The latest version of Apple’s TV streaming box is faster, smaller, more efficient, and cheaper than its predecessors, making it the best and most reliable intelligent TV experience on the market today.
The third-generation Apple TV 4K costs £149 ($129/A$219). While £20 cheaper than last year’s model, it is still a premium over rivals from Google, Amazon, and others, which are priced between £50 and £140.
The same simple and discreet rounded black box design is now 20% smaller and about half the weight of previous versions. It comes in two versions: with or without ethernet and Thread networking, a system to connect smart home devices.
Inside there are two key changes. The newer A15 chip, the same as in the iPhone 14, is 50% faster than the A12 chip it replaces. It is far faster than all the competition and total overkill for a streaming box unless you use it as a games console with Apple’s Arcade service or games from the App Store. Otherwise, the new chip is more energy efficient and will ensure the box stays rapid for a very long time.
A key feature for many Samsung television owners is HDR10+ video support, which is also part of this upgrade. It supports Dolby Vision, HLG, and standard HDR10 for everyone else, too.
Speed aside, the Apple TV’s killer feature is its comprehensive app support that far outstretches the competition in both availability and quality. Every major streaming service is available on it, including Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, and YouTube (with Google Play Movies). It has all the UK services such as BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, My5, STV Player, UKTV Play, Now, BT Sport, BritBox, Sky Go, and others.
It is a similar story in other countries too. The apps are generally better, more stable, and see more support than other platforms.
Apple’s various apps and services are integrated, of course, including TV+, Fitness+, Music, iCloud Photos, and Arcade. You don’t have to use any of them, but a free Apple ID is required to use the box.
Another advantage is its simplicity and lack of ads on the homepage, which can’t be said of most other smart TV platforms. The interface looks like a smartphone screen with app icons you click on with the remote to get going. You can move the apps around so your favorites are where you want them, while a dock of sorts sits right at the top.
By default, Apple’s apps sit in this top row, but you can put whatever you like there. Hover over the Apple TV app and it will recommend content to you with big flashy pages in the background. Or you can switch it to displaying the next episode of shows, such as the next episode of Andor from Disney+ or House of Games from iPlayer, which I find more useful. The tvOS app allows you to customize some of these recommendations for each member of your family, but the individual app still requires you to choose the member of the family who wants to view the content.
Siri works as a universal search, accessed through a button and mic on the remote. Press and hold the button to ask for a show or movie via voice to find where it is available based on the apps you have installed. If you don’t already have access to the content, it will show you the price to rent or buy it from Apple.
The voice assistant can also open apps, control playback, answer content-related questions and control smart home devices, but occasionally you’ll run into questions it can’t answer on the TV that it will on an iPhone, which is a bit odd.
Even if you don’t own any Apple products, the Apple TV can be used without other Apple devices. If you own an Android device only, there are better options available from Google or Amazon.
If you do have an iPhone or iPad, it unlocks some very handy features. You can instantly set up the Apple TV just using an iPhone, use it as a full remote, use the keyboard on your phone or tablet to enter text and passwords or confirm purchases with your face or thumb, among other bits. You can also send video and audio from Apple devices to the TV via AirPlay 2, but it does not support Google’s Cast.
While you can connect any Bluetooth headphones for private listening, more than one compatible set of Apple’s AirPods or Beats headphones can be used simultaneously, which is extremely handy for late-night movie marathons with another person.
Besides aluminum and gold, tin and plastic are also recycled in the Apple TV 4K. Apple breaks down the streaming box’s environmental impact in its report. It consumes about 0.002kWh of electricity per hour of 4K HDR video streaming. The box is generally repairable, costing from £125 out of warranty to fix. Apple offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
The Apple TV 4K 2022 comes in two versions starting at £149 ($129/A$219) with 64GB of storage or £169 ($149/A$249) with 128GB of storage and an additional ethernet port and Thread networking support.
There is a comparison between the Nvidia Shield TV, the Google Chromecast with Google TV 4K, the Roku Streaming Stick+, and the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which are all priced between £45 and £140.
There are cheaper streaming boxes available, and every television comes with a smart TV built-in. But if you want a simple, reliable, and high-quality streamer, the third-gen Apple TV 4K is unbeatable.
It is very fast. It has the broadest catalog of streaming apps available, which are typically better than on any other platform, too. It supports all the key video formats and Dolby Atmos. And there aren’t adverts cluttering up your home screen.
It is particularly good if you’re an Apple user already. While you can use it without an iPhone or iPad, there are easier options for Android users from Amazon and Google.
I would not recommend buying this if you already own a perfectly good Apple TV. It runs the same software with most of the same features. Nevertheless, if you are tired of a poor smart TV interface and want a premium experience to watch the content you already pay for, this is your best option.