The addition of 4K support to Apple TV will be welcomed by the Apple faithful, who will pay the $179 required to get it. The rest of humanity will stick with much cheaper devices that deliver the same or better performance.
Apple supports 4K
Two years ago, Apple made a big mistake in not including 4K support in its then-new Apple TV. The lack of 4K support certainly hurt sales of the product as consumers purchased 4K televisions. With 20% of U.S. homes forecast to have a UltraHD by the end of next year, Apple simply had to move to correct the error.
Today it unveiled the Apple TV 4K. The device also includes support for the two most popular high dynamic range technologies, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The device also upgrades the HDMI port to support 2.0, mandatory for the delivery of UltraHD video.
Apple is also ensuring the device is well stocked with 4K content. It announced iTunes would sell 4K movies for the same price as HD. It also says HD movie purchasers will get a free upgrade to 4K versions of the movie. The Cupertino company has added Amazon Prime Video to the box, and it will play Amazon 4K content. Netflix 4K content is also available.
Mostly identical to the previous generation
There are only three other major upgrades to Apple TV from the previous version. The A8 processor has been upgraded to A10, yielding a 2X increase in performance. The graphics processor has been improved giving a 4X increase in performance. A version of the box is available with 64 Gigabytes of memory, twice the base model.
The box and remote design are identical to the previous version. However, it is shocking that Apple did not correct one of the single most annoying features of the Apple TV: the remote. The touch pad is simply too sensitive, making it too easy for accidental brushes to interrupt video watching. As well, there is no way to tell which is the right way up to hold remote in a darkened room or by touch alone. This issue often results in a user swiping across the wrong end of the remote.
Slightly upgraded interface
Apple has also upgraded the Watch Now experience, drawing in live sports and news. Sports fans can identify their favorite teams and sports, and the interface makes the relevant games immediately available. The company has taken a similar approach with live news.
The Apple TV also gets 30 new streaming services. Additions include the previously mentioned Amazon Prime Video and Curiosity Stream.
Apple increases the price!
The Apple TV 4K is a catch-up product. It puts Apple TV on a par with the better boxes from Roku and Amazon. However, Apple has taken the unfathomable step of increasing the price of the box from $149 to $179 for the 32 Gigabyte version and $199 for 64 Gigabytes. The Roku Ultra, which does everything the Apple TV 4K does, costs $99.99, and if 4K support is all that is required the Roku Premiere is currently on sale for $59.99 – $120 cheaper than Apple TV 4K.
So, who will pay the huge Apple price premium? Those people locked into the Apple ecosystem will likely want the device, though if 4K and HDR are not important the existing $149 box will do just fine. For anyone else, there is simply no reason to pay the extra money. The high price means it is unlikely the addition of 4K and HDR will do anything to help Apple catch up to its much cheaper competition from Roku, Amazon, and Google.
Why it matters
Apple TV final gets support for 4K video, along with the ability to show high dynamic range content.
The company made a few other adjustments, such as faster processor and increased RAM.
Apple also increased the price of an already uncompetitive product.
Nobody outside of the Apple ecosystem has any reason to pay extra for the Apple TV box.