2021 Apple TV 4K (32GB)

  • Dolby Atmos for immersive, room-filling sound
  • A12 Bionic chip gives a big boost to audio, video, and graphics, for even better game and app experiences
  • 4K High Frame Rate HDR with Dolby Vision for fluid, crisp video
  • Apple Original shows and movies from Apple TV+
  • The latest hits from Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and more
  • More ways to enjoy your TV with Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+, and Apple Music
  • The new Siri Remote with touch-enabled clickpad
  • Private listening with up to two sets of AirPods
  • Use AirPlay to share photos, videos, and more from your iPhone, iPad, and Mac on your TV
  • Get a live view of your HomeKit-enabled cameras and control your smart home accessories

A Minor Update to an Excellent Streamer

Photos are a comparison of the last 4 generations of AppleTV: 3rd generation, HD, 4K, and this newest box; and the old Siri remote vs the new remote.

If you liked the previous generation of the AppleTV, the original 4K, then you will like this new iteration. Because, it is near as makes no difference, exactly the same. Oh, there are spec sheet differences like higher frame 4K video for uncommon content and extremely modern TVs. And the processor has been bumped a couple generations, but I can’t tell the difference; it was plenty fast before and it’s plenty fast now.

The remote is better. I had given the previous AppleTV 4 stars because the remote was a fragile, quirky, easily lost, tiny, button poor collection of Apple’s worst design impulses. I bought brightly colored cases for my remotes so I wouldn’t lose them, or forget which end was which. The new remote is more substantial, easier to perform such basic actions as skipping forward in videos. Has a mute button! Now I don’t have to volume down to zero to mute. With a power button so I don’t have to do the square button long press, slide and click to sleep. I can grab it and figure out which end is which without fumbling. Perhaps most importantly, my wife, who never figured out the old remote, uses this one without issue.

From such small gifts come an additional star.

Readjusting to the new remote continues. I still have muscle memory for the old remote and tend to press the play button when I mean to talk with Siri, and the mute button when I mean to pause. I’d say the old remote is better at swiping left or right, but the new remote is massively better at single directional clicks; it’s practical now to skip forward in single hops instead of swiping around and hoping I land about where I want to scrub in a timeline. The new remote also has a hard to discover feature where resting your thumb on the side of the “track wheel” while pausing video will enable a kind of iPod scrolling through videos. Very precise and makes skipping over commercials in Tablo much easier. Apps that don’t use the standard playback controls don’t necessarily get this feature.

Owners of previous generations can just buy the new remote separately and save themselves the cost of a new box when there are no other compelling features. For example, the new color calibration feature using the iPhone 12 will work with older boxes too. I bought a new remote from Apple for the original AppleTV 4K in my bedroom and it paired in seconds and has been a pleasure to use. The larger size is a surprisingly important feature as it’s easier to find even when amongst the folds of an unmade bed, and fits my hand better.

If it’s comparable to the old remote, it will need charging every 4-6 months with ample onscreen warning. I would not worry about the non-replaceable batteries. I doubt the typical remote will be charged as many as 20 cycles in its lifetime. By the way, do not charge it unless the AppleTV warns you as you don’t want to wear out the battery with too many cycles. This is not a device you want to daily charge.

For those who are buying an AppleTV for the first time, I recommend it if the following is true: you use an iPhone, you have adequate network speed for 4K content, somewhere around 50-100 Mbit should be adequate, you buy iTunes content like movies and TV series. If you want HomeKit automation. If none of these are true, then some other streaming box is likely a better fit.

Apple designs the best low wattage computer chips in the world today, and it is no surprise that the 2+ year old A12 in this box leads to a snappy interface. Apps launch fast, list of thumbnails scroll smoothly and briskly. I’ve never complained of a lack of speed with an AppleTV 4K of either generation.

My most commonly used app is YouTube and it is fine, if not as full featured as the iPhone version. The occasional 4K video looks excellent on this platform. If you’d look at my network traffic reports, you see I go through videos by the terabyte. The only hiccup had been the occasional loss of pause button functionality, which they finally fixed. And I wish it were easier to turn on close captioning and leave them on.

