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Apple TV 4K (2021) Evaluate: Distant Redemption



After a lot hypothesis, Apple revealed the brand new Apple TV 4K at its April 2021 occasion. Whereas the media streamer may not look any completely different on the floor, there’s one huge change: the Siri distant. Simply probably the most complained about function of the unique Apple TV 4K, Apple went again to the drafting board, producing one thing extra conventional – however nonetheless distinctly Apple – this time round.

There’s additionally an upgraded chipset, changing the ageing A10X Fusion processor with the A12 Bionic enabling excessive framerate HDR playback and improved gameplay efficiency, and there are a handful of software program enhancements too. The query is, is it sufficient to justify the premium value when there are many low cost 4K streamers proper now? Properly…  

Design and construct

The Apple TV 4K (2021) has the identical design as its predecessor; it’s basically a black field with a matte end and a delicate Apple brand on the lid, flanked by a shiny end on the perimeters so as to add to the premium look.

There’s a single white LED on the entrance to point energy and enter, and it’s barely raised on the backside to accommodate the downward-facing followers, serving to to maintain the system cool and working properly.

On the rear, you’ll discover an upgraded HDMI 2.1 port able to supporting as much as [email protected] (though the unit itself caps out at 60Hz) together with an Ethernet port – though there may be additionally Wi-Fi out there for ease of use – and an influence port.

The all-black nature of the Apple TV means it blends properly into its surroundings, however it’s not the smallest media streamer you’ll discover in 2021, measuring in at 98 x 88 x 35mm.

The excellent news is that, as a result of the Apple TV distant depends on Bluetooth rather than the inferior IR to regulate the Apple TV, the unit doesn’t must be sat subsequent to your TV – you may cover it in a TV cupboard and nonetheless obtain full performance. Out of sight, however not out of thoughts.

The redesigned Siri distant

The redesigned Siri distant is undoubtedly one of many fundamental focuses of the brand new Apple TV 4K, as the unique touch-based Siri distant was one of many greatest ache factors of the unique.

The excellent news is that the brand new Siri distant is an entire redesign of the unique, choosing a thicker and heavier 64g construct that feels extra substantial and comfy within the hand, and it makes it simpler to seek out the distant when it inevitably slips down the aspect of the couch too.

There’s a slight curvature to the rear that helps the distant sit within the hand extra comfortably, and it makes it simpler to choose the distant up from flat surfaces too – now not will it is advisable slide the distant to the sting of a desk to choose it up.

The big contact panel has been changed by a handful of buttons and a wheel that gives each click on and contact management. It’s simple to see the logic – it permits Apple to supply swipe-based gestures for faster scrolling and click-based controls for finer management – however it will possibly take a little bit of getting used to.

For the primary few days, I’d glide my fingers over the round management forgetting that it’s additionally swipe-based, typically leading to a miss-selection, however I ultimately adjusted. There’s a technique to change to click-based enter completely within the Settings menu, however it does curtail simply how useful the brand new distant will be for navigation.

You see, Apple has labored new performance into tvOS to make the most of the round trackpad on the brand new Siri distant. Essentially the most notable is the improved scrubbing when watching movies, permitting you to run your finger across the round button to leap forwards or backwards to a selected scene.

The catch is that, proper now, not all streaming apps help it, with the likes of Netflix, YouTube and Disney+ but to implement the performance, though it’ll probably occur sooner or later.

Round trackpad apart, there are a smattering of returning and brand-new buttons. You’ll get the identical residence, again and quantity buttons as the unique, together with a brand new mute button and a devoted energy button to shortly flip off your Apple TV and related gadgets – so long as your TV helps HDMI CEC, that’s.

The Siri button has additionally made a return, however you received’t discover it on the entrance of the distant this time round. As a substitute, very similar to iPhones, now you can activate Siri by way of a discreet side-mounted button. The brand new format will take any current Apple TV proprietor a number of days to regulate to, however the rejigged format actually does make for a smoother expertise total.

However, regardless of the added thickness and the truth that all people has misplaced a TV distant in some unspecified time in the future of their lives, Apple determined to not embody its W1 chipset throughout the new Siri distant to permit AirTag-like Discover My connectivity – one thing that might’ve actually set the Apple TV aside from the competitors.

There are third-party 3D-printed instances that’ll allow you to connect an AirTag in case you are actually liable to shedding it, however there’s nothing official from Apple.

Efficiency and software program

The brand new Apple TV 4K runs tvOS 14 out of the field, providing a slick working system that’s a lot cleaner and extra intuitive than the ad-packed choices out there from the likes of Amazon, and you’ll even organise your library of apps (downloadable by way of its personal App Retailer, by the best way) into folders identical to an iPhone or iPad.

There are definitely parts of tvOS impressed by iOS, making for a well-known expertise for those who’re already part of the Apple ecosystem, and even for those who’re not, the flurry of suggestions and methods introduced to new customers will get you on top of things fairly shortly.   

The brand new Apple TV 4K is powered by the identical A12 Bionic chipset discovered within the iPhone XS – an enormous soar from the ageing A10X Fusion within the older 4K mannequin, and it’s noticeable in use too.

Whereas the 2017 mannequin often stutters, there’s no such expertise on the brand new mannequin, swiping between apps on the House display screen, switching apps and even taking part in Apple Arcade video games with no trace of stutter or lag.

The latter is especially spectacular as, though Apple Arcade has supported Apple TV since its inception, the {hardware} on supply from the older mannequin wasn’t sufficient to even hit a secure 30fps in notably demanding titles like Oceanhorn 2.

