Hands On: Second Generation Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K second generation has arrived. Not much has changed from the first generation Apple TV 4K. It has an upgraded processor chip and a newly designed Apple TV remote. It is possibly the best-performing streaming player available (as well as the most expensive). Still, depending on your current setup, you may not need to upgrade.
Setup on the new Apple TV remains the same as previous generations. Bring an iPhone or iPad near the Apple TV, and a screen appears asking if you want to set it up with your device. Using a mobile Apple device makes it quick to set up. If you have, or previously have had, an Apple TV, the apps will be downloaded and have the same arrangement. Choose a WiFi network, how you want to use Siri and a few other options, and it’s done. If you aren’t a cord-cutter, you can enter the credentials you use to log in to your TV provider’s website. This can then be used to automatically sign into apps that are free with a cable/satellite subscription—STARZ, Showtime, and so forth.
Immediately, I noticed that the new Apple TV 4K is lightning fast. It was responsive, navigating and launching apps quickly. The most recent operating system update, TV OS 14.5, brings with it improved Siri responsiveness. When I asked Siri to play The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, the screen went dark for a nanosecond then started to play. Movies on PLEX can be slow to load on our system, but we’re fast on the new Apple TV 4K. As soon as it started playing, I asked to fast forward to an hour into the movie, and within a literally blink-of-the-eye, it navigated to the hour mark and played.
This speed is due to the new six-core A12 Bionic chip that you’ll find in an Apple iPhone XS, the 2019 versions of the iPad Air and iPad Mini, and the 2020 iPad. While not a huge upgrade from the previous Apple TV 4K’s four-core A10X, it is, nonetheless, a noticeable difference. As my Apple TV 4K is still set up on another TV, I compared the speeds. The first-gen Apple TV takes just a couple of seconds longer to load the movie, but, like the new model, Siri could fast forward and rewind immediately.
The A12 chip promises better video quality as it can handle 4K HDR10 content at 60 fps (frames per second). A YouTube video with these specs was clear and played easily. When I Airplayed a 4K 60fps video that I shot on my iPhone 12 Pro Max of my dog running, it was smooth and sharp. This capability will be more critical as sports and video gaming require it.
The TV OS 14.5 update includes color balance and audio calibration to get the best picture and sound quality from the Apple TV 4K. In Settings got to Video and Audio, then to Calibration. When you select Color Balance, a notification appears on your iPhone. Hold the front-facing (selfie) camera an inch from the TV facing the rectangle on the screen. Be sure that your TV is not set to a Sport or Vivid picture mode. While this worked on my new TCL TV, it would go through the measurements and fail on my son’s older LG 4K TV. Any of the adjustments and changes will only affect the content played on the Apple TV.
If your Apple TV 4K is connected to both a wired AV receiver and a wireless speaker, there can be latency issues where the sound is out of sync. Go into Video and Audio in the settings, then choose Calibration. Select Wireless Audi Sync to start the process.
The significant improvement of the second-generation Apple TV 4K is its new remote. Most people who used the previous touch remote have hated it and are singing the praises of the wholly redesigned remote. Although it is a definite improvement and worth the $59 to replace the previous remote, I’m not as excited as other reviewers about it.
Apple changed the shape and size of the remote. They use this as the excuse for not adding a “find me” U1 chip to find the remote along with your other Apple devices. It’s no longer the tiny flat remote that was easily lost. It has depth and weight. While the rounded back fits nicely in my hand, the face of the remote has a sharp edge that is uncomfortable to hold.
The glassy-surfaced swipe pad has been replaced with wheel navigation. It retains the ability to swipe touch. You can also click on the wheel in the direction you want to move. In the Apple TV’s settings, you can turn off the touch feature and make it purely directional where you push on the section of the wheel to move up, down, right or left.
Changing the setting to directional turns off the jog wheel’s fast forward and rewind scrubbing capabilities. When I first tried scrubbing through a video, I ran my finger around in one direction around the wheel, and it did a squirrelly forward and rewind dance rather than continue in the same direction. The correct way to use the jog wheel is to pause the video, put your finger on the wheel and wait until a circle appears on the video’s timeline. Once the circle appears, you can spin around the wheel in either direction to get to the exact spot where you want to start playing.
Apple has changed a couple of other buttons on the remote. Like the way you summon Siri on an iPhone or iPad, the microphone/Siri button was moved to the side. An obvious fix, the menu button was changed to a back arrow as pressing the menu button takes you back to the previous screen. There is also a power button on the remote to turn on/off your TV when it is set up with HDMI CEC.
The HDMI port has been updated to HDMI 2.1 with a throughput of 48 gigabits per second. A high-speed HDMI cable is needed but isn’t included.
Two other hardware updates in the second-generation Apple TV 4K include WiFi 6 and Thread compatibility. These features are to future-proof the device as there are few fast WiFi routers and only a handful of Thread devices. Thread-enabled Homekit devices include Nanoleaf light bulbs and products made by Eve. I was unable to test WiFi 6 or Thread at this time.
Overall, the Apple TV 4K – second generation is one of the best streaming devices available. I can always rely on the quality of the picture with Dolby Vision, and with Dolby Atmos sound, the audio quality as well. Of course, like earlier models, the quality comes at a price. The Apple TV 4K with 32 GB of memory is $179; the 64 GB model is $199.
If you are an iPhone or iPad user who doesn’t have the previous Apple TV 4K, or you have the HD Apple TV, this is an excellent streaming device choice. If you have the previous Apple TV 4K, and you don’t need 60 fps (you don’t watch a lot of sports or movies from your phone), then buy the new remote for $59. The difference between the first and second-generation Apple TV 4K is a couple of extra blinks of the eye.
Published at Wed, 26 May 2021 03:10:52 +0000
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