The large number of movies in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos in the iTunes library give my TV, a Sony A80J, a chance to show what it is capable of. Details in the dark and eye searing highlights come through and give me my money’s worth. And my library frequently sees movies I’ve already paid for refreshed in Dolby Vision. Recently, the Indiana Jones movies suddenly showed up in these formats, nice. On the other hand sometimes, a movie will require a second purchase to get Dolby Vision, and that’s aggravating and something I've yet to do.

I should mention the existance of an Apple TV app on many modern televisions, including my Sony A80J and my LG CX. It is adequate at finding and excellent at displaying iTunes content—I can't tell any difference in quality between using a real AppleTV or the integrated app on my LG CX—but I'm not going to log into Google TV to see how it works on the Sony. I'd prefer privacy, something I'm not going to get from smart TVs from ad-revenue driven corporations.

Dolby Atmos, is a nice to have feature, and many movies will feature it and its near mandatory rainy or helicopter scenes. The first chance I had to get into my new TV room’s attic, I put in overhead speakers for Atmos. And I just did the same in the basement media room. Well worth crawling around pulling some speaker wire. As a bonus, Apple has recently started remixing selected music tracks in an Atmos compatible format: Spatial Audio, which places the listener in a much more immersive location in the sound field. So, for times when you really want to listen to foreground music it’s a great feature.

I’m not a fan of the TV+ app as it is too focused on selling content and services.

There are many 3rd party apps, and I watch a lot of Hulu and VRV. The Channels app is a good to have if you have an antenna and an HDHomeRun. The Tablo app is a must to have if a bit slow if you own a Tablo network DVR. Cord cutters can pretty much fill there content needs and get away from cable television. The Netflix app, when I used it, was one of the better implementations I’d seen.

I’d say very few people will notice a difference between the 32 and 64 GB versions. Maybe, with slow networks with a lot of rewatched content or large games. Save a bit of money.

I’ve not been gaming on this box or its predecessor, not my thing and the games I tried did not compel. Still it has plenty of horsepower for most games. You will need a Bluetooth controller though as Apple has removed the gyroscope functionality from the remote. Not that the original Siri remote was a good controller anyway.

Happy this still has a Gigabit Ethernet port as wired networking is reliable networking.

As my home uses HomeKit, this acts as my hub, a centralized computer tying together the switches, thermostats, garage openers, and other smart devices in the house. A reliable system, although if you don’t need a streaming box, a HomePod Mini is cheaper and will also act as a hub, albeit sans Ethernet.

Harmony remotes are no longer being made as modern streaming boxes control receivers and TVs so well. The AppleTV coexists with my Sony TV and Yamaha receiver to the point I go months without touching their remotes. All I really need is to turn the system on and off, mute, and adjust the volume and this does so well and reliably.

As a developer, I’d say Apple has gone well out of its way to make porting iOS apps to tvOS almost easy. The introduction of Combine and SwiftUI should make it possible for developers to repurpose their apps to the Mac and the AppleTV with little initial effort. Certainly, I’d recommend any iOS developer own an AppleTV and think of which features might be useful on the big screen.

As someone who uses an AppleTV every day, I appreciate the high level of technology, reliability, integration with other tech, speed, frequent software updates, new features delivered for free, and Apple’s privacy focus. As I just recently added a TV to my new home, I was happy to pick up this new model to replace an AppleTV HD, but I probably would not have replaced a first generation 4K with this model. However, I purchased just the remote for the original 4K model in my bedroom and have been happy with the decision.

5.0 out of 5 stars First takes from a longtime Apple TV user
This Apple TV seems like a great upgrade over my previous Apple TV model. At first glance the speed is much smoother and heavier apps like YoutubeTV are running much more smoothly. I can't speak on TV quality but everything does look a bit more crisp in comparison. Loading of video is much smoother and is a glaring improvement over previous models. Already enjoying this new model!

The body also seems like the same size as previous Apple TVs since it fits in my previous AppleTV's mount.

The remote is a MASSIVE upgrade over previous models already. Much easier to grip in the hand with square corners but a rounded back. It feels much better and I don't find myself hitting the siri button on the right side of the remote. The physical buttons on the touchpad help so much navigation!

The re-adjustment of the buttons has been an easy and natural adjustment since the icons are a bit easier to understand. Also a physical power button will be amazing for the people who couldn't find it on the previous model.

I do wish there was a light on the remote but I can understand wanting to keep the design sleek.

Overall 10/10 nice upgrade over the previous model. It worked directly out of the box. I will update this review if I come across anything more glaring.

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