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Hands-on review: In the age of smart TVs, how relevant is the 4K Apple TV?

By Lama Farhat
Fri 28 Jun 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Apple released their 4K Apple TV in September 2017.

The little box was a welcome addition to the streaming boxes market.

It has been almost two years since that release.

Is the 4K Apple TV still worth it?

Design:

The Apple TV’s design is one of its strong points. The little black box is absolutely gorgeous to have under any TV. It is elegant and compact which allows it to fit in any TV set up without drawing much attention to itself.

The Apple TV has a square base of just under 10cm per side and a height of 3.5cm.

The front of the Apple TV has a small white light that indicates if it is on or off.

The back has a HDMI port, an Ethernet port and the power port.

The Apple TV also comes with the Siri remote, which has a very sleek design.

The top part is a touchpad for scrolling that also doubles as the main clicking button one you press down on it.

This little touchpad takes some getting used to, but once I mastered it, I quite enjoyed it.

It makes more sense to scroll through menus and content than “press” an arrow.

This touchpad also allows you to fast forward, rewind and perform gestures.

The top half also has the “menu” button as well as the home button. 

The bottom half hosts the volume control, the play/pause button and the microphone that also controls Siri.

At the bottom of the Siri remote is a lightning port for charging the remote.
It is worth mentioning that the battery seems to last forever and would only need charging around twice a year.

Hardware: 

The Apple TV rocks the A10X Fusion chip.

That is the same chip used in the 2017 iPad Pro.

This gives the 4K Apple TV twice the CPU performance and four times the GPU performance of its fourth-generation Apple TV predecessor.

The new A10X chip and the 34GB RAM allow the Apple TV to completely take advantage of its 4K capabilities.

The 4K Apple TV is available in 32 or 64GB models.

Unless you plan to download many apps and games, the 32GB is more than enough.

The 4K Apple TV  ticks all the boxes of video streaming as not only does it support 4K, but it also supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

This basically means that if connected to the right TV, the Apple TV 4K will produce stunning images.

Interface:

The interface is what puts the Apple TV ahead of all of its competitors. It’s organised, clean, well thought and very user-friendly. It is also visually stunning.

Unlike the complicated and poorly executed interface of Android TVs, the 4K Apple TV has gorgeous menus, and large movable icons for all of your applications.

The interface is highly customizable, allowing users to arrange the apps they use the most on top.

It also allows users to create folders to sort through applications.

I love this feature as this way I have a folder for my streaming apps, games, and lifestyle apps.

Siri and Search features:

For those living in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, Spain and Japan, the Siri feature is available.

Unfortunately, in New Zealand, the feature is not available so we were not able to test it.

Despite Siri not being available in New Zealand, the Siri remote still recognises speech.

This means that when you press the microphone button, it will automatically take you to the search bar.

There you can search for shows, movies and apps.

You can also use this setting to dictate passwords so that you avoid having to scroll for letters.

Bluetooth Accessories:

The Apple TV supports third-party Bluetooth devices.

This feature is really underrated as it allows users to connect to controllers, speakers, headsets, and any other Bluetooth-compatible devices.

My favorite Bluetooth accessory for the 4K Apple TV was the SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller. This controller is fairly affordable compared to the price of its competitors.

This controller changes the Apple TV from a streaming box to a gaming console. There are hundreds of games on Apple TV 4K today for a user to choose from.

The controller has really good ergonomics and feels sturdy and comfortable.

It has pressure sensitive buttons for accurate gameplay.

The controller is also a great way to control the Apple TV.

If you didn’t like the Siri remote, the SteelSeries controller provides a very comfortable and familiar way for users to navigate the Apple TV’s menus.

Extra things I loved:

It is Apple’s attention to detail that always puts them ahead of competition. There is one feature that I love about the Apple TV 4K that might seem not important to others, but for me it really hit the mark.

That feature was the Aerial screensavers, which were images that were aerial shots of cities, landscapes, or taken by NASA.

These screensavers look absolutely stunning in 4K that I often found myself just staring at them.

I also love the fact that with the newest update you can swipe up to know more about the footage and you can swipe left and right between them.

What I hated:

The one thing that really bothered me about the Apple TV 4K is that it doesn’t come with an HDMI cable.

At that price, I expect it to be a full package.

Not any HDMI can be used to project 4K footage.

I paired the Apple TV 4K with the Belkin HDMI cable that retails at $49.95 which when added to the price of the Apple TV 4K can put a dent in any wallet.

The other disadvantage that the 4K Apple TV has is the fact that it doesn't support 4K YouTube streaming.

I assumed they would fix it in one of the updates but after almost 2 years, that is still the case.

In 2019, YouTube is the number one platform for free 4K content and the Apple TV downgrades that content to 1080P which is a shame. 

Is it STILL worth it?

The Apple TV 4K is meant to be connected to a 4K HDR TV to be used at its full potential.

In 2019, almost all 4K HDR TVs are smart TVs.

These TVs mostly run on their own interface or on the basic Android interface.

They all support apps like YouTube and Netflix and some even have browsers.

On paper, this sounds like you wouldn’t need the Apple TV 4K but after using both, that couldn’t be further away from the truth.

There is no interface out there that is as well-designed as the Apple TV 4K interface. The experience is completely different.

The offerings are nowhere near the same.

The simplicity of the Apple TV 4K, the accuracy and the feel of the Siri remote, the beautiful well-presented display, the vast variety of applications and games, and the huge library of 4K content all make the Apple TV 4K stand out.

Yes, there are cheaper options, but they do not offer everything this small black box offers.

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