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Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) Reviewed: Buy Now or Wait for the 4th Generation?


Picture of my 85 inch Samsung with the Apple TV home screen
There's a lot to like about the Apple TV 4K

Quick Look


  • Runs tvOS 17 (17.3 released in January 2024)

  • 4K Support and HDR10+ support

  • Mid-product Cycle - Apple announced this (3rd gen) latest version in October 2022 (Apple has historically released new Apple TV models every 3 years)

  • A15 Bionic processor

  • $129 for the 64GB WiFi model or $149 for the 128GB WiFi/Ethernet model

  • Apple HomeKit Hub - Apple TV 4K works as a Thread border router for the ethernet connected 128GB version

  • Siri Remote with USB-C port for recharging


Bottomline


If you're committed to Apple's ecosystem and need a better streaming experience, then there's no reason to wait unless you just like the latest and greatest. If you are not committed to Apple's ecosystem there are less expensive options (Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV Stick are all under $50) that deliver a comparable experience.


Pros and Cons


Pros:

  • Enhanced gaming experience with the A15 Bionic processor - faster load times, better graphics and performance.

  • Improved video quality with 4K support and HDR10+ support - great for those who have 4K TVs or are planning to upgrade in the future.

  • Siri Remote with improved design and functionality - easier to navigate through content and has a new touch-sensitive D-pad. Also has a built-in microphone for voice commands.

  • Apple HomeKit Hub - convenient for those who use smart home devices as they can be controlled through the Apple TV 4K.


Cons:

  • Adding any additional device adds potential complications and costs.

  • Limited availability of content in 4K and HDR10+ - not all content is available in these formats, so users may not be able to fully utilize this feature.

  • Expensive compared to other streaming devices on the market - there are cheaper options available for those who don't need 4K support or a HomeKit Hub.


I recently purchased the first Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) and installed it on my 85" Samsung Q90T. I have always been opposed to adding an external streaming option but, after 3 years, I've had enough of Samsung's Tizen OS. Since I decided to refresh all our smart home approach using Apple HomeKit, I figured now is the right time to give the Apple TV 4K a chance.


First, let's get this out of the way; Apple TV 4K is overpriced. I'm 'all in' when it comes to Apple's ecosystem but that doesn't mean it's the low-cost or even cost-effective option. I didn't choose Apple because of price.

As technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, Apple stays ahead of the curve with its sleek and high-performing gadgets. The latest in their lineup of home entertainment offerings is the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen). For tech enthusiasts, Apple fans, and home entertainment aficionados, the question is: Is it worth it in 2024 to upgrade to the newer 3rd generation, or should one hold out for the anticipated 4th Gen release? Let's dig in.


Apple TV 4K and Siri Remote
Apple TV 4K and Siri Remote

What is Apple TV 4K


Apple TV 4K is Apple's dedicated streaming device. It's a small, sleek device that connects to your television and allows you to stream videos, movies, music, and more from various streaming services. This latest version, the 3rd Gen model, boasts impressive features such as 4K support, HDR10+ support, and an A15 Bionic processor for lightning-fast performance.


Ethernet, HDMI and power supply ports of Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K

Apple TV Design and Size


The Apple TV 4K is made of sleek black plastic that has the high-quality look and feel expected from Apple. The device is square and measures 3.66 inches per side, l.2 inches thick and weighs in at only 7.5 ounces.


At the time I'm writing this article, Apple offers two variants. One has the power supply port, an HDMI 2.1 port and 64GB of storage. The other adds a Gigabit Ethernet connection and 128GB of storage. The variants support WiFi 6, which produces higher speeds, enhanced bandwidth and reduced latency.


Siri Remote


The Apple TV 4K uses the 3rd Gen Siri Remote, which was actually released with the Apple TV 2nd Gen. The Siri Remote has an aluminum body, USB-C connector for charging, and touch-enabled clickpad that includes gesture support.


Personally, I found the Siri Remote to be highly responsive and intuitive. The clickpad takes some time to get used and I'm still on the fence as to whether I'll end up turning it off or not. It's extremely sensitive and I've accidentally launched the wrong app/show when I pick it up. I like the concept but it does take some getting used to.


Siri Remote
Siri Remote

Upgrade or Wait?


One of the first things to consider when deciding whether to upgrade to Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is its release date. Apple announced this latest version in October 2022 and released it in November 2022. Release dates of the previous versions of the Apple TV were May 2021 and September 2017. That means there's no clear release cycle pattern.


There have been rumors that Apple will release the 4th Gen Apple TV in the first half of 2024. The roomers are centered around the inclusion of either the A16 Bionic or A17 pro chips, WiFi 6E or 7 capable, and a, potentially, lower price point. There is some precedent for a lower price point as the 2nd and 3rd Gen models both offered a $99 version at the time of their launch. A sub $100 price point would certainly be more cost-competitive with rivals, but given the current state of inflation, I'm not holding my breath that it'll happen.

If you're able to wait to purchase an Apple TV I would recommend doing so. While I don't expect the changes to be game changers, it may open up the possibility of purchasing a 3rd Gen model at a discount. If you do have a need, I do not think there is a compelling reason to not purchase one now (as I did).


A15 Bionic Processor: What's the Hype?


