Apple TV 4K 2022 media player: one box to rule them all (review)

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With more grunt and support for extra HDR formats, the Apple TV 4K 2022 media player steps up to meet the entertainment needs of the most demanding lounge rooms.

While Google and Amazon focus on sleek and affordable HDMI dongles for giving your lounge room a high-tech makeover, Apple continues to stick with its Apple TV set-top box. Along with providing easy access to the latest streaming video services, including Apple TV+ and the Apple movie store, the Apple TV also acts as a gateway to the wider iEcosystem if you’re looking for that one lounge room device to rule them all.

Review: Apple TV 4K 2022

Australian websiteHere
Pricefrom $219 RRP
Warranty1 year
Other  More GadgetGuy Apple news and reviews

First impressions

At first glance, very little has changed compared to the Apple TV 4K Gen 2 media player released last year. A refresh after only 12 months comes as a bit of a surprise considering that, over the years, the Apple TV has sometimes felt like the forgotten child of the Apple hardware line up.

This year sees the release of two new Apple TV 4K models and, bucking the trend, there’s a slight price drop. The entry level model is now $219, shaving $30 off last year’s entry level 4K model. It’s worth noting that Apple has ditched its older, cheaper Full HD model, although you’ll still find it in stock if you shop around.

The new Apple TV 4K 2022 line-up consists of the $219 64 GB Wi-Fi model and the $249 128 GB Wi-Fi + Ethernet model. The lack of Ethernet won’t bother some people – unless, like me, they have an Ethernet switch in their home entertainment cabinet for this very purpose – but it’s disappointing that Apple couldn’t stretch to upgrade from Wi-Fi 6 to 6E. If your home is a Wi-Fi war zone then Ethernet might be a smart investment to ensure smooth viewing.

Realistically, you don’t need 128 GB of storage, or even 64 GB, unless you’re downloading games. Apart from storage and connectivity, the only difference is that the entry-level model lacks support for the Thread wireless format used to connect some smart home devices. Both models can act as hubs for Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem.

Look closer and you’ll appreciate that the new models also take advantage of a fully passive thermal design, eliminating the need for an internal fan. This results in a 20 per cent size reduction, not that the previous generation was all that bulky compared to most set-top boxes. The fanless design also consumes 30 per cent less power.

As for the remote control, Apple has stuck with the new Siri remote introduced with last year’s Apple TV 4K. It’s a welcome improvement for those frustrated by the trackpad and slender design of the remote released with Apple TV 4K gen 1. Even Apple acknowledges this, selling the new remote separately for $79 – catering to those who love their old Apple TV but hate the old remote. This year’s remote switches from a Lightning charge port to USB-C.

Apple TV 4K 2022 specs

ConnectivityHDMI 2.1
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0
IR receiver
Ethernet (Wi-Fi + Ethernet model)
Thread (Wi-Fi + Ethernet model)
OutputSDR video with AVC/HEVC (Main/Main 10 profile) up to 2160p, 60 fps

Dolby Vision (Profile 5) up to 2160p, 60 fps

HDR10+/HDR10/HLG with HEVC (Main 10 Profile) up to 2160p, 60 fps H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats

MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 fps, Simple profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
Capacity64GB (Wi-Fi model)
128GB (Wi-Fi + Ethernet model)
ProcessorA15 Bionic chip
Operating systemtvOS 16.1
DimensionsHeight 31 mm, Width 93 mm, Depth 93 mm
WeightWi-Fi model: 208 grams
Wi-Fi + Ethernet model: 214 grams

Features – video

If you’re only interested in watching video, there’s very little here to encourage you to upgrade from last year’s Apple TV 4K. You’ve got access to practically all the streaming and catch-up services that you’d want, but that’s also the case with last year’s model.

The new Apple TV 4K 2022 adds support for HDR10+, which is a rival format to Dolby Vision used by some televisions from the likes of Samsung, TCL, Philips and Hisense. That said, it’s not used by many streaming services – Amazon Prime Video uses HDR10+ today and Apple TV+ is adding it at the end of November.

Later this year, Apple will also be adding support for QMS VRR, or Quick Media Switching. It’s designed to eliminate that annoying moment when everything goes black on your television screen as you change between content with different frame rates. It’s a nice idea but your television also needs to support it, with LG bringing support to its 2023 models.

Last year’s Apple TV 4K delivered advancements which are still future-proofing for most lounge rooms, such as support for High Frame Rate content at 60 frames per second. There’s very little to watch at 60 fps, unless you’ve got a high-end iPhone in your pocket which can shoot 4K HDR video at 120 fps.

Features – tvOS

Apple’s tvOS 16.1 brings some small improvements, including a redesign of Siri to take up less space on the screen so you can still see what you’re doing. Apple has also upgraded iCloud Shared Photo Library so you can curate which images show up on the screen.

