Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) Review: Does More, Costs a Bit Less


It’s easy to think of the Apple TV 4K as a streaming device, and indeed that’s what it is for the most part. However, it’s considerably more expensive than most streaming devices, and many might not see the point in spending around Rs. 15,000 when competing devices (or even your television’s own operating system) can do a lot of the same things for much less. However, the Apple TV 4K is also much more than that, making it a unique product that sits in a niche category of its own.

The recently launched Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is more powerful, more capable, and better equipped than its predecessor in many ways, while interestingly priced a bit lower than before at Rs. 14,900 onwards. Is this device aimed only at Apple fans, or can anyone benefit from having an Apple TV 4K? Find out in this review.

apple tv 4k 3rd gen review box Apple TV 4K

The sales package contains a power cable for the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen), but you’ll need to buy a good HDMI cable separately

 

Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) design and specifications

The Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is a bit smaller and lighter than the previous-generation model. However, it is still considerably larger and heavier than most other products in this general product segment. It retains the table-top form factor, although subtle design changes are visible, such as the Apple TV logo on the top being replaced by a smaller and simpler Apple brand logo. Notably, the cost of entry is lower than before, but the non-4K model has been discontinued.

As before, the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is available in only a single colour option – black, with a silver remote. However, there are now two variants of the device; the Rs. 14,900 variant has 64GB of internal storage and only Wi-Fi for Internet connectivity, while the Rs. 16,900 variant (the review unit sent to me) has 128GB of storage and an RJ45 Ethernet port for wired connectivity, in addition to Wi-Fi.

This is also the only difference in design between the two variants, with the Ethernet port lining up at the back alongside the HDMI port and power socket. Included in the box along with the device are a power cable and the remote, but nothing else; you’ll have to purchase an HDMI cable to connect to your TV and an Ethernet cable (if needed) separately.

apple tv 4k 3rd gen review remote Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV Remote (3rd Gen) has a USB Type-C port for charging

 

In terms of specifications, the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) supports HDMI 2.1, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5. The device is powered by Apple’s A15 Bionic processor, notably also used in the iPhone 13 series, as well as the basic iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus models, among other devices.

The Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) can stream at up to Ultra-HD (3840×2160) resolution, with support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HDR10 formats. Dolby Atmos audio is supported as well, and the device runs on Apple’s iOS-based tvOS platform.

Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) remote and features

The remote of the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is quite impressive, thanks to its aluminium casing and combination of physical buttons and touch-sensitive clickpad for navigation. Unlike most other streaming devices’ remotes, which use disposable and replaceable batteries, the Apple TV remote (3rd Gen) has a built-in, non-replaceable battery that needs to be charged.

Interestingly, the remote itself is largely the same as that of the previous generation, save for one big change – it has a USB Type-C port for charging (no charging cable is provided in the box, though). While the remote looks and feels great, it’s also fairly susceptible to scuffs and dents, so you’ll need to be careful handling it.

The remote has buttons for navigation and selection, volume adjustment, and playback, as well as invoking Apple’s Siri voice assistant. The ‘TV’ button on the remote is customisable, and can be set to either open the Apple TV app or go to the home screen on the tvOS interface.

HDMI CEC allows you to control connected devices using a single remote. Apple’s tvOS software platform (version 16.1.1 at the time of this review) supports numerous apps and services optimised for use on a television screen. Additionally, tvOS also gives you access to Apple Arcade, the company’s excellent subscription-based gaming service.

apple tv 4k 3rd gen review interface Apple TV 4K

Apple’s tvOS 16 interface is easy to get around, but often feels a bit oversimplified

 

Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) performance

Apple’s tvOS platform is largely efficient, and I experienced quick loading times, with fast and hassle-free navigation. There was no noticeable lag at all during my time with the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen). The operating system will feel familiar to anyone who has experience with iOS, with most modifications designed around making it suitable for the large screen and navigation using the remote.

That said, tvOS does at times feel oversimplified, with certain elements within apps appearing a bit under-equipped as compared to Android TV or Amazon’s Fire TV interface. This can be a good thing, as with the easy-to-navigate grid on the home screen and content previews at the top, but there are also some drawbacks such as limited subtitle selections in some apps, occasional HDR format compatibility issues with certain streaming services, and unreliable content-level support for Dolby Atmos on the Netflix app on tvOS.

Most apps that are relevant on tvOS – major streaming services, Apple Arcade games, and the like – are well put-together and work as expected. There are some mainstream apps that haven’t been updated in a while (Tinder, for example), but these aren’t really relevant and you probably wouldn’t even want to use them on a television screen if you have a smartphone or tablet handy.

As with other Apple ecosystem devices, you can quickly and effortlessly connect any AirPods or HomePod speakers you have to the Apple TV 4K. Another interesting feature is dynamic wallpapers – the device downloads high-quality, high-resolution scenic clips as backgrounds for the tvOS interface. All of these were quite nice to look at, but the downloads are expectedly data-intensive.

A major differentiator for the Apple TV device is access to Apple Arcade and other popular games that have been optimised for tvOS. A compatible game controller is necessary to be able to play a lot of the games on the Apple TV 4K, although many others can be played using the Apple TV remote itself. The experience was better on the big screen for many games, making the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) a very capable ‘micro-console’ of sorts, and this is where the powerful A15 processor comes in handy.

Siri on the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is rather underwhelming, at least compared to its capabilities on other Apple platforms such as iOS and CarPlay. I wasn’t able to play specific content on streaming services apart from YouTube, Apple Music, and the Apple TV app, although I was at least able to open apps already installed on the device and navigate around the App Store with voice commands.

Coming to the core capabilities of audio and video streaming, the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is notably better in terms of stream stability and quality than devices running on other platforms, particularly on slower Internet connections. Buffering was minimal, and the picture and sound were noticeably better on the Apple TV 4K on a mobile data connection. Even with a much faster and more stable Wi-Fi connection, certain streaming services such as Apple TV+ and Netflix did look a bit better using this device than on the default Android TV platform on the Xiaomi Smart TV X50.

Verdict

The Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) might seem like just another streaming device – and a particularly expensive one, at that – but there is a lot to this gadget than most first impressions suggest. It does, of course, perform its core functions well enough for the most part, although tvOS occasionally feels like it needs an overhaul. There’s plenty of storage, useful connectivity options, and Apple’s highly-regarded ecosystem to sweeten the deal, particularly if you already have other Apple hardware and subscriptions to its key services.

Although undeniably expensive for a streaming device, the Apple TV 4K is powerful and capable enough to be considered a micro-console, and it can bring many of the capabilities of your iPhone or iPad to your much larger TV screen. With this in mind, and if you’re already on the Apple bandwagon, the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) is worth buying.

Price: Rs. 14,900 onwards

Ratings:

Design and specifications: 9
Features: 9
VFM: 7
Performance: 9
Overall: 9

Pros:

  • Very good design and build quality
  • Optional Ethernet connectivity
  • Powerful SoC, excellent specifications
  • HDR10+ now supported, in addition to Dolby Vision
  • Great for gaming
  • Lots of Apple ecosystem benefits

Cons:

  • tvOS sometimes feels oversimplified, still has some minor drawbacks
  • Siri feels under-equipped on this device
  • Still somewhat expensive despite the price drop

Catch the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360, at our CES 2023 hub.



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