The third-generation Apple TV 4K (2022) only offers 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 money.
The Apple TV seems to be getting more updates than some Mac models. With the release of the third-generation Apple TV 4K, you may be wondering if it’s time to upgrade the little black box under your TV. Here’s what you need to know.
What does the latest Apple TV offer?
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 update is a “new” system-on-chip (SoC), with the set-top box now sporting the A15 Bionic first seen on the iPhone 13 (and later used again on the iPhone 14).
Apple cites a 50% faster CPU and 30% faster GPU performance than the A12 Bionic used in the 2021 model, with 30% less power consumption to boot. These efficiency gains are likely to come 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)
Choose the 2022 model of the Apple TV 4K streaming box for its impressive HDR10+ display capabilities and A15 Bionic-powered performance.
In addition to a faster and less thirsty system-on-chip, the 2022 update introduces HDR10+ support on top of existing HDR10 and Dolby Vision support. Like Dolby Vision, HDR10+ uses dynamic metadata to enhance peak brightness and preserve more detail in highlights and shadows.
Apple has produced two versions of the Apple TV by 2022. The cheapest Wi-Fi model has 64GB of storage and retails for $129, while a more expensive $149 model comes with built-in Gigabit Ethernet, a radio Thread and 128 GB of internal storage. . Other than that, both models are the same in terms of hardware.
Why bother upgrading?
Whether or not upgrading is worth it largely depends on the 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 accompanying the A15 announcement. Crucially, you won’t notice the faster system-on-chip when you’re doing what the Apple TV is primarily designed to do: stream content.
You’ll see more benefits if you’re coming from the 2017 model with A10X technology, and much more if you still have the HD-only model from 2015. If you still have an HD-only Apple TV but upgraded to a 4K TV, your upgrade is way overdue and it’s now a good time to put all those pixels to good use.
If you have a TV that supports HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision (as is the case with Samsung brand displays) Y If you have an HDR10+ content source like Amazon Prime, the Apple TV 2022 could be a worthwhile upgrade to get the most out of your modern display.
The A15 also improves performance in 3D applications (especially on models from 2017 and earlier). If you play on your Apple TV, you may want to consider upgrading. 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 useful if you have a wired network set up in your home, or if your router is in your entertainment unit next to your TV. Please note that both the 64GB and 128GB versions of the older Apple TV both it had gigabit ethernet.
Lastly, you also get support from Thread if you opt for the $149 model. This is great for those who are very interested in smart home automation and features, or who want to “future-proof” their smart home setup for years to come.
What is the thread?
The presence of a Thread radio in the high-end Apple TV 2022 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-power wireless radio protocol that enables direct communication between Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart plugs and lighting. It is an open standard that has been adopted by companies such as Apple, Google and Nanoleaf. It’s not the same as Matter, another open standard that tries to bridge the gap between existing smart home implementations.
Thread has the advantage of not needing a centralized “hub” and instead allows devices to communicate directly. This has numerous benefits, including better energy efficiency and less reliance on intermediary devices. Threaded smart devices should continue to communicate with each other, even if a smart home hub or wireless router stops responding.
You may not have many devices that support Thread right now, but the protocol is gaining momentum. If home automation and smart home magic are something you’re interested in, it may be worth shelling out a bit more for the higher-end Apple TV model that includes a Thread radio.
Apple’s HomePod mini also supports threads, as does the Google Nest Wifi and Hub Max, and smart bulbs like the Nanoleaf.
Same old Siri Remote and tvOS
The 2022 Apple TV comes with a nearly identical remote to the one that shipped with the previous model, released in 2021. This remote is chunkier than the wafer-thin remotes of yesteryear, with a dedicated power and mute button, a circular click panel and Siri Button on the side.
The only difference this time is that the 2022 model uses USB-C charging, instead of the Lightning port seen on the iPhone. You can buy this updated Siri Remote separately from Apple for $59. It works with all Apple TV 4K models (2017, 2021 and 2022) plus the Apple TV HD released in 2015.
Don’t expect a whole 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, and the original 4th-gen HD model from 2015 is still supported in 2022 with tvOS 16.
Apple keeps tvOS updated to maintain compatibility with iOS and macOS features, such as iCloud Photo Library Sharing, and broader industry changes, such as the adoption of Matter for smart home devices. If you still have a 2017 or 2021 model, there’s no need to update to keep up with software developments.
Take an older model and save some money
The 2022 Apple TV replaces the 2021 Apple TV, which itself replaced the 2017 model. The only model you can buy directly from Apple (at least online) is the 2022 model. to upgrade the A12-powered Apple TV to the newer A15 model, you might want to consider looking at 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 previous 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 score a 4K-capable streaming box at a significant discount.
Apple TV 4K (2021)
Even the 2015 Apple TV HD is still compatible with the latest version of tvOS, making it the perfect streaming box and AirPlay host for that old 1080p TV in your guest room or basement, even though you’ll have than go to eBay or another second. Hand markets if you want to pick one up.
Your TV could already do it all
The only reason you might want to pause before buying a new Apple TV is because your current TV can already do everything you need. Virtually all TVs are now smart, and some are smarter than others. Platforms like Android TV, webOS, Tizen, and Roku support apps for most major streaming platforms. Many TVs even have built-in support for device streaming using Apple AirPlay.
A new Apple TV might be worth it if you love Apple-centric features like iCloud Photos integration, HomeKit support, access to the App Store, or the ability to control everything with your iPhone or iPad. If you love Apple’s (admittedly beautiful) screen savers work too.
But if you only use services you already have apps for, 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 spinoff apps for competing platforms.
If you haven’t upgraded your TV in a while, a TV upgrade might be a better use of funds. Check out our best OLED TVs and best LED TVs, as well as our TV buying guide to help you shop smarter.