Apple TV 4K Third-Gen Review: Cheaper, and Much Faster

Apple TV 4K Third-Gen Review: Cheaper, and Much Faster

The brand new third-generation Apple TV 4K will officially launch on November 4, but I spent five days with the $149.99 Wi-Fi + Ethernet model. And while the latest streaming box retains the iconic black box design and fantastic Siri remote, it essentially gets supercharged.

It’s powered by a faster and more efficient processor built by Apple itself (AAPL) , increases storage and develops the internal components. And at its core, it’s still a streaming box that connects to HDMI, provides access to a host of streaming services, and offers deep integration with the Apple ecosystem.

Best of all, it’s cheaper for a premium streaming experience. So let’s unpack everything that’s new and the good that stays the same.

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A more compact, subtle construction

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The latest generation of Apple TV 4K is not that far different from the previous generation. It’s still a black box, but it’s smaller and, surprisingly, much lighter than the model that came before it. It is 20% smaller in its overall size, and that usually comes with the height of the device.

The new 2022 or rather third-generation TV 4K weighs 7.5 grams and measures 3.66 inches wide and 1.2 inches high. And there is only one small white indicator light on the front. You can easily store this in a home entertainment cabinet, under your TV or even at the back of your TV.

In terms of other design changes, there is no more fan here. Yes, the previous Apple TV 4K had a fan, but as someone who has used it day in and day out for many months, I’ve never heard it work. That’s gone here, though, and it’s a testament to the efficiency of the new A15 Bionic chip inside.

At the top you can see that this Apple TV 4K only has an Apple logo – it’s quite subtle – but it drops the “TV” branding from the device itself. Also included in the box is a Siri remote – updated with a USB-C port – and a power cable. However, you will not get a charging cable for the USB-C remote.

The $149.99 model I tested also has a trio of ports: Ethernet, HDMI, and a standard plug. It also gets 128GB of storage, which equates to plenty of space. It also has a built-in Thread border router to connect smart home devices, but that won’t be necessary for everyone. This means that the $129.99 64GB Wi-Fi model shouldn’t just be pushed aside.

Great remote that is easier to charge

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Many marveled at the redesigned Siri remote when it originally fell alongside the second-generation Apple TV 4K. It opted for a higher quality silver aluminum construction that was slightly longer and more ergonomic to hold in the hand.

The biggest change? Well, it ditched a touchpad surface that you’d swipe to control and navigate to a click wheel reminiscent of the iPod. It’s fully touchable, though, so you can still swipe between apps or options on the screen, or click up, down, left, or right. You can also click in the middle circle to select something, whether it’s entering or typing something.

The options are truly endless and it is very easy to master. Notably, it sometimes feels less mechanical, or rather cheap, than other remotes packaged alongside streaming services. It is not an afterthought here, but rather purposeful.

The click wheel at the top is joined by five other buttons below: back, play or pause, mute, TV (aka a customizable one), and a volume rocker. The latter are actually two buttons to adjust the volume. On the right side you will still find a dedicated button for Siri and above the click wheel is a power button.

Here’s the kicker: Long-pressing it can turn off your entire home entertainment setup, TV, and also the Apple TV 4K. And it really allows this remote to rule everything. The only change here is the USB-C port on the bottom, which makes it easier to charge the remote.

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However, you don’t need to charge the Siri remote very often. With the previous-generation Lightning variant, I spent two to three months without plugging in the remote, and Apple put the same battery in the remote.

While I still think it’s the best remote out there, the one thing that’s still on my wish list is Find My’s built-in integration. Because even though it’s thicker and heavier than the previous Siri remote, it can still get lost in the sofa cushions.

For those times when you want to do everything from your iPhone, you can simply use it as a remote. In fact, the Apple TV remote is baked into the “control center” on your iPhone, allowing you to control the experience and use the iPhone’s keyboard to search for anything.

Streaming at lightning speed

Apple really boosted the experience here… but let’s be clear, the previous model really wasn’t slow. You can easily flip the box and your TV, launch the TV app and go straight to ‘Ted Lasso’.

