I’ve only spent a day with the Apple TV 4K so far (our full review is coming next week), but I can already tell that it’s the streaming box I’ve been waiting for. While I was mostly positive on the last model, its lack of 4K became a sticking point when I upgraded to one of LG’s 4K OLED TVs last year. I ended up relying more on my set’s built-in apps to enjoy 4K/HDR content, and I only hopped over to the Apple TV when I needed to use iTunes (my preferred platform for digital purchases) or specific streaming apps. That’s no longer an issue with the new box — it can satisfy all of my media needs.
Before we go any further, it’s worth explaining the real benefits I’m talking about: 4K video delivers four times as many pixels as 1080p HD, which means it’ll look sharper on larger screens. And I do mean large — you probably won’t be able to tell the difference in resolution unless you’re sitting very close to a TV that’s at least 55-inches. HDR, a feature on many 4K TVs, is the more noticeable upgrade. Basically, it lets you see video that’s both brighter and darker than before. Apple also wisely chose to support both HDR standards, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. While 4K is the big buzzword right now, HDR is what your eyes will instantly notice.
The Apple TV 4K looks almost the same as the last model, with one small difference: Its base is raised slightly to allow for better airflow. That’s not too surprising, since it’s using Apple’s A10X Fusion processor, which is far more powerful (and generates more heat) than its predecessor. Beyond that, it has the same stubby design as the fourth-gen Apple TV. On the back, all you’ve got is a Gigabit Ethernet jack, an HDMI port and a power slot. Apple dropped the USB-C port from the last model, which was mainly for diagnostic and administrative purposes.
Also making a reappearance is the slim remote that came alongside the last Apple TV. It’s also mostly the same except for a white ring around the menu button. That lets you know when you’re holding the remote correctly without actually looking at it. Given that that was one of the major complaints about the last remote, it’s a good thing Apple came up with some sort of fix. Aside from that tweak, though, the new model won’t win over people who didn’t like the last version.
Setting up the Apple TV 4K didn’t take much effort. After plugging it in, I held up my iPhone next to it, punched in a security code and the set-top box then sucked in my WiFi and iCloud account details. I reached the home screen within a few minutes, just like when I set up the last model. And thanks to the One Home Screen setting in tvOS 11, which stores your app layout in iCloud, all of the software from my last Apple TV automatically installed. I still had to manually log into iCloud and each of my streaming apps, though.