Apple already has a new Apple TV 4K on the market. It is the version of 2021, with the renewed remote control and some new features at the hardware level that improve on the previous generation but maintaining a much higher price than the competition.
And all this under the buzz of the jump from the Apple TV application to other devices and televisions outside the ecosystem of the American company. Is it still worth what we pay for it?
Apple TV 4K 2021 Specification
|3.5 x 9.8 x 9.8 cm
|Box – 425 gr Knob – 63 gr
|Apple A12 Bionic
|Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.1, Bluetooth 5.0, Wifi 6, Thread
|Up to 4K HDR 60fps
|HDR10 and Dolby Vision
|From 199 dollars
The new version of the Apple TV 4K maintains the storage capacity of the previous generation (remember, 4 years ago), that is, a basic model with 32 GB and a more complete one with 64 GB.
Without the possibility of downloading content to the device directly, it does not seem critical, but if we want to go further and make it more than a streaming device (to play, for example), that capacity falls short in the middle of 2021. And with those prices.
A design more than amortized
Apple already has a long history of “recycling” from the outside in successive generations of products. This allows you to reduce costs, amortize investment and touch only what is essential.
The Apple TV 4K is an excellent example of what we say. The new 2021 model does not present any difference in the exterior design with respect to the previous Apple TV 4K that dates from 2017. And which was already practically identical to the previous generation with as many years behind it.
The box contents Apple is still a device larger and heavier than most equivalent competition, which increasingly bet on the stick format. It is therefore ideal to have placed next to the television, with its reserved space.
In return, the Apple TV is not badly equipped at the connectivity level, with an Ethernet port as well as HDMI 2.1 output. What it still does not offer, although we did not expect it, is a USB port to facilitate the playback of content directly from the computer or as external storage.
The big news: basically the new controller
Without changes abroad, the hardware news in the new Apple TV 4K must be searched for rather than looking for them. The two key points of the internal renewal are on the side of the processor, which is now an A12 Bionic and connectivity, which is WiFi 6.
The new processor (for the Apple TV, because it has been in the Apple catalog for two years now) is the basis for the novelties that we find in the management of image and sound, as well as to reinforce the fluidity of quality content up to 4K, with support for HDR at 60 fps, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
At the performance level, the Apple TV 4K delivers. The interface moves with full ease, as with the reproduction of content with the highest quality that the device supports, although with the current market, it is more a ” potential ” functionality than a present one.
Although we have verified that with this Apple A12 Bionic the Apple TV 4K 2021 is enjoyed smoothly, we are talking about a processor from two years ago. In a new product of this level we expected a more current premiere with which, perhaps, the higher price than the competition would be more justified.
The connectivity also important for the performance of streaming content is reinforced with the arrival of Wifi in June and maintaining the Ethernet port. We have tested the performance of our network both by cable and with a router compatible with Wifi 6, and the experience with 4K content in streaming is clearly better.
Click wheel, “the return”
The minor renovation of the Apple TV 4K in terms of its guts is such that the true protagonist of the generation is the remote. The wheel-crosshead returns to gain precision in the selection of elements and scrolling through the interface, something basic but with the previous model and its touch surface, it was not something that worked for everyone.
Here we have the best of both worlds: physical and tactile controls in a very comfortable wheel format. To move through the interface and the options, we can choose the precision of the crosshead or the speed of the touch, enabled both on the central button and on the surface of the wheel itself.
Another surprising novelty that it has been absent for so long on the Apple TV remote is the computer’s off button. Now it does have it physically and that, again, will help any user to know how to turn off the Apple TV in an intuitive way.
The command is somewhat larger than the previous ones as well as something heavier, but all this facilitates its grip and handling and does not look like something “toy“. There are also quite a few novelties in terms of physical controls, which are some more.
Among the physical buttons there is no missing one for Siri, an assistant that on Apple TV 4K is one of the environments where it feels most comfortable. But now it is placed on one side, taking advantage of the fact that the control is thicker than its predecessor. There are also dedicated buttons for common gestures that were not contemplated in the previous command such as “back” or “mute”.
An iPhone to improve color balance
Part of the experience at the image level with the Apple TV 4K is logically on the side of the television that we use with the Apple box. In this aspect we have a novelty associated with the Apple TV 4K operating system: being able to use an iPhone with Face ID to manage the color balance that the Apple TV 4K “offers” to our television.
Using it is quite simple and straightforward. We point the secondary camera of the iPhone at our television once the option is selected on the Apple TV 4K, and the system will be in charge of adjusting the video output of the Apple TV to the best possible values so that the content we see with the settings of our television are as close as possible to those marked by the original content. In our case, the retouched balance was somewhat warmer than the standard one.
The function is curious and gives us an idea of where the calibration of equipment of this type can evolve, although noticing more or less difference will depend on the quality of the panel of our television and its factory calibration, which in many models is really good. In any case, we are facing a solution light years away from a calibration in conditions of the television itself, which would be ideal.
What Makes It Unique: Apple’s Full Service Ecosystem Hub
Multimedia centers, like connected speakers or televisions themselves, are being configured in the market as the devices that want to be the control center of our digital home and automation ecosystem.
The Apple TV 4K 2021 is not isolated from this trend and is positioned as a HomeKit compatible hub, in addition to Thread technology, a home automation protocol that Apple joined a couple of years ago.
Apple TV 4K is also the desktop hub for all its services and content managers. Music, photos, games with Arcade or exercise with Fitness + (not yet available in all markets) are present in the black box, also having at our disposal the best ecosystem of applications for set-top-boxes on the market by far.
The fact that Apple TV 4K is the desktop meeting point of the main Apple services does not rule out that we can use the Apple streaming box to access practically all platforms that today offer content, including Netflix , Disney +, YouTube, Prime Video, HBO… We can also integrate our own content via third-party applications that connect to our online sources, for example a NAS. Also in this case we have noticed an improvement in agility when it comes to playing compatible content compared to the previous generation Apple TV 4K.
What the Apple TV does not get along with is with other systems to duplicate the screen or send information beyond the brand’s own, that is, Airplay 2.
Other details that add to the experience with Apple TV also have a lot to do with staying in its ecosystem. For example when using AirPods (up to 2 pairs at the same time) or that the start-up and configuration, with an iPhone or iPad in between, is a process of a matter of minutes in which a couple of clicks are enough to have it all ready.
Apple TV 4K 2021, our opinion
No change in the starting price, high compared to the competition if we look exclusively at the data sheet, the new Apple TV 4K 2021 also maintains the elegant and discreet design that fits in many environments.
Without having to touch anything on the outside, Apple improves performance slightly with a new processor (not the most current or powerful of the company) and improved connectivity, so that the content still scarce in 4K and HDR at 60 fps is no problem enjoy it on our TV. There we will have simple and powerful access to the entire Apple ecosystem, both native and through applications, light years away from any other similar device.
However, four years after the previous model, the big news is on the side of the controller, which we could even buy separately to be able to use it with the previous generation. We would be happy for the design and the way of handling but we would hardly notice differences in the day to day with the Apple TV 4K if the connectivity was not one of the problems of the current model.