That’s definitely not the case this time, permitting informal avid gamers to benefit from the rising library of Apple Arcade video games on the large display screen – and you’ll even use the most recent DualSense and Xbox Sequence X controllers to play for those who’ve obtained them useful.

Other than a normal increase to efficiency, the inclusion of the A12 Bionic permits the brand new Apple TV to help excessive framerate HDR content material. Whereas it’s not supported by each app, there’s positively a distinction to high-speed occasions streamed by way of the not too long ago up to date Pink Bull TV app, providing smoother and clearer visuals than what was attainable from its predecessor.

Like the brand new scrolling performance, it’s a function we think about most streaming apps will make the most of over the approaching months – particularly these centered on fast-paced visuals the place the distinction is most notable.  

One huge perk for HomePod house owners has all the time been the flexibility to stream Apple TV content material by way of the sensible speaker, typically leading to higher high quality audio than built-in TV audio system and cheaper soundbars, however the performance has been restricted to Apple TV content material.

Which means audio from a Blu-ray participant or console wouldn’t be funnelled by the wi-fi audio system – however that has modified with the brand new mannequin, which makes use of HDMI Arc or eARC to take your TV’s audio output and stream it to HomePod audio system whatever the supply.

The one subject is that Apple has formally discontinued the HomePod and it’s not suitable with the smaller HomePod Mini, so that you might need a tough time selecting a speaker up for those who don’t have one already.   

There’s additionally the flexibility to make use of a Face ID-enabled iPhone to professionally color grade your TV – all it is advisable do is begin the setup, maintain your iPhone as much as the TV and wait whereas the TV cycles between numerous colors. Whereas the outcomes will range relying on simply how correct your TV color stability is, I used to be impressed by the tweaked color profile introduced.

You possibly can flip between the unique and Apple’s color grading to see which appears higher – in my case, my normal TV image was a bit of too blue, so the Apple TV added a splash of orange to stability issues out – and you’ll revert at any time for those who change your thoughts.

Siri is one other robust level of the Apple TV expertise. Not solely can Apple’s digital assistant deal with advanced queries like ‘Present me humorous youngsters motion pictures from the 90s’ however you may say issues like ‘what did they are saying?’ when watching a TV present to get Siri to robotically rewind by 15 seconds and briefly allow subtitles. It’s an expertise unmatched by the likes of Amazon, Roku and even Android TV.

There are additionally the smaller parts of tvOS that full the signature Apple ecosystem expertise, like having the ability to enter textual content on a close-by iPhone when it is advisable enter a password or search question on the TV, the flexibility to attach a number of pairs of AirPods without delay for personal listening, multi-user help, and the Apple TV app which acts as a hub for all of your favorite reveals throughout a number of streaming apps – though annoyingly not Netflix.

The catch is that the majority of those options, bar the excessive framerate HDR enabled by the A12 Bionic and the flexibility to make use of HomePods as a house cinema system, are additionally out there on the 2017 mannequin of Apple TV 4K, making it more durable to justify the improve for those who solely use the Apple TV to stream motion pictures.

Value and availability

The brand new Apple TV 4K is available in two variants – 32GB and 64GB – and value £169/$179 and $189/$199 respectively. If that sounds acquainted, it ought to; it’s the identical storage and pricing because the now-discontinued Apple TV 4K (2017) within the US, whereas these within the UK get it for £10 cheaper than its predecessor. Each fashions can be found straight from Apple alongside retailers like Amazon, Currys and Greatest Purchase.

It’s undoubtedly one of many dearer media streamers out there proper now, however given the advantages, efficiency, and performance on supply, it’s a value value paying – particularly for those who’re already within the Apple ecosystem. For a greater concept of the streamer market, check out our collection of the very best media streamers.

The brand new Siri distant can be that can be purchased individually for current Apple TV house owners that don’t wish to splash out on a wholly new system, costing £55/$59 from the Apple Retailer.

Verdict

The brand new Apple TV 4K fixes a few of the greatest complaints with the first-gen 4K streamer, together with a way more highly effective processor succesful not solely of dealing with the most recent Apple Arcade titles, however excessive framerate HDR playback and the flexibility to stream any TV audio to HomePods wirelessly too.

The most important enchancment, nevertheless, is within the distant division. Apple utterly redesigned the touch-based Siri distant bundled with the unique, choosing one thing a bit of extra conventional – with signature Apple options – that feels good within the hand, and it’s nice to make use of too.

The issue is that the majority software program options are additionally out there on the older mannequin, making it a bit of more durable for current Apple TV house owners to justify the improve.

Nonetheless, if you wish to make the most of the brand new options enabled by the A12 Bionic, and you’re keen on the look of the brand new Siri distant, the Apple TV 4K is likely one of the most succesful media steamers you should purchase proper now.  

Specs
Apple TV 4K (2021): Specs

A12 Bionic processor
32GB/64GB storage
HDMI 2.14
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 with MIMO
simultaneous twin band (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 5.zero wi-fi expertise
IR receiver
Constructed-in energy provide
H.264/HEVC SDR video as much as 2160p, 60 fps, Foremost/Foremost 10 profile
HEVC Dolby Imaginative and prescient (Profile 5)/HDR10 (Foremost 10 profile) as much as 2160p, 60 fps
H.264 Baseline Profile degree 3.zero or decrease with AAC-LC audio as much as 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file codecs
MPEG-Four video as much as 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 fps, Easy profile with AAC-LC audio as much as 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file codecs
HE-AAC (V1), AAC (as much as 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Retailer), MP3 (as much as 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV
AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1), E-AC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 encompass sound), and Dolby Atmos
Distant Management

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