The Apple TV 4K has officially been announced, although those looking for the ultimate set-top box may want to look elsewhere, as Apple has forgotten to add Dolby Atmos to the feature list. That’s despite supporting Dolby Vision, the popular HDR format.
Announced at a special hardware event on Apple’s new Spaceship Campus, the Apple TV 4K is the latest generation of the company’s ‘hobby project’. Thanks to an all-new processor, this new model is twice as fast as the previous model. It also gains the ability to play 4K content from all the major streaming providers; namely Netflix and Amazon Video.
Beauty Is Only Skin Deep
The design of the new Apple TV 4K is identical to that of the old model, which isn’t all that surprising. Inside the box is all-new, however, with a A10X Fusion processor providing all the power. This is the exact same processor found in the high-end iPad Pro, so this set-top box will definitely be one of the nippiest on the market. In fact, Apple says this new model is twice as fast as the fourth-generation model and boasts four times the graphical performance.
In addition to the new processor, Apple has also included a new built-in 4K video scaler. This should improve the look of HD content on a 4K TV, with the company promising that it will output the highest resolution possible for the TV that’s hooked up to the set-top box.
Apple has also updated the connections at the back of the device, including Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi with simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and Bluetooth 5.0. The Apple TV 4K will also support the new Airplay 2 streaming format, alongside HDMI 2.0a.
Outside of the hardware, the software has also been updated. There’s a slightly tweaked user interface, with it now being optimised for 4K resolution. The screensavers have also been refreshed.
Making Nice With Amazon
The Amazon Video support is a big coup for Apple. Those using Google’s Android TV platform or a Chromecast will find a distinct lack support for Amazon Video, although there are workarounds for Android TV. That’s not all too surprising as Amazon has its own set-top box called the Fire TV, and it wants to push its users to that platform rather than a competitor.
While Apple has managed to sweet talk Amazon into creating an app for its Apple TV platform, it won’t arrive at the launch of the new model. Instead it’s expected to arrive sometime later this year, complete with Dolby Vision and 4K movies from its extensive collection of TV shows and movies.
A Free Ultra High Definition Upgrade
Seeing the previous generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K side-by-side, it’s quite clear that the new model is a day and night difference. The addition of support for HDR and Dolby Vision is really the stand out of this new device, although the 4K support will receive the most attention from the wider public. The support for HDR and Dolby Vision bring brighter highlights, an expanded range of colours, and even deeper blacks – something that any videophile will appreciate.
To get the most out of all the formats supported on the new Apple TV 4K, whether it be the 4K resolution, HDR or Dolby Vision, Apple has partnered with a number of content creators to bring new movies to the iTunes store. That’s in addition to the support for the streaming movie services mentioned above.
20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros, and Sony Pictures have all agreed to make their movies available in 4K on iTunes. What’s more, all of the new higher resolution films will be identically priced to those offered in 1080p, while a free upgrade will be made available to anyone who already owns the 1080p version of a film that is now offered in 4K.
Alternatives, Pricing, Release Date
The Apple TV 4K is entering an already crowded market, complete with the Amazon Fire TV, various Android TV box sets, the Roku, Chromecast and even the Xbox One S. To say that consumers are spoilt for choice, is definitely an understatement.
The Amazon Fire TV is likely to be the biggest competition for the new Apple TV 4K. This set-top box supports 4K video and Dolby Atmos – making it a well-rounded offering. A new Fire TV is also supposedly on the horizon, boasting Echo Dot-like features for controlling smart home devices, changing the channel, and turning the TV on or off. Those who love the Alexa voice assistant over Apple’s Siri, or want to benefit from Dolby Atmos, will likely be better off buying this Fire TV. It’s rumoured to cost over $100, although it could still be more affordable than the Apple TV 4K.
Those who prefer to save a little bit of money could always opt for the Roku Ultra. This is probably the most similar device to the Apple TV 4K, boasting support for UHD and voice search. Unfortunately, the voice search isn’t as good as Siri or Alexa, and there’s no support for Dolby Vision either. It does cost $100, however, which is cheaper than the Apple TV 4K.
Perhaps the best option for most people, and a bit of a wildcard, would be the Xbox One S. It supports 4K movies, whether they be from a streaming service or a physical Blu-ray disc, as well as Dolby Atmos. What’s more, with the Xbox One S users can also enjoy a strong gaming catalogue. While the Fire TV and Apple TV 4K both boast numerous games, none will compare to the Xbox One S. By far the best thing about the Xbox One S is the price. Despite offering much more than the Apple TV 4K, it can easily be picked up in the US for just $200, and that includes a game. Also expect to see it bundled with a game for £179.99 in the UK– the same price as the Apple TV 4K.
Consumers who are still adamant on owning the Apple TV 4K will be able to pick it up in the UK from September 22, with pre-orders beginning September 15. Pricing starts at £179 for the 32GB model, while a 64GB variant is priced at £199.