But the inclusion of the A15 Bionic processor inside – along with 4GB of RAM – really speeds things up. Swiping through a home screen feels more instant, and opening an app happens in a flash.

Heck, installing the third-generation vs. second-generation Apple TV 4K cut time and app syncing in half. I was ready to go with about 25 apps all downloaded and my iCloud synced in about two minutes flat.

And this also applies to non-streaming applications. Get NBA 2K23 Arcade Edition through Apple Arcade. Generation after generation, the experience feels seamless and more immediate with less latency. Plus, it was slightly faster to connect to a PlayStation Dual Sense or Xbox controller. Apple also routinely expands the possibilities of what you can plug in here.

Regardless of the $129.99 or $149.99 purchase, the performance portion of the equation will be the same. This will be a fast streaming box, where you won’t have to worry about losing support or running out of power for years to come. I still have an Apple TV HD that rocks.

You also get support for resolutions up to 4K – so whether you have a 4K TV or not, this streaming box will present content in the highest resolution possible. Not to mention that those with an HD TV are future-proof if you ever make the jump to 4K. Apple also offers support for all major standards, including HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. You also get HDR support with a high frame rate, which can be especially useful for sports.

The other plus of the $149.99 model is the built-in Thread connectivity. And this is one of the key forms of connectivity for the upcoming Smart Home standard Matter. It will help you get these devices online and make the Apple TV 4K more of a full smart home package, but not everyone will need it. You can see that the HomePod Mini has this and so do all models of the second-generation Apple TV 4K.

tvOS packs all streaming services and all services from Apple

An important advantage of the Apple TV 4K, for example a Roku, a Fire TV or a built-in interface, is access to services. Since the App Store on the Apple TV is 4K similar to the one on your iPhone, you generally won’t have a problem accessing streaming services. While HBO Max and Peacock didn’t launch on all major platforms on day one, they did offer an Apple TV app on launch day.

And that could be a big reason, especially as the streaming wars continue to heat up. And as you might suspect from an Apple-made streaming box, you get direct access to Apple TV+ here. That means you can stream “Ted Lasso,” “The Morning Show,” and “Severance” to your heart’s content. Keep in mind that you need an account login for this, as well as any streaming services you want to use.

The experience is as fast for “Ted Lasso” as it is for “The Dropout” on Hulu or any show on Netflix. It’s just insanely fast access to really any app.

In addition to Apple TV+, you’ll also find an app for Apple Music, Photos, Apple Arcade, and Apple Fitness+. The Apple TV 4K is the box where all this shines and works together in harmony. You can pull out a game for a family game night or show the lyrics in real time on the big screen during a dance. I mean, we all want to propagate Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” right?

Siri is in full force here too, and thanks to tvOS 16.1, she’s in a smart position. Just like on the Mac and an iPhone, when you ask Siri, the listening bubble appears in the lower-left corner of the screen. It no longer obscures the content and the assistant is a lot faster at answering questions or checking something. There are also TV-specific commands, such as asking her to repeat something or for details about an actor. And when you ask for content, Siri uses some universal search functions to find it for you in a jiffy.

Is the new Apple TV 4K worth it?

Between the price cut, a smaller build, and a fast processor, Apple got a lot here. And the Apple TV 4K is a more competitive option in a super-crowded market. Chances are if you’re looking to jump on one or have an original Apple TV HD or 4K laying around, now’s the time to upgrade.

And there really are two clear paths – most people will be fine with the $129.99 64GB model that only has Wi-Fi. You get all the core aspects of the experience and it can still act as a home hub.

Those who need more storage space, want to harden the connection, or need a wired boundary router can jump to the $149.99 model. But remember, if you have a 2021 Apple TV 4K or a HomePod Mini, you’re already covered in the Thread department.

But either way, you’re getting a ton of value. And whether you have an iPhone, love Fitness+, or just want easy access to Apple’s services, the Apple TV 4K can quickly turn from a need to a need.

Pricing is accurate and items are in stock at time of publication.

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