The addition of ‘Recognise My Voice’, which is coming later this year, will make it easier to access your profile/content if you’re sharing your Apple TV with other members of your household. For now, you can press and hold the TV button on the remote to access the control centre and switch profiles.

Integration with Siri and the wider Apple ecosystem is the Apple TV’s real strength, considering that most of its streaming video features are built into modern smart TVs and many other devices that people might have lying around their lounge room. You can even use two pairs of AirPods for watching television with your significant other after dark without waking the household.

If you’re wedded to the Apple ecosystem, this is where the Apple TV 4K 2022’s A15 Bionic chip comes into play, stepping up from the A12 Bionic in its predecessor. The new power plant offers new video decoding capabilities, along with up to 50 per cent CPU and 30 per cent GPU performance improvements. That’s total overkill if you just want to watch your favourite streaming TV shows, but it makes more sense if Apple wants to start offering more iPhone/iPad-style smart experiences, such as the Apple Fitness+ link between the Apple TV and Apple Watch.

Apple also continues to push the Apple TV as a gaming platform, which will suit those who have invested in Apple Arcade. The A15 Bionic lets game developers squeeze more out of the box, with smoother motion and greater responsiveness. It’s also possible to link PlayStation and Xbox game controllers, along with MFi-compatible third-party controllers.

Of course, you’ve also got the experience of easily flinging video from your iGadgets to your television via AirPlay, although these days AirPlay (along with Apple TV+) might be built into your smart TV.

Quality

Put to the test, the A15 Bionic chip ensures tvOS feels snappy as you flick through menus, call up the control centre and launch apps. Some apps launch a tad faster, but not so much that you’d really notice the difference compared to last year’s model.

Siri is also quick to respond when called upon, although on the Apple TV she isn’t always as smart and functional as on some other Apple devices. The Siri remote is a massive improvement on the old remote, although the touch wheel is so sensitive that it takes some time to adjust. It’s a shame Apple couldn’t go the extra step of adding a U1 chip to make it easier to find the remote when it inevitably falls down the back of the couch.

Support for console-style controllers, combined with the grunt of the A15 Bionic, will allow the Apple TV to take gaming to the next level – but it’s unlikely to ever be a serious rival to the gaming giants of the world.

Put to the test with a PlayStation 5 Dual Sense controller, racing games with Riptide GP: Renegade and Real Racing 3 run silky smooth – taking advantage of the A15 Bionic to come close to the look and feel of a console title. Rendering of the water in Riptide GP: Renegade is exquisite, while Real Racing 3 doesn’t stutter even when you’re in the middle of the pack and there’s a lot happening on the screen. Using the PlayStation controller is awkward with some menus which are clearly designed with the Apple TV remote in mind, but once you’re actually playing a game it’s fine.

Of course, if you have a PlayStation or Xbox controller handy, then you’d probably reach for the corresponding console before you’d game on the Apple TV. The look and feel of Real Racing 3 is understandably no Forza, because this is no Xbox, but remember the Apple hardware and game are also a fraction of the price. 

If you’ve got an Apple Arcade subscription, or you just appreciate the fact that Apple games are a lot more affordable than console games, then the Apple TV 4K 2022 might be a good fit for your lounge room. You might consider its gaming capabilities a valuable bonus feature if you, or younger members of your household, after a decent gaming experience but you don’t want to invest in a far more expensive games console and ecosystem.

GadgetGuy’s take

The Apple TV 4K 2022 is an impressive bit of kit but, if you’d just use it to watch your favourite streaming and catch up services, then chances are your current TV – or next TV – will have everything you need built-in.

If your television is in need of a smart makeover and nothing more, you might be better off with a cheaper streaming video dongle from Google or Amazon – unless you’re so deep in the Apple ecosystem that you want it everywhere in your home.

It’s frustrating that Apple hasn’t gone down the path of offering a more affordable HDMI dongle, but that’s not Apple’s style. Instead of a cheap Google/Amazon dongle, you might put the money towards a Fetch TV or games console, bringing streaming video and a range of other features to your lounge room.

The Apple TV makes the most sense if you’re so deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem that you’d make the most of the non-streaming apps, such as gaming and/or Apple Watch integration. And if you’re so familiar with talking to Siri on your other devices that you want to continue talking to her when you flop down on the couch.

Would I buy it?

Yes, if I was an Apple-centric home, knew I’d use it for more than watching video and didn’t own the Apple TV 4K gen 1 or 2.

Apple TV 4K 2022 media player: one box to rule them all (review)
Supporting the best in streaming pictrue quality, the Apple TV 4K 2022 is a great entertainment all-rounder for Apple-centric lounge rooms.
Features
9
Value for money
8
Performance
9
Ease of use
9
Design
9
Positives
4K with Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Dolby Atmos
Decent remote, access to Siri
Tight integration with Apple ecosystem, including games
Negatives
Expensive and over-powered if you just want to watch streaming video
Not much of an upgrade on last year's 2nd-gen Apple TV 4K
8.8