There’s a new Apple TV 4K and Siri Remote in town. In addition to testing it for a week, CNN Underscored was also one of the first companies to talk to Apple about the updated Apple TV 4K.
“We want our customers to have the best experience for all the things they love to see, and we want to make them really rich for people who care about the Apple ecosystem,” said Tim Twerdahl, vice president of consumer product marketing and home users at Apple Audio.
But is this actually the best streaming device?
As we’ve learned from our experience, the new Apple TV 4K alone isn’t a completely new product. Similar to the iPad Pro, there are a few new functions and all internal hardware changes. It offers 4K resolution (which its predecessor did) but has additional support for high frame rate content made possible by the new A12 chip. “Providing the best viewing experience on TV is exactly what Apple TV is all about,” says Twerdahl. “We want to make sure that whatever specs you care about are getting the absolute best picture quality for the best cinematic experience and truly enjoying all of the amazing content out there.”
In our tests, the Apple TV presented 4K content in a very sharp and lively affair. Note, however, that a lot of this will depend on your TV model. With support for 4K and standards like Dolby Vision, HDR and Dolby Atmos, Apple is trying to offer a number of options. A new feature is the ability to color balance your TV with your iPhone. We think this is a great feature that will help you get more out of TV 4K and your TV. However, you will need an iPhone with face recognition to measure your TV’s color levels and customize how content is presented by Apple TV 4K. While you don’t need the new model to use the colorimeter, the new model is the key to high frame rate content. We were able to test this with an app, RedBull TV, and it actually broadcasts at a higher frame rate. This way the content looks more realistic. The problem here, however, is that you need a TV that supports it and that more content is needed. Like 4K resolution, this is a form of future-proofing your setup.
The new A12 Bionic chip in the Apple TV 4K not only showcases the content, but is also responsible for powering tvOS and the apps you want to download. You can get streaming services or games from the App Store.
With the latter, the A12 Bionic wants to deliver more power that developers can use. In our tests, games load faster and feel a bit more dynamic. The gaming experience corresponds to that of an iPad Pro and is impressive. “Our gaming focus has been on arcade stuff recently because we think it’s great value for customers. There is an enormous amount of content, ”says Twerdahl. “And we’ve done a lot to make this experience fantastic. Most importantly, probably support for all of these different game controllers. ”
The experience of playing a game on Apple TV with a controller makes it easier to find a title. It’s also a little more dynamic considering that the controls have built-in haptics and motors. That way, you’ll get more feedback from a connected iPhone or even the Siri remote.
And Apple Arcade gives you access to a wide variety of titles for $ 4.99 per month. “It’s probably not designed to compete directly with the world’s Xboxes and PlayStations,” says Twerdahl. “You’re bringing something to market that I think is unique and great for really hardcore gamers.”
Apple TV has always lived in the upper price ranges. We called the previous Apple TV 4K an “upgrade pick” after testing a variety of streaming devices because it was $ 80 more than our overall pick (Roku Ultra). Apple didn’t do much to bring this price down as it still starts at $ 179 for the 32GB model. “We believe this $ 179 is tremendously valuable. When we talk about the best way to watch TV, I think about it on three levels, ”says Twerdahl.
The first stage, according to Twerdahl: “Make sure we have the hardware specifications to offer the absolute best quality you can get.” This is arguably the goal of every streamer. Apple offers the most important display standards you’d expect from resolution up to 4K and is working to improve content in real time. However, you can also color-balance the panel, which improved the image quality in our tests.
“The aspect of having all the content that people want and making it easy to discover and enjoy,” Twerdahl calls the second level. This is where the Siri remote comes in as Apple’s virtual assistant can help you find content and handle all of your requests. They can be specific like “Let’s See ‘The Love Guru'” or broader with a genre or a specific film series requirement. The Apple TV app, which we’ll discuss below, serves as the central hub for recommended content and easy access to the ad. The biggest problem with the Siri remote: Not only do you have to buy the content you want, you also have to actively link to services that you are already signed in to to watch. So when we ask for “Star Wars Rebels” the card is pulled up and we are redirected to Disney + because Apple TV knows we have an account. That’s a step further than Roku, Chromecast with Google TV, or Fire TV.
