The bottom line
If you love Apple products, the Apple TV 4K won’t disappoint. It’s elegant, easy to use, and packed with the potential to support all your favorite apps.
Because it runs best in tandem with other Apple devices, it isn’t the right device for Microsoft users. Those outside of the Apple ecosystem will likely have a better time with another streaming device.
- Looks great on screen and off
- Offers voice-control capabilities
- Supports games from Apple’s App Store
- Costs more than competitors
- Requires other Apple devices to work best
- Lacks essential hardware
What is Apple TV 4K?
Apple TV 4K is a device that allows you to stream movies, shows, and music on your TV.
Many streaming devices still make you comb through all your cord-cutting apps to find the show you want. But Apple TV 4K’s TV app pulls directly from all your streaming apps, and with the Siri remote you can pull up any show without having to type anything.
And while all the significant streaming devices have a 4K version now, Apple TV 4K sets itself apart with its impressive storage (32 GB or 64 GB) that’s perfect for downloading lots of apps and movies.
Apple TV 4K specs
- Price: $179 or $199
- Size: 1.4” x 3.9” x 3.9”, 15 oz.
- Video: 2160p, Dolby Vision, and HDR10
- Audio: Up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound
- Storage: 32 GB or 64 GB
- Processor: A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture
Apple TV 4K deals
If you want to shave a few numbers off the price tag, consider getting a refurbished Apple TV 4K. Both the 32 GB and 64 GB models are $30 less than if you buy them new.
Apple TV 4K vs. the competition
|Apple TV 4K||$179–$199||32 GB–64 GB||Set-top box||HD, HDR, 4K Ultra HD|
|Roku Ultra||$99.99||N/A (expandable by microSD)||Set-top box||HD, HDR, 4K Ultra HD|
|Amazon Fire TV Cube||$119.99||16 GB||Set-top box||HD, HDR, 4K Ultra HD|
|NVIDIA SHIELD TV||$179||16 GB (expandable by USB)||Set-top box||HD, HDR, 4K Ultra HD|
|Google Chromecast Ultra||$69||N/A (expandable by micro USB)||Stick||HD, HDR, 4K Ultra HD|
Data effective as of 8/9/2019. Pricing and features subject to change.
While Apple TV 4K’s big price tag looks intimidating, the only other device that keeps up with it in terms of storage space is the NVIDIA SHIELD TV, which costs about as much.
Both have plenty of space for downloading games and other apps, but if that’s not your thing, we’re fond of Roku Ultra too.
Apple TV 4K setup
Apple TV 4K is a dream come true for people who live and breathe Apple products. Even the packaging screams “Apple,” from the box all the way down to a piece of sleek tape that keeps the ports covered until you’re ready to unveil them.
Fortunately, Apple is user-friendly if nothing else, so it’s easy to set up. Plug in the set-top box with the power cord and connect to the TV with an HDMI cord (not included).
From there, your TV will prompt you through setup, and there’s only the touch-surface learning curve to hold you back.
- Polished set-top box
- Siri-powered remote
- Lightning cable to charge remote
- Power cord
Apple TV 4k set-top box
The Apple 4K TV also includes a lightning cable but not an HDMI cable.
Like we already mentioned, you won’t find an HDMI cord in the Apple TV 4K’s pristine heavy-cardboard box. Considering how pricey the device is, you’d think it would come with all the parts you need for it to work.
This writer was prepared to march down to Silicon Valley and give Apple a piece of their mind.
Equipment you’ll need:
- The standard HDMI cord that comes included with every other digital device in the known universe.
Apple TV 4K apps
While the Apple TV 4K starts with only eight preloaded apps, the Apple App Store has a virtually endless supply. Curate everything from streaming services to music and podcasts to games—your Apple TV 4K can be the ultimate entertainment box.
Apple TV app
With help from the TV app on Apple TV 4K, you can find every show and movie available through your streaming services in one place. And when you bookmark a show, it automatically pulls up at the top of the home screen.
Think of all the minutes you’ll save without having to hunt down the shows your coworker Bill suggests. Just ask Siri to show you CNN’s United Shades of America (or whatever Bill’s on about this week), and you’re good to go.
Live TV streaming services
If you don’t have a streaming service yet, check out the ones Apple TV 4K supports to find the best one for you:
On-demand streaming apps
Any on-demand streaming app you have on your iPhone will also work on your Apple TV 4K.
Here are some on-demand streaming services you might check out to level up your streaming capabilities:
Other streaming apps
The Apple TV 4K comes preloaded with apps for streaming and buying TV shows, movies, and music. You can open your iCloud photos to enjoy a nice slideshow or get your favorite podcast playing.
Beyond these apps, you’ve also got the entire App Store at your fingertips. You can load up with games, home automation, finance, education, food and drink. Heck, you could order GrubHub from your TV, so don’t ever worry about leaving your couch again.
App and channel guide user experience
Apple TV 4K’s streaming quality is frankly beautiful. The interface is easy to get around in, and Apple users will feel at home with the slick main menu.
With the Siri remote’s touch surface, it’s easy to scroll through all your apps. There’s a sci-fi-esque “boop-boop” noise as you move between apps, and we found the sound effect a little unnerving. But that’s probably a personal problem.
And if you’re ever lost, don’t forget you can just ask Siri for directions. You could be watching an awesome movie about as fast as you could say, “Hey Siri, find Captain Marvel.”
Apple TV 4K’s main screen
Look at that classic Apple app style.
The Apple TV 4K’s Siri remote features a touch surface—basically a mini mouse pad for your thumb. It might take a little while to get used to swiping through your options, but it can make channel surfing a dream.
That dream is balanced out by the nightmare of trying to log in to anything. Swiping for a letter can practically transport you into another dimension if you’re not paying attention.
Of course, Siri comes included in the remote (hence the name), so you can summon its help by holding down the microphone button on your remote and asking a question.
We repeat: hold down the button. If you release it, you’ll be left talking to an unfeeling, unresponsive TV. This difference from your iPhone takes time for your muscle memory to adjust.
Beyond that, the remote has all the necessary buttons like menu, TV app, start/pause, and volume. You know the drill.
Apple TV 4K’s Siri remote
The touch surface is located above the menu and TV buttons.
Apple TV 4K models
If you’re planning on stocking up on a lot of apps or downloading tons of iTunes material, go for the 64 GB model. Otherwise, the 32 GB model should have plenty of storage space for you.
Right now, games like Fortnight take up about 1.14 GB to 1.76 GB of your storage. But Apple recently raised its App Store cap—developers can make apps as big as 4 GB instead of 2 GB—so the Fortnight app might take up more space soon.
So gamers, spend the extra $20 for more storage. It’ll be worth it. For everyone else, 32 GB will be enough.
Compatible devices with Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K is fully integrated with all other Apple products. Setup is a breeze: Hold your iPhone next to the Apple TV 4K. After just a moment, your new streaming device will be connected to your Wi-Fi and Apple ecosystem.
And because Apple TV 4K works with App Store apps, you can easily connect your smart home devices. For example, when your Nest doorbell rings, you can pull up the video feed on your TV to see who’s at the door. If it’s a delivery, maybe finish your episode first.
When it comes to TVs, you’ll want a 4K Ultra HD– and HDR–ready TV to get the best picture. The Apple TV 4K will still work with a non-4K TV that has an HDMI plug, but since you’re paying so much for a 4K streaming device, it would be a bit of a waste.
For sound systems, anything Dolby Atmos–compatible will help you get the most out of Apple TV 4K’s three-dimensional sound.
Our final take
If you’re a die-hard Apple user who wants all your apps and games on the TV, Apple TV 4K might be the right streaming device for you.
But other streaming devices also offer 4K Ultra HD—and at a lower price. If you’re not planning on playing games or building out your Apple ecosystem, we recommend going with the Roku Ultra instead.
Apple TV 4K FAQ
Which generation is Apple TV 4K?
Apple TV 4K is the fifth generation in the Apple TV line, but currently the first generation in the Apple TV 4K line.
Can you use Apple TV 4K on a regular TV?
Apple TV 4K will work on any TV with an HDMI port (which is basically every TV since 2002). But if your TV isn’t a 4K TV, you won’t get the ultra high-definition visual experience.
For an older TV, we recommend going with the fourth-generation Apple TV, which will look just as good on any non-4K TV.
Does Apple TV 4K work wirelessly?
You can connect your phone to your Apple TV 4K wirelessly, and it can pick up your Wi-Fi for an internet signal. But you’ll still have to plug your Apple TV 4K into the TV with an HDMI cable and a power source with the power cable.
Does Apple TV 4K need a special HDMI cable?
No, any ole HDMI cable will do the trick for your Apple TV 4K. Just make sure you have a spare or buy one ahead of time, since Apple doesn’t include it in the box.
Rachel has spent the past two years at CableTV.com writing articles that demystify hidden fees, DVRs, sound systems, and more. She makes door-to-door DISH and DIRECTV salespeople uncomfortable with her in-depth questions—but if that’s what it takes to get you the best TV experience, she’s happy to do it. In addition to writing for CableTV.com, Rachel’s work has been featured on Today.com, TechGuySmartBuy.com, HowtoWatch.com, and SatelliteInternet.com.