The wait for new Apple TV hardware is finally over, as the next generation of Apple TV 4K is here - with support for HDR high frame rates and a brand new Siri remote. This will replace the old Apple TV 4K, which went on sale nearly four years ago.
This announcement is long overdue - it does seem amiss that Apple has failed to develop the Apple TV hardware since 2017 while it has promoted the Apple TV as a gaming console and ploughed money into developing content for the Apple TV+ streaming service.
However, Apple TV isn't the only way to watch Apple TV+ as there are now many TVs with Apple TV built in and the streaming devices from the likes of Roku and Amazon support Apple TV. With the Apple TV no longer limited to Apple products there was the potential for there to never be a new Apple TV. Luckily Apple did decide to update the product that Apple founder Steve Jobs once described as a "Hobby".
The big question is how the new Apple TV 4K compares not only with the now discontinued 4K Apple TV, and the still-on-sale Apple TV HD, but also how it compares with those alternaives.
Here's everything you need to know about the 2021 edition of the Apple TV 4K (AKA the 6th generation Apple TV).
When does the new Apple TV 4K release?
You've not got long to wait, as the 2021 edition of the Apple TV 4K will be available to pre-order from the Apple website on 30 April 2021, and will go on sale fully in the second half of May 2021.
From Friday 30 April you will be able to order your Apple TV 4K on Apple's website.
When Apple announced the 23 April pre-order date for the new AirTags the company revealed that pre-orders would start at 1pm in the UK (5am PST, 8am EDT, 2pm CET, 10pm AEST, etc). Apple hasn't confirmed the time when the pre-orders will start on 30 April, but we assume it will be at the same times as before.
Apple didn't reveal when in May the new Apple TV will go on sale, but Jon Prosser, a reasonably reliable leaker, has suggested that the new Apple TV (and iPad Pro) will go on sale on Friday 21 May.
Update on this:— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 29, 2021
iPad Pro launch is May 21st.
The “22nd” date I mentioned is linked to the 5G model for a certain carrier and should be disregarded for the most part.
Apple will also launch the new Apple TV on May 21st. https://t.co/A31ZulKGWa
How much does the new Apple TV 4K cost?
The costs for the Apple TV 6th generation are as follows:
- £169/$179 (32GB model)
- £189/$199 (64GB model)
The two new models are both £10 less in the UK than the predecessor was. Read: For once Apple's not ripping off Britain.
However, despite the price drop here in the UK, elsewhere the price hasn't changed and that's disappointing. Even with the inclusion of the new A12 Bionic chip, Apple TV looks overpriced in comparison to the rest of the market - a trend we saw in the previous generation models.
How Apple TV prices compare with the competition
There are three Apple TV models you can buy from Apple:
- 32GB 4th-gen Apple TV HD - £139/$149
- 32GB 6th-gen Apple TV 4K - £169/$179
- 64GB 6th-gen Apple TV 4K - £189/$199
As with the new 4K models the price of the entry-level 4th generation Apple TV HD has also seen a discount in the UK where it's now £139, the price remains at $149 in the US (buy from Apple). This model launched in October 2015. It's an extortionately high price for an almost six year old device and it's powered by the A8 chip, which Apple may even stop supporting in the next year or so. It does now ship with the new Apple TV remote though, so that's a bonus.
These prices are very high when compared to dongles such as Amazon's Fire Stick (from £39.99) and the Google Chromecast (from £30), and the Roku offerings (£39.99). Considering the Fire and the Roku can also access the Apple TV+ content you might wonder what Apple TV has that these cheaper dongles don't.
One thing that the Apple TV has going for it is the storage supplied. But those GBs of storage seem redundant when we are all used to streaming content. And it's not as if we can record onto the Apple TV.
It's not only that the Apple TV costs so much more than other devices. Are people really going to take kindly to paying more than £150 for a box if they also have to pay a monthly subscription for Apple's new TV service and the Apple Arcade gaming subscription service in order to fully benefit from the hardware? We think not! Currently you will at least get a year's subscription to Apple TV+ if you do buy one but that's not a huge incentive at the price.
We'd like to see Apple offer a cheaper Apple TV dongle to compete with the Fire Stick and Google Chromecast. A dongle might help the company reach the masses with its new streaming video service. An article on The Information in November 2018 claimed that Apple was indeed considering such a move. We'd love a smaller Apple TV that plugged directly into the back of our TV (which hangs on the wall and has no space for boxes beside it - and we're sure we aren't the only ones with a setup like that).
But it doesn't have to be a smaller Apple TV; Apple could continue to sell the current models as a lower price. In the recent past Apple has sold the Apple TV for £99/$99 (until 2014) so reducing the price to that level wouldn't be completely out of character. In fact, Apple cut the price of that box to £79/$69 at one point.
We'd like to see the price lower than £79/$69, though, given the lower prices of the above competition.
Here's the lowdown on what's included in the new Apple TV 4K. Compared to the previous generation there's a few new features, but there is a lot that's unchanged. Read: Apple TV 4K (2021) vs Apple TV 4K (2017)
The new Apple TV 4K runs on the A12 Bionic chip, which should boost graphics, video decoding, and audio processing compared to the previous generation.
Two significant changes are support for HDR at high frame rates and improved AirPlay.
This means that you can play video at 60fps, including those that you shoot on your iPhone. Apple notes that you'll see the effect on fast-paced video - mainly sports. Sadly, Apple has not mentioned anything about the rumoured 120Hz refresh rate that was highly anticipated by fans.
Sadly this time around there are no increased storage allocations. The new Apple TV 4K still comes in either 32GB or 64GB, the same as on the 4th-gen model.
It could be possible that Apple will add a 128GB or more offering at some point, but we suspect that Apple's customers don't need so much, since they tend to be streaming content and storing content in iCloud.
In fact we do wonder whether we really need any storage for this device if it's just for streaming TV shows.
Colour balance with iPhone
The new Apple TV 4K and the Apple TV HD now support a colour balance process that is designed to be used with an iPhone.
To calibrate your TV's picture quality, you can use your mobile's light sensor to compare the colour balance to industry-standard specifications. Apple TV will then automatically adjust the settings to give you the best picture quality available - you can see an example below:
For more information read: How to use your iPhone and Apple TV to calibrate your TV’s picture.
New Siri Remote
The Siri Remote is also getting a big redesign, with a new silver, aluminium finish and shape that is designed to feel more comfortable to use.
The clickpad control comes with five-way navigation, and is also touch-enabled for quick access. The outer ring of the clickpad can be used in a circular motion to control playback on TV shows and movies. So if you draw a circle to the right, you can fast forward what you're watching.
Arguably the most exciting thing about this new Siri remote is the power button, which can be used to control both the TV's power, and mute the volume.
Like on previous remotes, customers can use voice control (hence the 'Siri' in the name) to search for shows and movies, check sports scores, control other home accessories and more.
But most of us have lost our remotes anyway, and are relying on our iPhones to control our Apple TVs. Want to use your iPhone to control an Apple TV? Find out more in our tutorial showing how to remote-control an Apple TV with an iPhone.
Apple TV 4K runs on Apple's tvOS, and like most other devices in the Apple ecosystem has easy integration with other Apple products such as Apple Music, Apple Fitness+, Apple Arcade and HomeKit.