The Apple TV is Apple's attempt to take over your living room, letting you watch TV and movies on your TV through iTunes and a load of other online services. Now in its fifth generation, the device has evolved a lot over the years, and there are currently two models to choose from.

In this feature, we'll look at the different models of Apple TV and what each one offers - and costs - to help you decide which is the best for you. So before handing your cash over to Apple, let's take a look at the different Apple TV models.

What Apple TV models are available?

Best Apple TV buying guide 2017: The Apple TV

Apple currently sells two main types of Apple TV: the 2015, or fourth-gen, Apple TV (updated with the fifth-gen Siri remote design); and the 2017, or fifth-gen, Apple TV 4K. As you might have guessed, the biggest difference is that the latter model supports 4K video. The Apple TV 4K is also available in two storage options, so you essentially have three models to pick from:

Model Apple TV Apple TV 4K Apple TV 4K
Supports 4K? No Yes Yes
Storage 32GB 32GB 64GB
Price £149 £179 £199
  Buy Buy Buy

It's also worth checking the Apple TV section of Apple's refurbished store, to see if there are any cheaper fourth-gen models, and there's always eBay - where you might even find an older third-gen model for a lot less.

What are the differences between the fourth-gen and 4K Apple TVs?

The Apple TV has morphed a lot over the years since its introduction in 2009. When it started, the device was a simple way to sync content from your iTunes library and watch it on your television. The content was mostly limited to music and videos from your iTunes library.

Since then it's advanced a lot, and now runs tvOS (a version of iOS), and includes a full suite of apps for streaming and downloading video content - including iTunes and Apple Music - along with streaming content directly from your iPhone or iPad over AirPlay. It also supports Siri through the Siri remote, which enables both touch controls and Siri voice controls.

Broadly speaking, both models of Apple TV on the Apple Store right now are similar - and aesthetically, they're identical. The chief difference is that the Apple TV 4K supports 4K and HDR content - and packs a more powerful A10X Fusion processor to make sure it runs that content smoothly.

That means that the pricier model can play films and TV shows at 2160p - compared to regular HD, which is 1080p - which means you get four times the pixels, which means more detailed images from films and TV shows that support the format.

Many - though not all - apps will offer 4K content, and Apple has even said that iTunes will charge the same for 4K content as it does for HD, and offer free, automatic upgrades for anyone who's already bought HD content that has a 4K version available. However, it's worth noting that you can only stream 4K content, not download it to watch offline - though you can still download HD releases.

Beyond 4K, the Apple TV also supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, which are both different formats of HDR - high dynamic range. Separate and distinct from 4K, HDR delivers richer, more vibrant colours. Most 4K content is likely to support HDR - though there may be some exceptions - and some regular HD content will also support one or other of the formats.

As for audio, both Apple TV models support Dolby 7.1 surround sound, but Apple promises that the 4K device will be receiving a software update to patch in support for Dolby Atmos at some point in the future.

Should you buy the 4K model?

If you're deciding between the regular and 4K Apple TV models, there are a few things to consider.

First up: how much do you care about picture quality? Are you antsy to make sure you watch movies in the highest possible quality, with 4K and HDR enabled? Or are you perfectly happy watching standard HD? If the latter, there's really no reason to spend extra money.

You also need to make sure you can actually take advantage of the new features. You can only watch 4K and HDR content if your TV set supports those features, so now's the time to make sure exactly what your TV is capable of. If your TV is only HD, you won't get much benefit from the Apple TV 4K - unless you're planning an upgrade soon, and just want to future-proof.

Finally, you'll need fast internet too. Apple recommends connections of at least 25Mbps for streaming 4K content (and remember, you can't download it ahead of time to watch offline). If your internet isn't fast enough, the quality will automatically be lowered and you'll end up watching content in standard HD anyway.

How much storage do you need?

Another question to consider is storage capacity. While the fourth-gen Apple TV is only available with 32GB, the 4K model can come with either 32GB or 64GB, so you have a decision to make.

At first blush, you might think that the larger storage capacity is worth it to fit all those giant 4K files, but remember that you won't be able to download any 4K films or TV shows from iTunes. So in fact, if you plan to mainly watch 4K content, you might need less storage than before, because you'll be sticking to streaming only.

Still, in favour of the larger capacity model, it's only a £20/$20 price hike for the extra storage, which isn't too severe - so if you think you're likely to benefit from having a collection of HD (not 4K) TV shows and films downloaded to watch offline, it won't exactly break the bank.

Should you buy any Apple TV?

If you're committed to buying an Apple TV, hopefully by now you have an idea of what model to opt for. But if not, it's worth considering whether you should really buy one at all.

We have a whole article devoted to figuring out whether the Apple TV is worth buying, but it basically boils down to figuring out if your TV or games console already does everything you would use the Apple TV for, or if you could buy a similar competing device for an awful lot less.

Google's Chromecast is £30 and lets you stream from any major streaming service by casting from your phone, while the 4K-friendly Chromecast Ultra is £69 - less than half the regular Apple TV, let alone the 4K edition.

It’s a similar story with Amazon. The regular Fire TV Stick is currently £39.99, and the 4K Fire TV is £79 - though that’s currently listed as out of stock on Amazon’s own site, amid speculation it’s about to release an updated version - though you can still buy it refurbished for £74.99.

It’s also worth noting that there are rival boxes and streaming sticks from Roku and Now TV, but at the moment neither offers a 4K model, so they can’t compete with the top-end Apple TV.

Here's how the different devices compare in terms of content available in the UK:

Device

All 4

BBC iPlayer

Demand 5

ITV Hub

UKTV Play

Sky

Apple TV

 

Y

 

 

 

 

Roku

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Amazon Fire

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Google Chromecast

Y

Y

 

Y

 

Y

Sony PlayStation

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Y

Now TV Box

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

YouView

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Sky

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

Virgin Media

Y

 

Y

Y

Y

 

BT Vision

Y

 

Y

Y

Y

 

Xbox

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Y

Freesat

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Freeview Play

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

We have a guide to watching live and catch up TV on Apple TV here.