Apple TV 4K 2022 review: cheaper, but still premium streaming box | Apple
Apple’s latest TV streaming box is faster, smaller, more efficient and cheaper than its predecessors, making it one of the best and most reliable smart TV experiences you can get.
The third-generation Apple TV 4K costs from £149 ($129/A$219). While £20 cheaper than last year’s model, it is still a premium over rivals from Google, Amazon and others, which are priced at between £50 and £140.
The same simple and discreet rounded black box design is now 20% smaller and about half the weight of previous versions. It comes in two versions: with or without ethernet and Thread networking, a system to connect smart home devices.
Inside there are two key changes. The newer A15 chip, the same as in the iPhone 14, is 50% faster than the A12 chip it replaces. It is far faster than all the competition and total overkill for a streaming box, unless you use it as a games console with Apple’s Arcade service or games from the App Store. Otherwise, the new chip is more energy efficient and will ensure the box stays rapid for a very long time.
The other addition is support for the HDR10+ video format, which is used by Samsung televisions and a key feature for many owners. It still supports Dolby Vision, HLG and standard HDR10 for everyone else, too.
Speed aside, the Apple TV’s killer feature is its comprehensive app support that far outstretches the competition in both availability and quality. Every major streaming service is available on it, including Amazon, Disney+, Netflix and YouTube (with Google Play Movies). It has all the UK services such as BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, My5, STV Player, UKTV Play, Now, BT Sport, BritBox, Sky Go and others. It is a similar story in other countries too. The apps are generally better, more stable and see more support than other platforms.
Apple’s various apps and services are integrated, of course, including TV+, Fitness+, Music, iCloud Photos and Arcade. You don’t have to use any of them, but a free Apple ID is required to use the box.
Another advantage is its simplicity and lack of ads on the homepage, which can’t be said of most other smart TV platforms. The interface looks like a smartphone screen with app icons you click on with the remote to get going. You can move the apps around so your favourites are where you want them, while a dock of sorts sits right at the top.
By default, Apple’s apps sit in this top row, but you can put whatever you like there. Hover over the Apple TV app and it will recommend content to you with big flashy pages in the background. Or you can switch it to displaying the next episode of shows, such as the next episode of Andor from Disney+ or House of Games from iPlayer, which I find more useful. Multiple user profiles within tvOS allow some of these recommendations to be customised to each member of your family, but individual apps still require you to select who is trying to watch the content on bootup.
Siri works as a universal search, accessed through a button and mic on the remote. Press and hold the button to ask for a show or movie via voice to find where it is available based on the apps you have installed. If you don’t already have access to the content, it will show you the price to rent or buy it from Apple.
The voice assistant can also open apps, control playback, answer content-related questions and control smart home devices, but occasionally you’ll run into questions it can’t answer on the TV that it will on an iPhone, which is a bit odd.
The Apple TV can be used without any other Apple devices, but if you’re an Android-only user there are better options from Google or Amazon available.
If you do have an iPhone or iPad, it unlocks some very handy features. You can instantly set up the Apple TV just using an iPhone, use it as a full remote, use the keyboard on your phone or tablet to enter text and passwords, or confirm purchases with your face or thumb, among other bits. You can also send video and audio from Apple devices to the TV via AirPlay 2, but it does not support Google’s Cast.
While you can connect any Bluetooth headphones for private listening, more than one compatible set of Apple’s AirPods or Beats headphones can be used at the same time, which is extremely handy for late-night movie marathons with another person.
The Apple TV 4K contains recycled aluminium, gold, tin and plastic. Apple breaks down the streaming box’s environmental impact in its report. It consumes about 0.002kWh of electricity per hour of 4K HDR video streaming. The box is generally repairable, costing from £125 out of warranty to fix. Apple offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
There are cheaper streaming boxes available, and every television comes with a smart TV built in. But if you want a simple, reliable and high-quality streamer, the third-gen Apple TV 4K is unbeatable.
It is very fast. It has the broadest catalogue of streaming apps available, which are typically better than on any other platform, too. It supports all the key video formats and Dolby Atmos. And there aren’t adverts cluttering up your home screen.
It is particularly good if you’re an Apple user already. While you can use it without an iPhone or iPad, there are easier options for Android users from Amazon and Google.
Don’t buy this if you have a perfectly good Apple TV currently running fine. It runs the same software with most of the same features. But if you’re sick of a poor smart TV interface and want a premium experience to deliver the quality content you already pay for, this is it.
Pros: widest streaming app support, good remote, Dolby Vision/Atmos, HDR10/10+, AirPlay 2, full iPhone/Apple services integration, Siri voice control, connect two pairs of AirPods at the same time for private listening, no third-party ads on the home screen, long software support.
Cons: expensive, no Google Cast, not as easy to use with Android, not as small and discreet as some rivals.