The third area that Twerdahl takes us through is the ecosystem as “an area where we continue to invest heavily in order to have great experiences with our products. And this idea that Apple TV is way more powerful when you have an iPhone. In addition to tapping to set it up, you can use it as a remote control that you can AirPlay with. “What does that mean exactly? If you use Apple devices like an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac, the Apple TV 4K is just the thing. It’s similar to what we discussed when we took a closer look at integrating the Mac with other Apple devices, but it draws on the common notion of “better together”. Plus, Apple TV 4K will be cemented into your Apple ecosystem as a kind of home hub.
“This is what I think really sets Apple TV 4K apart from everyone else. This feat allows us to have the best viewing experience and deepest, richest ecosystem integration you can get,” explains Twerdahl.
As tvOS has received updates over the years, Apple has moved its services to the big screen. And this is about Apple Music, TV +, Arcade, Fitness +, and Photos. They all now have a special app icon and allow you easy access to them. And since you’re signed in with an Apple ID, everything is synced across devices.
Fitness + is a particularly deep integration as it pulls live data from your Apple Watch while you are streaming a workout on the TV. Twerdahl notes that “We brought together Apple TV hardware, this amazing service that is changing people’s lives, and created a custom data channel for Apple Watch to talk to Apple TV.” The Fitness + integration is one that Apple would love to recreate with other services as it gives a dynamic twist to workouts at home. It’s a cross-device service for customers and teams working together within Apple. Similarly, with Photos, you’ll see the Apple TV 4K suggest memories that you can look back on often, especially when it takes over the main top window of the tvOS home screen.
Here the Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip is shown, which can be connected via thread.
Like the HomePod Mini, Apple is adding 4K thread connectivity to the Apple TV. Like Bluetooth, Z-Wave or Zigbee, Thread is a new smart home connectivity standard. And as Twerdahl explains, Apple believes that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread are three important radios for the smart home. With Thread in particular, Twerdahl says, “It’s about low-power, low-cost mesh networks and the ability of lightbulb manufacturers like Nanoleaf to put thread radios in those lightbulbs, and there’s no need to have a separate hub to control everything. But let Apple TV or HomePod Mini be that hub. ”
In our tests, the inclusion of thread connectivity here makes it pretty easy to set up HomeKit-enabled devices. We also hope that as Apple expands the ability to put Thread accessories online, it can bring more devices to retail outlets that support HomeKit. Right now, the ecosystem isn’t as ubiquitous as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. However, it offers security and peace of mind that are not readily available from the other two.
Ever since Apple launched its smart home ecosystem, it has been working to strengthen it. We found that while HomeKit has a lot of devices in it, they generally don’t work with other ecosystems in the same version of a product. Probably the culprit is the rules and requirements for playing in HomeKit.
Previously, the solution to getting thread was a HomePod Mini or a border router from a third party accessory supplier. However, Apple makes this a little easier by incorporating the technology into Apple TV 4K. Twerdahl sums it up as follows: “We want to make it as flexible as possible for people to get started with HomeKit and improve Apple’s view of the smart home.”
And when our time with Tom Twerdahl came to an end, we wanted to ask him about the future of Apple TV and the possible devices we might see. After leaving the Apple TV 4K priced at $ 179, we wanted to see his thoughts on a cheaper Apple TV. You might even take a page from Google or Roku’s book and deliver it in a streaming stick or dongle-like capacity. Although he didn’t specifically answer it, he offered some insight and said, “For us, we want to make sure we always think about the value side of the equation, not just the price, right? And if we continue to create oversized value, as I believe, that is the most important thing for us. ”
It’s a very Apple approach, and we hope the brand will find value in multiple offerings of the same product line at some point. This is similar to Apple’s offering for the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini, initially offering a HomePod and a HomePod Mini. Either way, it’s clear Apple isn’t leaving home entertainment anytime soon, and when it comes to the TV specifically, there’s a lot more to do. The new Apple TV 4K currently delivers this value at a higher cost, with no concerns about a long runtime.
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