Apple TV is the only way to transfer iTunes content to your TV. It also provides access to all popular streaming services. But which model suits you best?
The Apple TV Models
You can buy an Apple TV in HD or 4K, and the 4K is available in two versions of storage capacities. You can choose between:
- Apple TV HD (currently $ 149): The cheapest model uses an Apple A8 processor – the same chip as the iPhone SE. It does the job, but future software updates may cause delays, and games may not respond as fast as you'd like. It outputs 1080p HD content in the Standard Dynamic Range (SDR). Until recently, this was the best available model, and it still delivers a great picture on any screen up to 60 inches in size.
- Apple TV 4K 32GB (Currently $ 179): This model features a more powerful A10X processor from the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. It's lightning fast, which could make a difference if you want to use it for games. This model supports 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) content with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. This is the Apple TV that you can buy if you want the best in video and audio.
- Apple TV 4K 64GB (Currently $ 199): Same as the 32GB model, except for 64GB of memory. However, you can not manage this storage – Apple does. tvOS unloads apps that you do not use, and also dynamically manages cached app and game data, so you never have to worry about free space. Therefore, it is difficult for most people to recommend this model – the 32 GB version should be sufficient.
What You Get on Each Model
You can access the App Store on any Apple TV model. You can also view your favorite source for TV shows and movies when an app is available on Apple TV. And most do it too:
Apple TV does more than just stream video. You can also download games and play with a controller. And if you need to check the weather on your Apple TV, there is also an app for it. Many iPhone and iPad apps also have Apple TV apps. They work flawlessly on all Apple TV models.
Display resolution, dynamic range and audio output options
Now you know which Apple TV supports 4K, HD, HDR and SDR, it's time to explain what all this means:
- 4K and HD refers to the number of pixels or dots that make up an image. This is also called "resolution". 4K TVs have a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, while HD TVs offer only 1920 x 1080 pixels. The more pixels, the sharper the picture. Since 4K televisions have more pixels, they look significantly better, especially on larger screens.
- HDR and SDR refer to both the number of colors a display can produce and the maximum amount of brightness. HDR-capable TVs can display darker blacks and whites than TVs that only offer SDR. Unlike 4K TVs (whose quality you may not even notice on a smaller screen), HDR is instantly recognizable regardless of screen size.
Both models of Apple TV 4K support both of these features:
- Dolby Vision is a version of HDR. Unlike standard HDR, frame-by-frame metadata is used to provide additional information to the TV. Dolby Vision also supports improved brightness compared to standard HDR.
- Dolby Atmos is a version of surround sound in which sounds are not assigned to specific speakers. Instead, they are assigned to the 3D space between these speakers. This allows for improved positional audio in setups that support it.
It used to be more expensive to buy the best version of a movie. In some cases, this still applies: 4K Blu-ray movies invariably cost more than their HD counterparts.
When 4K movies were announced in 2017, Apple confirmed that they would incur no additional costs. Whether you buy the 4K version (if available) or the HD version of a movie, you pay the same when you buy it from Apple.
The same does not apply to other services. Netflix calculates more when you stream 4K content. If you buy a 4K movie elsewhere than iTunes, you'll pay a few cents more.
Movies Anywhere, Vudu, YouTube and FandangoNow offer 4K content and are all available through Apple TV apps
Which model is best for you?
To be clear, if you have a 4K TV (even if it's SDR only) you should get the 32GB Apple TV 4K.
You'll find that image quality improves, especially on 60-inch or larger screens. Plus, buying a new device that does not make the most of your TV does not make much sense.
If you do not have a 4K TV, the Apple TV HD may be the best to go far. However, it is always best when it is possible to be future-proof. Therefore, the Apple TV 4K 32GB is also the best option for you. If you get a new TV, you do not need to update your streaming box either.
Even on low-cost TVs switching to 4K, your next TV will probably support the higher resolution. And since Apple TV 4K sells 32GB for just $ 30 more (at the present time) than Apple TV HD, this is a worthwhile investment – especially if you upgrade your TV later.