Let’s get this out of the way up front: the new Apple TV 4K looks exactly like the last model, and it’s a bit faster. But what really stands out is the new Siri remote, which is practically an apology for what came before. Instead of being elegantly thin and easy to lose, it’s a bit chunky and easier to hold. Instead of an infuriating touchpad, there’s a directional pad that also has touchpad capabilities. The new Siri remote is so good, I’d recommend that existing Apple TV 4K owners just buy it separately for $60 and skip the new box entirely.
Gallery: Apple TV 4K (2021)
For everyone else, though, is the revamped Apple TV 4K still worth a hefty premium over far cheaper streaming options? That’s where things get complicated. The world of streaming video is a bit different now, compared to 2017 when Apple’s last set-top arrived. For one, Apple offers its TV app on televisions, game consoles and even Roku’s devices. That gives you full access to your iTunes library and Apple TV+. And if you still need some sort of streaming hardware, you can easily snag Roku’s 4K stick with a voice-enabled remote for $40. So why, exactly, would you even think about giving Apple $179 (or $199) for something that hasn’t changed much in years?
It all comes down to just how entrenched you are in Apple’s ecosystem. I’ll confess: even though I’ve tested out plenty of streaming boxes over the years, I’ve always come back to the Apple TV as my primary viewing device. I prefer the slick interface to Roku’s dated UI. It had Dolby Vision when most others didn’t. And, as an iPhone owner, I love having the ability to quickly AirPlay content, or mirror my screen. (Something that’s now available on competing platforms, too.) Apple also won me over with its generous offer to upgrade HD iTunes purchases to 4K — that was particularly useful when Disney finally boosted its films to 4K last year.
The big downside before was the old Siri Remote, which was simply a pain to use. That’s why I’m so impressed by this revamp. The new Siri Remote feels practically anti-Apple. It’s taller, thicker and its directional pad hearkens all the way back to the 2010 Apple TV’s minimalist clicker. This isn’t a company that often goes backwards design-wise. The revised Siri Remote is a sign that Apple that’s finally responding to user complaints. Because of its bigger size and slightly curved aluminum case, it actually feels better to hold than the last model, which was just an incredibly thin and fragile rectangle. (Who puts glass on a remote? Only Apple!)…Read more>>