Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Still the best streaming box by a long shot

Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Still the best streaming box by a long shot

After Apple Finally last year gave us a decent Siri remote, I couldn’t imagine the Apple TV 4K getting any better. It’s not like anyone is clamoring for an 8K upgrade – all we need these days is support for fast 4K streaming as well as plenty of HDR (High Definition Range) formats. The new Apple TV 4K can easily meet these requirements, but what’s really impressive is that it’s much faster than before. and it’s much cheaper at $129 (down from $179)! Finally, there is an Apple TV that I can recommend to anyone without hesitation.

Let’s start with what’s new: this year’s Apple TV 4K is powered by the A15 Bionic chip that launched with the iPhone 13 (and is still used in the iPhone 14). That’s a huge leap forward from the 2018 A12 in the previous model. The new box also comes with 64GB of storage instead of a modest 32GB. If you plan to load up on a lot of games and apps, there’s also a $149 128GB model that adds an Ethernet port and support for the Thread internet-of-things protocol. Finally, Apple has integrated HDR10+ support, which works similarly to Dolby Vision to deliver more accurate HDR in every scene.

At first glance, the Apple TV 4K looks just like previous models: a sleek black box with obscenely rounded corners. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll notice that it’s actually smaller, like a prop of its predecessor. Apple says it’s 20 percent smaller than before, a result of losing the fan from previous models (this one runs quietly) and powered by more efficient hardware. Apple did not say what exactly led to the dramatic price drop. But I’d bet that’s because of easier manufacturing and also the overall drop in component prices.

If you want to hear me wax poetic about the Apple Siri Remote, check out my review of the latest Apple TV. I’m still in love with it a year later: It’s easy to hold, has all the basic features you’d want, and is much harder to lose than the previous super-slim controller. I’m still confused as to why we were forced to use a glass-backed remote with a crappy touchpad on the original Apple TV 4K. Long live the new model and its touch-sensitive directional clickpad.

Apple TV 4K (2022)

So sure, the hardware is great, but how about the software? Setting up Apple TV 4K is now surprisingly easy, assuming you’re already committed to the Apple ecosystem. After connecting, I had to hold my iPhone up to the box to send the WiFi and iCloud credentials. I decided to sync my home screens, which caused all the apps from my current Apple TV to jump. At that point I just had to log into my usual streaming devices and I was good to go.

Having used every Apple TV the company has released in the past decade, one immediate thought came to mind when I started using this new model: Damn, this thing is fast. This in no way means that the last version was slow. But this year’s box has a grip that is simply liberating. I can easily navigate through all the apps on my home screen, launch Netflix seconds faster than before, and browse my movie library without breaking a sweat. No more minor loading lags or pinwheels.

It might just be that I’m experiencing the rush of a brand new device that isn’t cluttered with years of use. But using the new Apple TV 4K is like the difference between using an iPhone X and an iPhone 14 – everything just happens faster, with a greater sense of urgency. I found it most useful when I was switching between apps and different videos. While I was catching up Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Netflix, I could quickly skip to my YouTube channels while my wife needed a bathroom break, and after she came back, he continued the scary thing. Again, this is something I often did with the previous box, but now the Apple TV feels completely unencumbered.

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Amidst my viewing speed, I was also impressed that the Apple TV handled HDR 10+ without issue. The opening chase There is no time to die it looked gorgeous, with excellent highlights in brightly lit European streets but also solid shadow detail in darker scenes. This is the main attraction of HDR10+. Like the original HDR 10 standard, it provides both brighter and darker darks. But, can also adjust these settings based on the scene you’re viewing, just like Dolby Vision. This avoids some of the issues commonly seen with HDR 10, where one HDR profile setting may not work well across a range of scenes.

When testing Apple TV 4K on a 55-inch Samsung Odyssey Ark monitor, I was also able to watch Dolby Vision titles from iTunes via HDR10+. This feature is particularly useful on the Ark, as it doesn’t support Dolby Vision on its own. You can expect HDR10+ to work across all Apple TV+ offerings, as well as many titles available to rent or buy. Amazon has also been pushing the standard for years, so you’ll find native HDR10+ support on all of its originals. (It looked especially cool during the opening Peripheral.)

If you weren’t a fan of the Apple TV interface before, this new model won’t change your mind. But as someone who has tried it a lot of the streaming devices, I still feel most at home with the Apple TV. I appreciate its wide variety of apps, its seamless integration with iOS devices, and the overall polish you don’t see on Roku software. Sure, you can use the Apple TV app on competing devices today (including Roku!), but that’s just the gateway to content. It’s not the same as living every day with an elegantly designed streaming interface.

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Apple TV 4K (2022)

Another plus? Apple TV actually has games you might want to play. Within seconds, I was able to load up Sonic Racing, pair the Xbox controller, and start zooming around the track without too much trouble. The A15 Bionic should allow for smoother performance on more demanding games, but I personally have never seen anything put too much stress on these boxes.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Apple TV this year: you don’t have to pay that much of a premium to own it. At $129, it’s a bit more expensive than the $100 Roku Ultra, but in exchange you get a much more robust app platform and more features. The $149 model we reviewed is a smarter buy if you require Ethernet or would like to start using Thread IoT devices. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Thread-compatible hardware to test with.) But even this model is quite a bit cheaper than the previous $179 Apple TV.

If you already bought last year’s Apple TV 4K for its new Siri remote, this new box probably isn’t worth the upgrade. However, if you’ve recently picked up an HDR10+ TV, it might be worth the step up just to see the best possible HDR picture.

It took a while, but Apple has finally managed to create the ideal streaming box: one that’s relatively cheap, full of modern features and fast. So damn fast.

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