The A15 Bionic processor is a significant upgrade from the A10X Fusion chip found in the 2nd Gen Apple TV 4K. It's the same processor used in the latest iPhone models, making it incredibly fast and efficient. With this powerhouse of a processor, users can expect smooth streaming, quick app loading times, and improved graphics performance. For those who value seamless technology experiences, upgrading to Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) would be a no-brainer.


What Features Are Worth the Upgrade?


Aside from the impressive A15 Bionic processor, other enticing features in the latest Apple TV 4K might make it worth upgrading. The device now supports 4K HDR content and has HDR10+ support, offering stunning picture quality with vibrant colors and enhanced contrast. Additionally, the updated remote control has a new design and added features such as a touch-sensitive clickpad and dedicated power and mute buttons. For those who value a top-notch viewing experience, these features alone may be worth the upgrade.


Let's also not overlook Apple TV's lossless audio capabilities. Upgrading to the latest Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) allows for lossless audio playback, providing a more immersive and authentic listening experience.


The Price Tag: Is it Worth it?


The 3rd Gen Apple TV 4K comes with a higher price tag than its competitor at $129 for the 64GB model and $149 for the 128GB model. However, with all the added features and improved performance, some may argue that it's worth every penny. It ultimately depends on individual preferences and needs. For avid Apple fans or those who prioritize top-of-the-line technology,


Overview of the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) Features


Launched in October 2022, the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is a beacon for tech-savvy individuals seeking a premium streaming experience. It's outfitted with an A15 Bionic processor and boasts 64GB or 128GB of storage. Its support for HDR10+ elevates the viewing experience with vivid colors and sharper contrast. The design continues to be minimalist yet functional, reflecting Apple's signature aesthetic.


  • High Frame Rate HDR and HDR10+ Support: Experience visuals like never before with exceptional clarity and color accuracy.

  • A15 Bionic Processor: A 50% increase in CPU performance and a 30% uptick in GPU performance make everything smoother, from menu navigation to app performance.

  • Storage Varieties: Choose between a 64GB or 128GB model depending on your needs, with the upper tier offering additional connectivity.

  • Redesigned Siri Remote: The tactile elegance of the new clickpad, combined with touch gestures and a USB-C charging port, adds to user convenience.


Apple tvOS 17 Experience


Apple tvOS 17 brings a new control center that I've found to be a welcome change. I find the experience to be more like my iPhone and iPad Pro than previous versions. Below are a couple of other features of tvOS 17 that I've found value in:


FaceTime for Apple TV


My parents live in another State and love to FaceTime us to our three young boys more often. However, the experience isn't always the best because our boys will fight over who's in front of the phone. Being able to put the FaceTime screen on the TV means there's enough screen real estate for all the them. Kudos to Apple for making my life a little easier!


Apple Remote Find My


If it's a remote or a tool, or they can pretend it's a remote or a tool, they'll get it and lose it. It has happened to our TV remote so many times in the past. While we did add a glow-in-the-dark silicon sleeve to our Siri Remote, I'm still certain Find My for the remote will get used in our house multiple times.


Apple TV screen saver of a city
Apple TV screen savers really bring 4K to life

Screen Savers


I know that screen savers don't seem like a 'cool' feature but if you have a quality TV they really do stand out. I'm usually not one to leave the TV on when it's not in use but it's tempting to do so with these screen savers.


Battle of the Generations - How Does It Compare?

I've enjoyed how responsive the Apple TV 4k is and the ease of integration with the broader Apple ecosystem. Compared to my older Samsung's native Smart TV interface, the Apple TV 4k is leaps and bounds ahead in performance. I'd expect a newer version to be faster but I haven't experienced any situations where more speed would make a material difference. With that said, I don't game on the device, which may be where additional speed would be noticeable.


For those embedded in the smart home environment, the Apple TV 4k doubles as a Thread border router, which is a boon for expanding smart connectivity throughout your home.


Is the Hype About the 4th Gen Valid?


Rumors suggest that the 4th Gen will come with a more powerful chip but not much else in terms of upgrades. For users like myself, who aren't utilizing the Apple TV for gaming, the 3rd Gen's performance is more than adequate. There appears to be little incentive to wait for another release if you’re satisfied with the current speed and capabilities.


Navigating the Soundscape with Sonos


While I've integrated the device with a Sonos Arc and subwoofer with generally seamless operation, I did encounter a minor hiccup—a brief drop in audio occasionally. It's a rare issue but worth noting for those with similar audio setups. Even with this slight glitch, the issues seem less problematic than those I've encountered with my previous smart TV setup.


Final Verdict


Ultimately, the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) offers a robust suite of features that most users will find ample for a premium streaming experience. Its responsiveness, picture quality, and ecosystem integration set it apart from many competitors. If you're already in the Apple ecosystem and are looking for an upgraded streaming experience and/or a smart home hub for Apple Home then the current Apple TV 4K is a great option. Given the minimal rumors about significant upgrades to a 4th Gen model, it seems a worthy investment for those looking to enhance their home viewing platform now.


If you're not already part of the Apple ecosystem or don't want to be 'all in' on their ecosystem, there are less expensive alternatives with comparable offerings. If you're looking to avoid the major ecosystems of Apple, Google, and Amazon then Roku is a great option. The Roku Express 4K+ is only $39 and would be my choice if we weren't committed to Apple HomeKit.

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