Apple TV 4K review

GSMArena team, 22 December 2017.

Setting Up

If you own a recent iDevice, setting up the ATV 4K couldn't be easier and shows Apples usual flair. Once you choose Set Up with Device, you simply hold an unlocked iPhone, iPad or iPod touch near the Apple TV 4K and you will get a prompt to allow the transfer of all your relevant iCloud account details and network information via Bluetooth. With tvOS 11, Apple introduced Home Screen Sync. In a nutshell this will use your iCloud account to download apps and subsequently arrange those apps on your home screen to match that of another 4th generation or newer Apple TV in your household. This worked exactly as advertised and after a few minutes wait the Apple TV 4K had downloaded all of our apps and replicated their position on the home screen to match our current Apple TV. Overall, setting up couldn't be more easy and convenient.

iPhone Apple TV 4K set up popup You're notified when set up is complete
iPhone Apple TV 4K set up popup You're notified when set up is complete

In Use

You're presented with the now familiar Apple TV user interface, that being a grid of app icons with six apps on each row. The top row of apps when highlighted show context sensitive content in the top half of your TV. Highlighting the TV app, for example, shows Up Next, which allow you to quickly jump back into the content your were previously playing.

Main Apple TV 4K Home screen

You navigate around using the supplied Siri remote or a paired iDevice via the Apple TV Remote app. With iOS 11's Control Centre you can add the Apple TV Remote icon to access via another way, both these are far more convenient as you can use your iDevice to enter text on the Apple TV 4K. Additionally, you can set up third-party remotes to control it, too.

Apple TV Notification Keyboard text entry Siri remote mimicked on iPhone Now Playing screen
Apple TV Notification Keyboard text entry Siri remote mimicked on iPhone Now Playing screen

All the menus are rendered in 4K, and we suffered zero lag or app slowdowns thanks to the A10X processor from the iPad Pro. Apple is slowly transitioning its Aerial screensavers over to 4K, and they look absolutely stunning. Listening to Apple Music and watching the Dubai skyline at night is mesmerizing.

The Dubai Aerial screen saver in 4K

As you'd expect the storage provides space for your downloaded apps, in our case our 32GB unit still had 16GB free after downloading quite a few games and 4K screensavers. We'd recommend sticking with the 32GB unit if you only intend on watching/streaming content, with the 64GB unit the best option if this is to be a primary games console.

Whilst in use, from our observations, any free storage is used as a streaming cache. We certainly observed this when playing an iTunes Movie.

Pressing and holding the microphone button on the remote invokes Siri. It has excellent recognition abilities and is integrated across all the Apple TV services, and much to our surprise proves genuinely useful.

Ask her to 'play the grand tour' and she obliges. You can ask her to launch apps, inquire about the world weather, recommend and refine films and music or by asking 'what did he say' during movie playback she'll replay the scene with subtitles on.

It only gets slightly disappointing when you compare the capabilities to other iOS devices. When we asked Siri to 'show me photos of New York' on our iPhone we're presented with all the pics geo-tagged from New York. However, ask her on the Apple TV and she won't cooperate. This isn't a limitation with Siri itself, after all it's a server side technology, but a limitation with the overall features that Apple provides on the Apple TV that Siri can 'plug' into. Apple don't provide a search facility in Photos on the Apple TV and as a result there is nothing for Siri to 'plug' into.

Siri on the Apple TV 4K

Ask Siri about the weather Siri weather overview Flick up on the remote to see the full forecast
Ask Siri about the weather Siri weather overview Flick up on the remote to see the full forecast

Photos

You've been taking 4K and higher photographs for years now even if you didn't realize it. If your phone or camera had an 8 MP sensor or higher, then your pictures will look simply stunning on the Apple TV 4K. Similar to your iDevice, you can also view your photos by Memories, Shared albums or Albums. And it's from Albums where you playback your 4K movies shot on your iPhone.

Photos album thumbnails

As we discussed earlier in relation to Siri, there is no way to search your pictures which is even more frustrating when you've got a group of friends round to view your latest holiday snaps. You can get round this by mirroring your iPhone screen to the Apple TV 4K. It's an odd omission non the less and is one of the few areas where Steve Jobs 'hobby' comment still rings true.

Music

Apple Music provides all the same functionality as its iOS and Android equivalent, giving you access to your Library, For You, Browse, Radio and Search options.

As expected, the Now Playing screen shows Album Art and album details. From here you're just one click away from adding to a playlist, creating your own radio station based on what's playing or seeing more tracks from that artist.

Apple Music