The biggest thing missing from 2015’s redesigned Apple TV was support for 4K video, the new HD standard that offers four times as many pixels as normal 1080p HD. The competition had it. Apple did not.
That changes this week with the Apple TV 4K, which costs $179 and supports 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video.
A few people got a chance to test the Apple TV 4K early, and their reviews are mostly positive. It sounds like a great option if you have a lot of movies stored in your iTunes library and a TV set that supports 4K and HDR. Still, there are a lot of cheaper options from competitors like Roku, Google, and Amazon.
Here’s a taste of what people are saying about the new Apple TV 4K:
Devindra Hardawar of Engadget says Apple’s 4K movie pricing is cheaper than other digital services. Plus, movies he already purchased in iTunes were automatically upgraded to 4K for free:
You’ll find Apple’s first batch of 4K HDR films in their own section on the iTunes store. So far, the selection includes some major new releases like “Wonder Woman”, “Baby Driver”, and “Alien Covenant”. Notably, they’re mostly selling for $20, with a few older titles going for $15. Walmart-owned Vudu, which has been selling and renting 4K films for years, currently has those titles for $30. Even the rental prices for 4K are lower on iTunes — $5 versus $10 on Vudu. And, just as Apple promised, several films I previously purchased on iTunes — “Star Trek Beyond”, “The Lego Movie”, and “Kingsman” were automatically upgraded to 4K HDR.
Nicole Nguyen of BuzzFeed says the Apple TV 4K is best for people who have a high-end TV setup and want to do more with the device than just watch videos:
Sure, the Apple TV 4K offers some extra bells and whistles, like being able to control your smarthome, download third-party apps (like Panna, a cooking app, or Zova, a fitness app), or view iCloud library photos on the big screen. But the bottom line is: If you just need something to stream on-demand content from providers like Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, or Amazon Video, the Roku ($60-$100), Fire TV Stick ($40; the Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD is currently unavailable), and Chromecast ($35 to $69) have got you covered.
Lisa Eadicicco of Time says the real key feature isn’t 4K, but high dynamic range (HDR) support:
Yes, 4K is a huge pixel leap over 1080p, but the bigger change here is arguably HDR, which fundamentally changes how colors and contrast ratios work. I noticed this most when watching a scene in Netflix’s Marvel superhero mashup The Defenders, in particular a scene that has Alexandra (played by Sigourney Weaver) sitting in a sun-filled room enjoying a private performance by the New York Philharmonic. She’s wearing an off-white blouse with beads arranged in an argyle pattern. Viewing the show in HDR, I was able to tell that her outfit was champagne-colored, whereas it looked blandly white in the non-HDR stream. The difference may seem trivial, but illustrates the way HDR can tease out subtle hues ostensibly truer to a scene.
Nilay Patel of The Verge liked the Apple TV 4K, but said it needs to do more to justify the price:
For Apple to justify the Apple TV 4K’s $179 price tag against the apps already built into your TV and those very popular cheap streaming sticks, it needs to offer a perfect utopia of the best technical capabilities, a complete content catalog, and a simplified interface. I know a lot of video nerds, and all of them were hoping the Apple TV 4K would be the One True Box. That’s what Apple does: it rolls in and confidently fixes complicated tech problems with elegant solutions.