since the remote has a microphone, you can use it to control your Apple TV 4K using Siri.)
Additionally, Apple TV 4K supports streaming. This feature allows you to send 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 your Apple TV 4K for gaming. It’s an interesting feature that should appeal to families with young children, as it unlocks a huge library of games without the need for a console.
I have to point out that Apple Arcade has some great games for adults. there imaginationExclusive game developed by Final Fantasy Creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. And for players who can’t get enough of Alto OdysseyApple Arcade offers a unique version of the game with additional content.
Integration with Apple HomeKit and Fitness +
Like the Amazon Fire TV devices, the Apple TV 4K focuses heavily on smart homes. In fact, it doubles as a HomeKit hub and acts as a topic boundary router. It also comes with a Siri Remote with a microphone, which you can use to control your TV or other devices in your home.
Now, HomeKit smart homes don’t require a hub. But using your Apple TV 4K or HomePod as a hub allows you to access your smart home remotely. And the Thread protocol built into these devices increases smart home performance, reducing the lag between commands being given and their execution.
Apple TV 4K also comes with some unique smart home features, such as the ability to stream content from smart cameras.
Oddly enough, Apple TV 4K fully integrates with Apple’s Fitness+ program. A Fitness + subscription requires an Apple Watch, but it comes with some amazing guided workouts that you can watch on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
Unless you’re exercising on a treadmill, using your iPhone for video-guided exercises isn’t very fun. Apple TV 4K offers a much better experience, especially when doing yoga, core training, or dancing.
Should you buy an Apple TV?
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of the Apple TV 4K. It’s the most powerful streaming device on the market, will receive nearly a decade of support from Apple, and is fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem.
For many people, especially Apple fans, these features are worth their $180 price tag. It certainly helps to double the Apple TV 4K as a HomeKit hub, potentially eliminating the need to buy a $100 HomePod Mini.
But dropping $180 on a streaming box isn’t the most attractive idea. Other streaming products, such as the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Chromecast with Google TV, cost just $50 and deliver content with 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. If those are the only features you really care about, you might want to skip the Apple TV Box.