When it rains, it pours, and this week it’s a storm of new Apple products. I’ve been testing out the new 2nd Generation Apple TV 4K over the last week and it’s reminded me why I prefer using the Apple TV over my smart TV’s built-in apps.
The Apple TV Siri Remote gets a much-needed upgrade
The reason why I needed reminding was because the old Siri Remote was a thin, user-unfriendly example of aesthetics over function that was apparently designed to live between your couch cushions.
So, it’s great to see that the biggest upgrade in this new Apple TV is the remote.
It’s now a heavier, thicker, more aggressively silver remote that’s still pretty, but is designed to be used by actual people with actual hands.
The new Siri Remote has multiple physical buttons at the top now, so you can press the directional buttons to move around Netflix or whatever.
This is a huge improvement over the previous fickle touch pad of doom, whose favour and cooperation were a trial to win.
The centre button and direction wheel still have touch controls, which are useful. But if you have dry skin, cold hands or another reason why capacitive touch might not work first time for you, you don’t have to rely on it.
If you are into using the touch controls, you can just hold your finger on the outer directional ring when a video is paused and move your finger around to scrub, which is handy — so long as you have warm, moisturised hands.
There’s also a new power button that controls the Apple TV, your regular TV and any receivers or soundbars you might have.
This is better than the previous approach of just pressing ‘menu’ repeatedly and hoping it knew what you wanted. Now you just press the power button briefly to turn everything on, and then hold it down for a couple of seconds to turn everything off.
The Siri button has been moved to the side of the remote. This is great because you’re now more likely to press it deliberately, as opposed to when you’re trying to pause.
Having Siri onboard is one of the main selling points of the Apple TV, because its search is powerful across all installed services. P
It also includes shortcuts like “what did he just say”, which rewinds whatever you’re watching 15-seconds and puts subtitles on the replay. So it’s great that Siri now feels a bit easier to use.
Having the remote larger and shinier does mean it’s now slightly less difficult to lose — but it is still smaller than most other remotes.
I wish it had some AirTag-type functionality built-in, or maybe that Apple sold an AirTag case for it, so it could make a sound from the depths of your couch or discarded hoodie pocket.
Duct taping an AirTag onto it would do the job, but would detract somewhat from the elegance of the design.
Oh yeah, the actual Apple TV
It’s not just all about the remote, though; the Apple TV 4K itself didn’t get left out when it came to upgrades. I
It now has High Frame Rate HDR on top of the usual Dolby Vision. High Frame Rate HDR is particularly good for sports, but there currently isn’t much content out there to match, so it’s more of an aspirational feature.
But this does show that the A12 Bionic chip has some grunt to it. It’s also got Dolby Atmos, for your fancy audio needs, should you have speakers capable of producing it.
It’s compatible with Thread, which makes smart home device connectivity a bit easier. I like the feature that shows who’s at your door in a small window on-screen, without interrupting whatever you’re watching.
Plus, Control Centre not only allows you to switch between users, but also control things like lights and dehumidifiers, which is handy if you’ve left your phone on the kitchen bench and don’t feel like getting off the couch to get it.
I’m in the middle of some calibrations
My favourite new onboard feature is Colour Balance, which makes sure your TV is presenting colours the way Apple would like it to.
Setting your TV’s colours just right for every input can take time, because it varies between each device. But with this feature you can just hold your recent model iPhone up to the screen, and the front camera will recognise a series of displayed colours and get you all set up.
I am very particular about the colour settings on my TV, and even I enjoyed the slight extra vibrance this feature produced, so it’s definitely something worth trying.
Is the new Apple TV 4K worth it?
Apple’s subscription services aside (we’ll get to that in a minute), now that most people have smart TVs, it does become harder to justify getting a smart top box like the Apple TV.
That said, I actually prefer the Apple TV operating system over that built into my Samsung TV. Apps like Binge and Stan just work better on Apple TV. And it goes without saying that Siri is a better search assistant than Bixby.
It’s also nicer to be able to type searches on my iPhone screen than press buttons on my remote 1000 times like it’s a Nokia from 2003.
Speaking of Samsung TVs, so far this latest Apple TV model doesn’t seem to have the problem of the old model where it lost the colour red at random on my Samsung Q9 television, which appeared to be an HDR compatibility issue. This is great news for Samsung TV owners.
Obviously, the Apple TV is the best way to utilise Apple’s subscription services on the big screen. An Apple TV is a must-have for Fitness+ users who want a bigger screen than their phone and something cheaper than an iPad.
An Apple Arcade subscription combined with a decent controller also makes it a good first ‘gaming console’ for kids and casual players who aren’t interested in AAA titles, but still want to play quality games without ads.
All up, this is the best Apple TV yet, and my only complaints are minor quibbles about the remote. It’s a solid device for $249.
New users will be pleasantly surprised by all the Apple TV has to offer. However, if you have an older model Apple TV 4K, or an older model black Apple TV and don’t have a 4K television, you’d be better off just upgrading the remote, which is $79 by itself.
Let’s never speak of the original Siri Remote again.
The Apple TV 4K will be available in stores soon.