If you are in the Apple ecosystem, the new Apple TV 4K is a must get. This is the device that will give you the best experience for all your Apple content and more. Apple is expanding their portfolio into content creation and distribution by investing heavily in services like Apple Arcade, Apple Music and Apple TV+. We all know that these content are available on all Apple’s devices and some non-Apple devices, but after testing the Apple TV 4K, we now know where they are best consumed. Before we tell you why, let’s examine the hardware first.
On the outside, you probably can’t differentiate between the 1st generation from the 2nd generation Apple TV 4K. The big difference is what’s inside, and also the remote. The new Apple TV 4K now runs on a faster and newer A12 Bionic chip (the M1 chip would be the newest), supports HDMI 2.1 which can give you up to 4K60fps and also supports WiFi 6, which will allow faster and more stable streaming.
Now all these upgrades are a big deal because Apple TV+ (which we will discuss in a bit) does provide better image quality than that of Netflix. Better quality usually means bigger file sizes, and not only will you need good bandwidth from the cloud to your device, but also from your device to your TV. Of course, you do also need a good TV to be able to showcase the image quality.
The other obvious difference you will notice is the remote. There were complaints about the last generation’s remote due to the lack of physical directional buttons but now, Apple has decided to move back to something tried and tested and make it even better. The new remote takes the design cue from the old Apple TV with the black buttons and matte metal finish. Other than the addition of a power button and a mute button which you can sync and use to power on and off or control the volume of your TV, it has also included a tiny trackpad on the centre button.
It is a brilliant design to squeeze a trackpad into a remote this small, but quite often I find myself accidentally tapping on the trackpad while navigating. This has made me accidentally buy a S$30 movie which I had no intention of purchasing. I was lucky that I got a refund for this accidental purchase. The refund was easy and fast, you just need to visit reportaproblem.apple.com and select your accidental purchase and Apple will make the refund within a few days. To avoid such mistakes, you can activate password request before making purchases, or you could just completely turn the trackpad off via settings.
Unlike the previous version, this remote doesn’t come with a gyro sensor which means you can’t use it as an “air” mouse or a steering wheel that will be useful for games like Sonic Racing or Asphalt. You can still use the D-pad to steer your vehicle but this may not be the most precise method. Alternatively, you can also pair any Bluetooth controllers like the ones from your Xbox or PlayStation but it may feel less responsive compared to when playing on the console itself. Lastly, we do like that the remote is rechargeable.
As for the user interface design, I find the icon buttons in the menu a tad too big, and I am only using a 55″ TV. If you have a larger screen, it will probably feel like you are using an XXL iPad. As for text input, I would suggest changing the virtual keyboard to a grid layout instead of a linear layout. It just didn’t really make sense to me to make 25 clicks to input 2 alphabets.
Apple has also included the TV OS Control Centre which is a feature that will be familiar to iPhone and iMac users. To activate the menu, you just need to hold the home button and the Control Center will appear on the side, which you can then control features like putting the Apple 4K TV to sleep, choose which connected devices you want to stream your music to, a shortcut to the music you are playing, switch profiles and access your Apple HomeKit devices like a security camera.
Unlike the Control Center on the iPhones and iMacs, this has fewer features and it’s not as configurable. Another cool feature about the UI is the ability to see which apps are running in the background. All you need to do is double-tap the home button and you will be presented with a carousel of apps that are running. To close the app, you can just navigate to it and do a flick-up motion using the trackpad. It feels just like how you would do it on your iPhone. This may seem like a common function, but trust me, it’s not. I personally use Google TV, Firestick and a bunch of other TV boxes, and none of them made it this easy to end apps running in the background.
Now let’s talk about content and let’s start with Apple TV+. This video streaming service can be viewed on most browsers and of course Apple devices, but there is no better way to view it than on the comfort of your couch with a large TV screen. According to a test by Rasmus Larsen, Apple TV+ provides one of the best streaming bitrates at 29mb/s and it peaked at 41mb/s.
This could technically mean that Apple streams their content in larger file sizes which quite often equals better image quality. It isn’t just numbers, you will be able to see the difference when compared to other streaming services. This is the reason why the hardware upgrade for the Apple TV 4K generation 2 was important. Apple TV+ does offer some really good original content like Central Park, Greyhound, Palmer, See, The Morning Show, Ted Lasso and many more English series and movies. Many of these originals are really well done.
I wanted to watch Ted Lasso just for this review, but got hooked on it and finished the whole series. It was a funny comedy series with excellent comedic timing and some tug-on-heartstrings moments. Yet, Netflix might still edge over them just because they offer a larger library and variety of content in different languages. Netflix was quick to capture the Asian market with their heavy investment in Asian series, especially the K-dramas and they will continue to lead this market if the likes of Disney+, Amazon and even Apple TV+ do not catch up with similar investments.
There are also plenty of games to keep you entertained on the Apple TV 4K. Apple Arcade is installed by default and you can easily browse and download games on it. However, I must say that the games on Arcade suit casual gamers more, or perhaps more for a night of fun with your friends and family. Lastly, you also have the Apple Music service. One cool feature we really like is that the Apple TV 4K can be your music hub where you can pair it with multiple Bluetooth speakers, and using the Control Center, you can easily select the speakers you want audio to be played from.
If Apple’s games and streaming services are not your cup of tea, you can easily install tons of other streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, Youtube, meWatch, iQiyi, CNBC and many more. There is a lack in productivity apps like VPN, TeamViewer, File Explorer and Browser apps, compared to what Firestick and Google TV offer. But if you already own an iPhone, MacBook or iMac, you can easily work on the big screen through AirPlay.
Written by Lawrence Ng