Apple has today unveiled an upgraded Apple TV that supports 4K resolution and HDR, including Dolby Vision. It is powered by the far more capable A10X chip. tvOS 11 also adds several new features and iTunes now offers 4K HDR movies.
Apple TV 4K
Apple's TV operating system, tvOS, and the previous Apple TV hardware was launched two years ago. The company has today unveiled an upgraded version of the media streaming player. It is called 'Apple TV 4K'.
Lots of details had been leaked prior to the event so we already knew that it was going to be powered by the so-called ’A10X Fusion’ SoC, which is the chip that also powers the latest iPad Pro models. It is significantly faster than the previous chip in the previous Apple TV, which will allow for higher-quality video streaming as well as an entirely new class of games. The company said that the CPU is 2x faster and that graphics are 4x more powerful.
Of course, the most important thing is what all of this hardware enables and the big news here is of course video output in 4K resolution and HDR - or High Dynamic Range - via the HDMI 2.0 port. While 4K resolution is relatively straightforward - four times as many pixels as 4K resolution - HDR is generally considered a more important step. It is like removing a filter in front of a lens to reveal a far greater dynamic range in luminance and a significantly larger color gamut. At least when reproducing the content on a proper HDR TV.
- "HDR is even more more important. HDR is about better pixels," said Eddy Cue.
Apple has, surprisingly, chosen to support more than one HDR format. Specifically:
HDR10: A base format that ensures compatibility with all HDR displays.
Dolby Vision: Uses dynamic metadata to optimize picture quality on a scene-by-scene basis.
Apple TV joins an exclusive club of players that can handle Dolby Vision. References to a third format, HLG, has also been found in the firmware. HLG is to transmit live TV in HDR. By supporting several formats Apple can ensuree compatibility in the eco system and lay the foundation for much more in the future.
To enjoy the best possible picture quality you need content made in the format. Apple confirmed that Amazon, Netflix, and other streaming services will offer 4K HDR, through the new Apple TV. Amazon is coming to tvOS later this year. The retail giant has in the past been hesitant to accept Apple's app store terms but it seems that a 4K player has brought Amazon and Apple together.
The box also comes bundled with a refreshed version of the Siri Remote.
Apple is expanding its 'TV' app to several new regions. Besides USA, it is coming to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the UK. In addition, Apple will "later this year" add live sports and news to the TV app that also works on iPhone and iPad. In addition, Siri will now respond to questions related to 4K and HDR such as “Show me movies in 4K”.
Apple TV 4K starts at $179 for 32GB or $199 for 64GB. Pre-orders start on September 15 and it will be available on September 22, the company said. The current HD version will continue to be available for $149.
iTunes to offer 4K HDR movies
With the launch of the new hardware, Apple is adding a selection of 4K HDR movies to iTunes. It has yet to be confirmed in which regions it will be offered.
- "We've been working with the large Hollywood studios to get all of their 4K HDR content in iTunes," said Eddy Cue.
Apple is collaborating with 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures. The only major Hollywood studio missing from the list is Disney.
The company also said that if you already own movies in HD quality you will automatically and free-of-charge get the 4K HDR version. Apple did the same when iTunes switched from 720p to 1080p but it nevertheless sets the company apart from the rest of the industry.
Movies in 4K HDR will cost the same as HD movies today.
tvOS 11 with Airplay 2
tvOS has reached the third major version but it follows the iOS version number, which is why it is called tvOS 11. The latest version is of course also coming to the previous Apple TV hardware.
One of the major new features is Airplay 2, which is coming "later this year". It is Apple's updated protocol for wireless audio that enables multiroom support. Airplay 2 also integrates with HomeKit, Apple's platform for the connected home.
tvOS 11 also includes some minor features such as Airpods auto-pairing, Home Screen sync, automatic switching between dark and light themes, a refreshed 'Computer' app, new screensavers in 4K HDR quality, notifications, and more.
Apple TV (2017) - specifications
35x98x98 mm / 425 grams
32GB and 64GB
HDMI 2.0a (+CEC)
A10X Fusion 64-bit SoC
4K output – 2160p
HDR10 & Dolby Vision
802.11ac Wi Fi with MIMO (2.4GGz & 5GHz)
Up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound
Video formats: H.264/HEVC SDR video up to 2160p, 60 fps, Main/Main 10 profile HEVC Dolby Vision (Profile 5)/HDR10 (Main 10 profile) up to 2160p H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 fps, Simple profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
Audio formats: HE-AAC (V1), AAC (up to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV; AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1) and E-AC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound)