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Apple TV 4K (2022) review: The last streaming device you need

The 2022 Apple TV 4K is meant for premium buyers and users who are already locked into the Apple ecosystem. Should you buy it?

The strongest Apple TV yet features the A15 Bionic chip and adds HDR10+ — all at a new starting price. (Apple)

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I have always maintained that the secret sauce in Apple’s successful ecosystem approach is the user experience the company offers across its products and services. A lot has changed for Apple since the great Steve Jobs died, but his famous words—“it just works”—still pop up time and again. And perhaps no Apple device exemplifies that the way the Apple TV 4K (2022) does.

It’s very easy to write-off a device like this in a market like India. It’s significantly more expensive than streaming sticks you get from Amazon, Google, Xiaomi etc, and on paper it does the same job that those tiny devices do.

However, the 2022 edition of the Apple TV 4K is also a good 5,000 cheaper than its predecessor, and the overall user experience it provides is miles ahead of what any competing streaming stick will give. Yes, that includes the Amazon Fire Cube in that—the Apple TV’s closest competitor.

The future of TV is apps

If the future of TV is indeed apps, and it does seem like that’s where things are going, then those apps have to run smoothly and without hitches. Every smart TV today lets you download apps like Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video, etc. What they don’t do though, is do that without stutters or hitches. And the Apple TV fixes that by making your television as fast as an iPhone.

It runs on the uber powerful A15 Bionic chip, which is the same device that powers the iPhone 13. Which means it’s at least as powerful as the iPhone 13, but remember, the design of the Apple TV presumably allows more thermal headroom, meaning the chip will be able to run at higher speeds for longer here than on an iPhone.

That’s admittedly conjecture on my part, but the fact that the Apple TV 4K (2022) never lags, whether I’m streaming movies, multi-tasking through apps or playing games, somewhat reassures me that I’m right.

The A15 Bionic’s real job is to enable HDR10+ picture quality however. Which means that as long as you have a TV with a screen that supports Dolby Vision or HDR10+, the Apple TV will ensure that you get the best picture quality Netflix and other apps can provide. If you’ve been feeling like your affordable 4K TV just doesn’t look as good as you expected, the Apple TV 4K will likely solve that.

(Note: HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and enhances details in shadows and highlights in images. The human eyes have amazing dynamic range, and HDR essentially brings movies, etc., closer to what we can naturally see. Dolby Vision is a type of HDR created by American Dolby Laboratories.

The Apple TV supports a wide variety of 4K and HDR picture quality, and is set to 4K SDR (standard dynamic range), which is a standard used for TVs that have 4K displays but aren’t HDR/Dolby Vision certified.)

I can attest to the fact that my 55-inch Redmi TV’s picture quality feels much better when I’m using an Apple TV 4K than when I use the TV’s usual interface. You can colour calibrate using the iPhone and shows like Lucifer suddenly feel more contrasty.

The A15 Bionic also provides a level of future-proofing here. Apple obviously believes that gaming will be a big thing for future streaming boxes, and the A15 Bionic along with the App Store allow you to access the full power of the Apple Arcade service. You will have to subscribe to that separately, and Apple Arcade is yet to get games that are truly “console quality”, but at least you’ll know you’re ready if it ever gets there. The Apple TV also allows you to pair an Xbox or PlayStation controller with it for gaming.

It also has a nice metallic remote, which has a touchpad built-in that allows you to scroll through apps quickly, making it all feel like it would on a laptop. The remote also has a USB-C charging post this time, which means most chargers will charge it. I’m not quite sure how long the battery lasts on it yet, but it hasn’t run out in the week that I’ve used the Apple TV 4K (2022) so far.

But not everyone needs all this

At this point, you could argue that despite all its benefits, the Apple TV 4K (2022) doesn’t justify spending a full 10,000 or more as compared to a Google Chromecast or one of Amazon’s Fire TV Sticks, and you would be right. The Apple TV 4K is for those who really care about the experience.

The new Apple TV 4K also has a nice metallic remote, which has a touchpad built-in that allows you to scroll through apps quickly, making it all feel like it would on a laptop.
The new Apple TV 4K also has a nice metallic remote, which has a touchpad built-in that allows you to scroll through apps quickly, making it all feel like it would on a laptop. (Apple)

Despite all of the above, what makes me like using this device is the overall Apple experience. I can pull out my Airpods from the case and the Apple TV seamlessly connects to it, allowing me to watch TV while everyone sleeps. If friends are home, and we’re playing music videos on the TV while everyone dances the night away, I can press one button to make the Apple Homepod my speaker, and multiple people can pull out their iPhone and navigate the interface if required.

It’s that seamlessness that brings you back to Steve Jobs’ “it just works”, and it’s that what makes me like this device.

Is it all good?

There are some downsides to the Apple TV 4K though. For one, you can’t use it as a set-top-box in India, it seems Apple is yet to make those partnerships in the country. I’m not particularly sure enough people buy Apple TVs in India to warrant that effort from Apple. At least the Apple TV 4K has all the apps you will need though, right down to JioCinema, which is streaming the FIFA World Cup 2022 right now.

Also, while the starting price of 14,900 is significantly lower than the nearly 20,000 of its predecessor, you will have to pay 16,900 to get the most future-proof Apple TV 4K (2022).

That version has 128GB storage (the other has 64GB), and a built-in ethernet port, so you can plug in an Internet connection instead of always depending on a possibly choppy WiFi connection. The base model also doesn’t support Thread and Matter (to be added soon), which are smart home standards that will allow the Apple TV to become a hub for all your smart home gadgets in future.

Also, while Apple has topped out the storage at 128GB, if the company truly expects console quality games on its service, that’s definitely not enough. I have a 256GB Xbox for gaming, and only five modern games fit on that at any given time. But then again, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a device maker today who doesn’t have a business model built around more storage.

Should you buy it?

There’s no doubt that the Apple TV 4K (2022) is the best streaming device for those already locked into Apple’s ecosystem, but the keyword here isn’t best, it’s “premium”. The Apple TV 4K is the premium device for premium buyers. Here’s the maths as I see it.

Televisions that provide the same snappy experience that the Apple TV 4K does will cost you anywhere over 70,000-80,000 here in India. The Apple TV 4K allows you to buy a TV worth 40-50,000 and allows you to kick things into a higher gear at a slightly lower price. If that math makes sense to you, this is the device you should buy.

On the other hand, if my entire soliloquy about UX didn’t excite you, then stay away from this one. Whichever way you look at it, the Apple TV 4K (2022) is the last streaming device you will need, at least for the foreseeable future.

Also read: The definitive smart TV buying guide

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