This seems familiar, that’s because Apple has released their latest iteration of the third-generation Apple TV 4K (2022) media streamer. This updated model is another case of evolution over revolution, giving you everything you’d expect in a clean puck-sized package. Apple has done such a near-flawless job in performance, content curation, and overall execution over the years that it’s getting difficult to find improvements. They’re there, but you might need a fine-tooth comb (or capable display) to fully appreciate them.
A15 Bionic: Smaller, Faster, Better
Aesthetically, the design of the 2022 Apple TV 4K is nearly identical to the previous one with some notable differences. First off, the 2022 model is about 19% smaller (1.2″ x 3.66″ x 3.66″ vs 1.4″ x 3.9″ x 3.9″) and roughly half the weight at 7.5oz/210g vs. 15oz/430g. The 64GB model weighs even lighter at just 7.3oz. Apple even managed to eliminate the bottom venting ducts without comprising the heatsink design.
The biggest change is that it’s 50% faster and more energy-efficient than before, thanks almost entirely to the latest A15 Bionic ARM SoC processor that you’ll find in the current iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 14 with some technical alterations – specifically this chip being a factory-binned unit with one of its CPU cores disabled. This distinction doesn’t matter as it remains the quickest media box against all its competition, almost to the point of absurdity at how fast it is. The A15 also makes it more of a respectable gaming machine too, despite it being more of a secondary feature with an Apple Arcade subscription in tow.
The 2022 Apple TV 4K comes in two flavors: the 128GB includes Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) and Thread IPv6/6LoWPAN/IEEE 802.15.4 mesh networking, basically an Internet of Things (IoT) system that can deliver instantaneous and extended smart home device connectivity; the 64GB model omits these specs entirely. They both share HDMI 2.1/eARC, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0, 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos surround sound, and HDR10+ (see below) along with existing HDR10/HLG and Dolby Vision modes. 4GB of LPDDR4 memory is standard in both models.
The Siri remote is mostly the same: it’s still machined from solid aluminum and incorporates all the necessary functionality you’d expect, from the logical button placement to the integrated accelerometer/gyroscopic touch controls. Apple was smart enough (or probably forced due to international/EU regulations) to ditch the proprietary Lightening port for a more conventional and universal USB-C port for charging purposes. Unfortunately, backlighting and a battery status indicator are still lacking for such a premium clicker.
tvOS 16: Intuitive Apple
There isn’t much to complain about since tvOS 16 continues to be speedy and simple to operate. Aside from the main menu looking like an iPhone/iPad home screen, every major streaming app you could want and expect is available – YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu to Paramount+ are all here and accounted for. Other apps such as Plex, Pluto TV, Tubi, Spotify, Twitch and Crunchyroll play nice here as well. The fact of the matter is that Apple makes it so easy to enjoy your favorite apps, regardless of preference, licensing or whatever country you live in.
Searching with Siri remains solid, but still not as polished as Apple would imply beyond its own suite of apps. The voice assistant can do the usual assortment of controls like open apps, control playback, answer content-related questions and manage smart home devices, but interoperability between apps outside of Apple TV+ remains shoddy. Of course, you can also use a iPhone or iPad if you’re fully entrenched within the iOS family, which may work better than just the Siri remote itself.
Gaming on the Apple TV 4K is great if you’re fine with casual-style games because that’s mainly what the Apple Arcade app has to offer. It’s debatable if Apple had bigger aspirations when they originally introduced home gaming or if they were just rolling along with fleeting trends, but the A15 Bionic CPU is overkill supporting a theoretical maximum of 4K resolution at 120Hz (2160/120p), though this feature isn’t enabled. Either way, titles as PAC-MAN Party, Manifold Garden, World of Demons by PlatinumGames, and Yu Suzuki’s latest and Queen/Heavy Metal-inspired Air Twister rail-shooter are available to play. And yes, you can still connect PlayStation 4/5 and Xbox One/Series X/S controllers via Bluetooth.
The Case for HDR10+
One feature this Apple TV 4K tries to hype up is the addition of HDR10+ format, which is a form of video technology the furthers color enhancement even more through dynamic metadata. Essentially, it optimizes HDR video by each individual frame closer to the scene’s intended reference like Dolby Vision (IQ), and a marked improvement compared to the static output of standard HDR10/HLG.
The main reason why HDR10+ was included is because Samsung exclusively uses and developed the technology for their own QLED/Neo QLED and QD-OLED televisions, and the Apple TV 4K finally brings those owners into the fold. In terms of fidelity, many would be hard-pressed to notice any real differences between HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, but Samsung loyalists should no longer feel left out when getting the best picture from their current displays.
Still, it’s going to be a slightly harder sell if you already own a prior Apple TV 4K model because they’re still pretty darn good. However, if you recently bought a capable Samsung TV and want to make the most of HDR10+ processing, this fresh TV 4K is definitely the one to get.
Conclusion: Overkill, But Still The Best
You’re probably asking: why bother with the latest Apple TV if your display is already smart enough or have a 4K streaming device or game console? Honestly, the Apple TV 4K (2022) remains better than its competitors in nearly every conceivable way, sans gaming. It’s still the fastest, supports almost all of the current media formats and codecs, and has the biggest catalogue of apps available. The benefits are even better if you’re heavily invested in the iOS ecosystem or want to take advantage of HDR10+, but even without them this is still the superior device for most users.