Last month, I suggested that Apple needed to cancel the Apple TV.
It didn’t go down well.
The comments I received prompted a couple of thoughts. Firstly, it reminded me that it is absolutely ok to think differently about Apple. While most comments respectfully disagreed with me, many didn’t, and there were rather too many people who clearly had an issue accepting that someone had a differing opinion to their own.
That aside, it also revealed that I perhaps had been a little shortsighted in my assessment of the Apple TV. I was conscious this might be the case; indeed, I hadn’t used one in anger for quite some time.
The use cases people put forward for the Apple TV were interesting. For them, it was the family entertainment hub, or simply the most intuitive streaming device in their home. Some just loved the 4K screensavers.
The overriding response, however, was one of love for Apple’s little set-top box.
So, when Apple finally announced its latest version at this week’s Spring Loaded event, I knew I’d have to buy one.
Here are my thoughts on the new box.
The new Apple TV 4K isn’t that different
It really isn’t.
Arguably, of all the products launched during the event, the new Apple TV is practically identical to the previous generation. It’s the same little black box outputting the same 4K content, running the exact same operating system.
They’ve tweaked the internals, obviously. It now features an A12 Bionic processor for “more performance”. Although, for me, that’s about as interesting as putting an M1 chip into an iPad Pro.
I’m sure it’ll be quick, Tim – no worries.
They’ve also introduced high frame rate HDR and have confirmed in a press release that they’re working with some of the world’s leading video providers to offer that format to streaming viewers. This new video tech also means that you can play the Dolby Vision, 60-fps video you don’t shoot on your iPhone 12 Pro, on your television.
Great. But boring.
However, there are two features in particular that have caught my eye.
The star of the show: the new remote
Just like the previous generation Apple TV 4K, I’ve never so much as touched the previous Siri Remote.
But I’m acutely aware of how absolutely dreadful it apparently was.
Apple is, clearly, aware of this. Its previous failings are even minutely referenced in the leading text for the new Siri Remote (it features, “precise control”, don’t you know).
They’re claiming that the new remote “runs rings around other remotes”, only I’m sure most owners of the one it replaces will argue it only needs to run rings around Apple’s own TV remote.
I like the look of this new one, though. It appears to be exactly what the poorly designed Siri Remote of the outgoing generation should have been. A chunky design, meaningful buttons and zero confusion over which end is the top is just what everyone wanted, Tim – why did it take so long to get here?
The touch-enabled clickpad bothers me slightly because I’ve experienced nothing but frustration with TV remotes that feature similar input. I just hope that Apple’s masterful grasp of touch controls will solve any issues there.
It also has a dedicated Siri button, which is entirely sensible.
Hands-on time with this new remote will reveal how good or bad it is, and it’s nice to see that you can use it on the outgoing generation of Apple TV 4K.
At-home colour correction
It seems to happen less regularly these days, but Apple still occasionally reveals new features that it would have been impossible to dream up.
The Apple TV won this particular award at the Spring Loaded event.
Who on earth would ever have thought they’d offer a new colour balance feature for users of this home device?
No one, that’s who. But there are even fewer people who would have then suggested it would be a feature that utilises the iPhone.
Yep, that’s right – the new Apple TV 4K can be accurately colour balanced by leaning on the iPhone’s front-facing camera and light sensor – literally.
You simply place your iPhone in front of your TV (screen facing screen), and wait for tvOS to work its magic. By using data obtained from the iPhone’s light sensor and camera, the colour is subsequently adjusted to deliver more accuracy and better contrast, in line with industry-standard specs.
Bonkers. And genuinely useful.
I just hope this is part of the setup process, otherwise no one will use it.
I’m going to give Apple TV 4K the test it deserves
I was wrong to criticise the Apple TV so heavily – hands-up. But I’m aware that I now need to put my money where my mouth is and add the latest version to my collection of Apple gear.
So, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. And that means it’ll become the streaming device of choice in my home for the foreseeable future. I’ll report back on whether or not my initial, poorly researched thoughts on the Apple TV hold any water.
Are you buying one?