Over the past few years, I thought of getting an Apple TV for my room on multiple occasions. In fact, I almost bought an Apple TV from Best Buy in New York some time back but changed my mind at the last minute. I live in the Apple ecosystem but the Apple TV never really drew my interest. But this time, the Apple Arcade subscription service has made me a believer in the tiny little streaming box. I started using the new Apple TV a few days back, and quickly it has become my favourite device to game on.
Here are my thoughts on Apple TV 4K and who should and who shouldn’t invest in a streaming box that can download apps and stream services as well as play games.
Apple TV 4K price in India: Rs 14,900 onwards
Before I give you a deep dive into Apple TV 4K, here’s a little background about my interest in gaming. Since childhood, I have been playing video games. I own every major PlayStation and Nintendo console, so you can imagine how big a gamer I am. The last big console I bought was the Nintendo Switch, my go-to handheld gaming device. I also divide my time playing games on PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii during the weekends.
I have enough devices to play games on, then why care about the Apple TV? I asked myself the question and the answer I got was, “Why not?”
The Apple TV isn’t technically the game console I am used to, but it feels like one in a non-traditional way when pairing a game controller and playing games like Oceanhorn 2. I have been an Apple Arcade fan for quite some time; the ability to play high-quality games on the iPhone and iPad really stands out. And Apple Arcade is the real reason why gaming on the Apple TV really shines, along with controller support.
I paired my PlayStation DualShock 4 controller to the Apple TV 4K, fired up NBA 2K23 Arcade Edition as part of the monthly Apple Arcade subscription, and enjoyed a late-night gaming session. There is definitely a gaming side to the Apple TV 4K which feels underrated, and I encourage more people to explore it. Not to say I will stop using my PlayStation 4 because I can play games on the Apple TV 4K. There are still a lot of challenges that Apple needs to solve. The biggest grouse is the lack of Apple Arcade games specifically designed for a big-screen experience.
There are a few graphically-demanding games that feel cinematic on my 4K TV. A lot of games you play on the Apple TV 4K feel like they are made for the mobile phone. That needs to be changed. I also want more games that can be played with the entire family…multiplayer games with easy mechanics that are fun to play and foster collaboration.
Small and compact
The Apple TV hasn’t changed in looks from previous-generation models and while some may question Apple’s decision to keep the design the same for years, I am less concerned about the device’s appearance. This is not a device to show off; it’s a little black box that is meant to be hidden behind or kept right next to the TV.
This streaming box is compact enough to be placed anywhere, and a rubbery bottom assures it won’t slip wherever you keep it. I like the current approach Apple has taken for its streaming media device. At least, it doesn’t look cheap like Amazon’s Fire Stick.
Anyways, the back has an HDMI 2.1 port, a port for the power cable, and an Ethernet port—in case you pay the extra Rs 2,000 for extra internal storage and the Ethernet connector. The Wi-Fi-only model comes with half the storage (64 GB) for Rs 14,900. My review unit, however, costs Rs 16,900 but comes with 128GB of storage and an Ethernet port.
Terrific Siri remote
Last time, I checked the Apple TV at a high-street electronic store, it still shipped with the first-generation Siri remote. It was small and lightweight and quite frankly, beautiful to look at but impractical to use when you add a multi-touch trackpad. Now that remote is gone, the current Apple TV 4K comes with a redesigned Siri remote.
Made out of aluminum, it feels like you are using the iPad Nano with soft touch buttons and a drag-and-move pad in the middle that lets you glide around menus something like the trackpad on a laptop. This version of Siri remote also features a USB-C port for recharging instead of Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable. Both with regard to design and usability, the remote is fantastic.
The buttons are easy to use and rotating your thumb around the touch-sensitive wheel is so satisfying. There’s a power button which will turn off your TV while the Siri button is on the right edge. It’s good for Siri shortcuts and other commands but you can’t say “Hey, Siri” to invoke it, unlike the iPhone.
Inside the new Apple TV 4K is Apple’s A15 Bionic processor – the same chipset that powers the iPhone 13 and the sixth-generation iPad mini. The A15 is a powerful chip, but first, think about what kind of device the Apple TV is. Apple does not need to put a chip as powerful and fast as the A15 considering the Apple TV is a streaming media device and not something like a tablet or smartphone you end up using a lot during the day.
During testing, I found a noticeable performance improvement when loading apps and navigating the menu. This is a big differentiator over other streaming devices available in the market. The speed bump was visible when I interacted with Siri and found the shows I wanted to watch. Frankly, Siri on the new Apple TV loads faster and the interface is now more akin to what you get on the iPad.
Picture quality is a lot better than I expected it to be. I streamed Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and more, and all worked fine. The support of HDR10+ is a welcome change, assuming your TV supports this format. That means better colours from supported media like Amazon Prime Video.
A lot of readers ask me, why buy Apple’s streaming box when their TV is already “smart.” Yes, they are right; most TV now comes with an operating system that allows you to do the same things Apple TV offers. But there is a difference. Apple TV ships with tvOS, and that to me changes the whole idea of a “smart” OS tailored for big-screen.
For most people who already live in Apple’s ecosystem like me, the tvOS is a natural extension to iOS or macOS, but designed for the largest screen in the house. The approach is to stream channels and media libraries using a traditional remote-like interface with a different set of minds and that mostly works. Where tvOS really shines, though, is in its deep integration with the iPhone and Apple’s other services. You can input text using the iPhone’s keyboard and a push notification goes to your phone when you select a text field on the Apple TV.
You can use your iPhone with the Apple TV 4K to calibrate the colour of your display. Just the other day, I paired AirPods with Apple TV 4K for silent viewing. There is also an audio-sharing feature that lets you use two pairs of AirPods to watch the show on the Apple TV.
Should you buy the Apple TV 4K?
I love the Apple TV 4K. And my reason for recommending the Apple TV is that you can play Apple Arcade games on the big screen. Not everyone agrees with my viewpoint but just think about the value it offers if you have a kid at home. With controller support, the lack of microtransactions in games, and the fact that the cost of running the Apple TV 4K is negligible compared to a console which is useless if you are not playing games. The best thing about the Apple TV 4K is that it’s an idea of an easy-to-use streaming box that’s not convoluted. Starting at Rs 14,900, it may seem a little expensive to some but if you are an iPhone user who’s been using an older Apple TV and need a casual gaming device with built-in streaming apps, upgrading to the Apple TV 4K makes a lot of sense.