A new Apple TV 4K model has been announced, after four long years of waiting, during tonight’s Apple Spring Loaded event.
The sixth-generation Apple TV hardware has finally been unveiled, with the Apple CEO Tim Cook-hosted event giving our first look at the streaming device, which comes with a revamped Siri remote as well as a new processor and high frame rate (HFR) capability. It’s been nearly four years since the launch of the Apple TV 4K (2017) and over a year after the launch of the Apple TV Plus streaming platform, too, which means it’s certainly high time for a refresh.
But what exactly has been announced, what does it look like, and what will it cost? This new Apple TV guide will run you through what we know so far.
Do also make sure you check out our full rundown of the event in our dedicated Apple event live blog, for everything from purple iPhones to the long-belated arrival of AirTags.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A new version of the Apple TV set-top box
- When is it out? Late May (available to pre-order April 30)
- What will it cost? $179 32GB version / $199 64GB version
New Apple TV 4K 2021 release date and price
The Apple TV 4K (2021) will be releasing in “the second half of May” – with units being available to pre-order from April 30. So there’s nowhere you can go to order right now, but it’ll be on its way very soon. It’ll be launching ahead of Ted Lasso season 2 (coming July), though the show will be available on any device with the Apple TV app, provided you have an Apple TV Plus subscription.
We have confirmed pricing for the Apple TV 4K too, with a $179 / £169 / AU$249 price tag for the 32GB version and $199 / £189 / AU$279 price tag for the 64GB version.
The previous Apple TV 4K model that launched in 2017 had approximately the same pricing at $179 / £179 / AU$249 for the 32GB version and $199 / £199 / AU$279 for the 64GB – so it looks like UK shoppers are getting a very slight £10 discount this time around.
However, you’ll also be able to opt for the existing Apple TV HD with the new Siri remote, for a slightly lesser $149 – not much of a saving compared to the Apple TV 4K model, though, which is slightly disappointing.
We’re also told that “The new Siri Remote will be available separately for $59, and is compatible with the previous-generation Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD.”
Apple TV 4K 2021 specs and features
Inevitably, the new Apple TV 4K (2021) comes with some new innards after a four-year wait since the last iteration.
The long-rumored upgrade to an A12 Bionic processor – the one used in the iPad (2020) and iPhone XS. has been confirmed. That chip has been around a few years now, but will certainly offer an upgrade to processing speeds, meaning everything from 4K upscaling to motion control is improved – helped by the addition of high-frame-rate HDR, explicitly for improving sports and action movies, and which can also be streamed from your iPhone via AirPlay.
Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio are here again, but both were already supported in the previous model. Other key iOS features like Apple AirPlay (for casting from other iOS devices), Apple HomeKit (for smart home connectivity), and the Siri voice assistant all naturally return here too – as does Audio Sharing for connecting two sets of AirPods.
One major change is what the ability to “automatically tailor color balance” of your smart TV using your iPhone. If you have a compatible iPhone (we expect this will be limited to more recent models) you’ll be able to use it to measure the color output on your TV screen and then calibrate the video output of the Apple TV 4K.
Apple’s website says that “Apple TV 4K now works with your iPhone to automatically calibrate what you watch. Just point your iPhone at your TV screen once, then sit back and see how amazing your shows and movies are supposed to look.”
Picture setting calibration is increasingly a focus of TV manufacturers, with features like Dolby Vision IQ or Intelligent Sensing to automatically tweak settings to suit your environment, or AI calibration that changes picture modes depending on what kind of content you’re watching. We’ll have to see how well Apple’s trick works, though, and it’ll almost certainly vary with success depending on the capabilities of your television – given the screen itself won’t be Apple guaranteed.
You are also getting any additional features or services on the Apple TV app – like Apple TV Fitness Plus or Apple Music – though keep in mind that they require their own subscriptions. We expect an Apple TV 4K 2021 purchases will throw in some free subscription trials to get you hooked, but they won’t be covered by a one-off hardware purchase RRP in the long run.
Apple TV 4K 2021 remote changes
We got a good look at the new Siri remote that will accompany the 2021 Apple TV 4K. It’s a sleek little thing, with a “one piece aluminium design”, and the Siri button moved onto the side. There’s also a “five-way directional button” that can also rewind or fast-forward when used in a scrolling motion.
This new remote also, though, comes with TV controls, meaning you can use it to turn on your smart TV too.
Apple TV 4K 2021 gaming features
One of the most notable reasons for an Apple TV 4K 2021 upgrade is Apple Arcade – the gaming subscription service found on iOS devices. The updated A12 Bionic chipset will certainly help power games a little better, though the Apple TV 4K 2021 will still be geared best towards quality indie games rather than triple-A blockbuster titles.
That said, you can connect PlayStation and Xbox Wireless controllers, as with the previous Apple TV 4K, with support for the PS5 DualSense and Xbox Series X gamepad both having come to the Apple tvOS 14.5 beta earlier this year.
Apple states that “Gameplay gets more realistic with the A12 Bionic, which powers smoother motion and greater responsiveness.”
Apple TV 4K 2021: what’s the fuss about HFR?
One of the most notable announcements in the Apple event was that the Apple TV 4K 2021 was getting support for high frame rate HDR, which ups the number of frames displayed per second with compatible content – ensuring a smooth image even with plenty of motion onscreen.
Apple’s product listing for the 2021 model says that, “At twice the frame rate for high dynamic range (HDR) video, Apple TV 4K delivers brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail. Fast-action sports look incredibly smooth. Nature documentaries come alive. And YouTube videos jump off the screen.”
High frame rate, or HFR, generally means anything above 24fps in the world of films, though generally closer to 100fps/120fps for sports and documentaries – ideal for real-world cinematography, and the move towards 120Hz 4K TVs.
You may be thinking that means super-smooth action across everything you watch but it doesn’t. It will be limited to a very small coterie of broadcasts and programming, as explained by Apple’s pithy footnote: “High Frame Rate HDR content is currently limited. Additional content available soon.”
Apple TV 4K 2021 leaks and rumors
The Apple TV 4K 2021 has been beset with apparent leaks and rumors, some of them more credible than others.
Earlier in the year we heard about a likely remote upgrade being hinted at in a tvOS 14 code leak, which turned out to be true.
One of the most interesting rumors we read about the new Apple TV, though, is that it could be a hybrid device that’s both a smart display and a streaming device all rolled into one, similar to an Amazon Echo Show but with an Apple TV 4K built into it. There was also talk of a camera for video conferencing – seemingly taking a lesson from the Portal TV webcam for FaceTime, Messenger or Whatsapp video calls.
However, we’ve got a much simpler new iteration of the Apple TV 4K, meaning that you shouldn’t expect this in the near future.