The third-generation Apple TV 4K (2022) provides only marginal benefits over the 2021 model, with support for HDR10+, USB-C remote charging, and faster internals. If you’re coming from the original 4K or fourth-generation HD model, an upgrade makes more sense. Consider going for the 2021 model to save some cash.
The Apple TV seems to receive more updates than some Mac models. With the release of the third-generation Apple TV 4K, you might be wondering if it’s time to upgrade the little black box that sits under your TV. Here’s what you need to know.
Not to be confused with the streaming service called Apple TV+, the third-generation Apple TV 4K (technically the seventh Apple TV model released) arrived in 2022 with a few improvements over the previous generation released in 2021. The biggest upgrade is a “new” system-on-chip (SoC), with the set-top-box now sporting the A15 Bionic first seen in the iPhone 13 (and then used again in the iPhone 14).
Apple quotes 50% faster CPU and 30% faster GPU performance over the A12 Bionic used in the 2021 model, with 30% less power consumption to boot. These efficiency gains are likely down to the A15 using the 5-nanometer process compared to the 7-nanometer process Apple used for the A12.
2022 Apple TV 4K Wi‑Fi (64GB)
Pick up the 2022 model of the Apple TV 4K streaming box for its impressive HDR10+ display capabilities and A15 Bionic-powered performance.
On top of a faster, less thirsty system-on-chip, the 2022 refresh introduces support for HDR10+ in addition to existing HDR10 and Dolby Vision support. Like Dolby Vision, HDR10+ uses dynamic metadata to improve peak brightness and preserve more detail in the highlights and shadows.
Apple has produced two versions of the Apple TV for 2022. The cheaper Wi-Fi model has 64GB of storage and retails for $129, while a pricier $149 model comes with built-in Gigabit Ethernet, a Thread radio, and 128 GB of internal storage. Apart from that, both models are the same in terms of hardware.
Whether or not the upgrade is worth it largely depends on which model of Apple TV you currently have. If you only upgraded in 2021, the difference in performance is likely to be negligible despite Apple’s claims that accompany the A15 announcement. Crucially, you won’t notice the zippier system-on-chip when you’re doing what the Apple TV is primarily designed to do: streaming content.
You’ll see more of a benefit if you’re coming from the A10X-powered 2017 model, and far more so if you still have the HD-only model from 2015. If you still have an HD-only Apple TV but you’ve upgraded to a 4K TV, your upgrade is long overdue and now is a great time to put all those pixels to good use!
If you’ve got a TV that supports HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision (as is the case with Samsung-branded displays) and you have a source for HDR10+ content like Amazon Prime, the 2022 Apple TV could be a worthwhile upgrade to make the most of the potential in your modern display.
The A15 also improves performance in 3D applications (especially coming from 2017 and earlier models). If you play games on your Apple TV then you might want to consider the upgrade. Remember that you can connect a game controller to your Apple TV and play most Apple Arcade games on your TV too.
Opting for the more expensive $149 model also gives you access to Ethernet and Thread support. Ethernet is handy if you have a wired network set up in your house, or your router sits on your entertainment unit by your TV. Keep in mind that both the 64 GB and 128 GB versions of the previous Apple TV both had Gigabit Ethernet.
Lastly, you also get Thread support if you opt for the $149 model. This is ideal for those who are heavily into smart home features and automation, or who want to “future-proof” their smart home setup for the years ahead.
The presence of a Thread radio on the higher-end 2022 Apple TV allows the set-top-box to communicate wirelessly with other smart home devices without the need for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Thread is a low-powered wireless radio protocol that enables direct communication between Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart plugs and lighting. It’s an open standard that’s been adopted by companies like Apple, Google, and Nanoleaf. It’s not the same as Matter, another open standard that attempts to bridge the gap between existing smart home implementations.
Thread has the benefit of not needing a centralized “hub” and instead allowing devices to communicate directly. This has numerous benefits including better power efficiency and less dependence on intermediary devices. Thread-connected smart devices should continue to communicate with one another even if a smart home hub or wireless router becomes unresponsive.
You might not have many Thread-compatible devices right now, but the protocol is gaining momentum. If home automation and smart home wizardry are something you’re interested in, it may be worth shelling out a little more for the higher-end Apple TV model that includes a Thread radio.
Apple’s HomePod mini also supports thread, as does the Google Nest Wifi and Hub Max, and smart bulbs from the likes of Nanoleaf.
The Apple TV 2022 comes with an almost identical remote to the one that shipped with the previous model, released in 2021. This remote is thicker than the wafer-thin remotes of old, with a dedicated power and mute button, circular click pad, and Siri button on the side.
The only difference this time around is that the 2022 model uses USB-C charging, rather than the Lightning port seen on the iPhone. You can purchase this updated Siri Remote separately from Apple for $59. It works with all models of Apple TV 4K (2017, 2021, and 2022) plus the Apple TV HD released in 2015.
Don’t expect an entirely new experience when you turn on your “new” Apple TV, it runs the same old tvOS as the last four models. The Apple TV is one of Apple’s best-supported products in terms of older models still receiving support, with the original fourth generation HD model from 2015 still supported in 2022 with tvOS 16.
Apple keeps tvOS updated to maintain compatibility with iOS and macOS features like iCloud Shared Photo Library and broader industry changes like the adoption of Matter for smart home devices. If you’re still on a 2017 or 2021 model, there’s no need to upgrade to stay current with software developments.
The 2022 Apple TV replaces the 2021 Apple TV, which in turn replaced the 2017 model. The only model you can buy direct from Apple (online, at least) is the 2022 model. In the same sense that there’s not a huge argument to be made to upgrade from the A12-powered Apple TV to the newer A15 model, you might want to consider hunting down an older model to save some money.
Third-party resellers like Amazon and Best Buy still have the 2021 model in stock. Some have discounted the older model by almost 50%, a saving that’s well worth it if you can stomach a slightly weaker SoC, no HDR10+, and a remote that charges with a Lightning cable. These won’t last forever, but they’re a great opportunity to get a 4K-capable streaming box at a significant discount.
Apple TV 4K (2021)
Even the Apple TV HD from 2015 is still supported by the latest version of tvOS, making it the perfect streaming box and AirPlay host for that old 1080p set in your guest bedroom or basement, though you’ll need to hit eBay or other second-hand marketplaces if you want to pick one up.
The one reason you might pause before buying a new Apple TV is that your current TV may already do everything you need it to. Virtually all TVs are now smart, and some are smarter than others. Platforms like Android TV, webOS, Tizen, and Roku are well-supported with apps for most major streaming platforms. Many TVs even have built-in support for device streaming using Apple AirPlay.
A new Apple TV may be worth it if you love the Apple-centric features like integration with iCloud Photos, HomeKit compatibility, access to the App Store, or the ability to control everything with your iPhone or iPad. If you love Apple’s (admittedly gorgeous) screensavers, that works too.
But if you only use services for which you already have apps, don’t play games on your Apple TV, already have AirPlay built into your TV, or don’t use smart home features you might not see much benefit. Even Apple’s own services like Apple TV+ and Apple Music now have spin-off apps for competing platforms.