Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Still the best TV streamer for iPhone owners

Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Still the best TV streamer for iPhone owners

Updated: 2 months, 29 days, 14 hours, 23 minutes, 54 seconds ago

Let’s face it, the Apple TV 4K (2022) didn’t have many places to go, or areas to upgrade this year. The big 4K update arrived way back in 2017 and last year’s follow-up honed what was already a great product to the very finest of edges.

Inevitably, then, this is no major revamp, with only small changes. The price has been reduced, however, and there’s still nothing out there quite like the Apple TV 4K that delivers the combination of slick performance, ease of use, picture quality and Apple ecosystem integration.

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Apple TV 4K (2022) review: What you need to know

At first glance you’ll struggle to spot any differences between the 2022 Apple TV 4K and its predecessor but there are a few changes. Inside, Apple has upgraded to the A15 Bionic processor, boosting performance and adding the ability to process HDR10+ programming, and it has also removed the internal fan.

The Apple TV 4K (2022) is now completely passively cooled and silent, although I can’t say I ever remember hearing the fan kick into action on the previous model. As a result, there are now no vents in the base and the box itself is a touch smaller and lighter than before. It still feels as chunky and solid, though. It’s thoughtfully designed, too, with a rubber base that prevents it from slipping around wherever you decide to put it down and easily accessible ports at the rear.

Design-wise, Apple has quietly removed the “TV” lettering from the top leaving just the Apple logo in the centre and the remote control is now charged via USB-C instead of Apple’s lightning connection. Slowly but surely, Apple is removing its lightning connector technology from its products. The only concern is that by the time Apple gets to updating its iPhones, we’ll have a brand new USB connection to think about.

Otherwise, the only change is that you get more storage for less money. You get double, in fact, with the base model coming with 64GB of storage and the pricier one with 128GB. Also worth noting is that, if you prefer the greater reliability that comes with a wired Ethernet connection, you’ll have to buy the 128GB model as the cheaper Apple TV is now Wi-Fi only.

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Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Price and competition

With almost everything else rising in price right now, it’s good to see that Apple hasn’t increased the price. In fact, the price of the cheapest Apple TV has come down by £20 this time around. That may be remarkable in today’s climate but despite that the Apple TV 4K remains one of the most expensive TV streamers on the market.

The main rivals to the Apple TV 4K may not have the power or performance the new A15 Bionic chip is capable of delivering but they’re all significantly cheaper. The 4K Chromecast with Google TV is £50, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max with Wi-Fi 6 is £55, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is £50 and even the latest Amazon Fire TV Cube 4K (2022) – which has Wi-Fi 6E – costs less than the Apple TV at £140.

Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Design and integration

Objectively, there’s very little about the Apple TV that seems to justify its price, especially since all its rivals do a perfectly good job of streaming 4K movies and TV. However, the Apple TV has always offered a little bit extra to justify the premium both in terms of design and features.

For starters, the design of the box and the remote control are, in typical Apple fashion, much more attractive and better built than the competition. Where its rivals (and their remote controls) are all rather cheaply made from lightweight plastics, the Apple TV 4K (2022) has the heft of luxury goods, and its all-aluminium remote control, along with its touch-sensitive directional pad, is up there with the nicest I’ve ever used.

In fact, it’s the one remote control I reach for before any other, partly because it’s a learning remote so you can use it to control power and volume on your TV, but mainly because it’s a nice thing to hold in your hand.

The other reason you might opt for the Apple TV 4K (2022) over one of its cheaper rivals is the integration with other Apple products. Setting it up with the help of an iPhone couldn’t be simpler. Integration with Apple Keychain and being able to use your iPhone’s onscreen keyboard to enter text means logging into your streaming apps requires very little effort, and the ability to carry out a colour calibration with your phone’s camera is a stroke of genius that the competition simply can’t rival.

SharePlay is another great Apple ecosystem feature that you and your iPhone-owning friends can use to watch TV shows and movies together over FaceTime. Audio Sharing is another neat feature that allows the connection of two pairs of Apple or Beats headphones over Bluetooth so two people can watch a show without disturbing the rest of the house.

And don’t disregard Spatial Audio and Apple’s magical head-tracking tech from your consideration, either. With a pair of compatible AirPods headphones and supporting content, this delivers a simply phenomenal personal surround-sound audio experience – the best you’ll experience outside a full Dolby Atmos home theatre set up, I’d expect.

That’s not all, though. There’s the rather major attraction that you can easily stream Dolby Vision HDR footage filmed in 4K on your iPhone straight to the Apple TV 4K. Assuming your TV is up to it, you can have this reproduced in all its technicolour glory; another key feature other platforms simply can’t replicate. And there’s much more besides, including HomeKit and Apple Fitness+ integration. For Apple fans, the Apple TV 4K (2022) is a truly brilliant enabler.

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Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Content

There isn’t much missing from a content perspective, either. Even if you don’t watch Apple’s own TV+ service, there’s support for all the major streaming platforms and UK domestic streaming channels (including Now), and there’s a host of games downloadable from the App Store and Apple Arcade you can play using either the bundled remote control or a compatible Bluetooth game controller.

Apple has been keen to highlight the potential of the Apple TV 4K as a gaming device in the past and it’s certainly powerful enough to deliver on that front. The A15 Bionic inside this year’s model is the same chip as used in the iPhone 13 and this is far more powerful than the Nvidia Tegra X1 that still powers the Nintendo Switch today, not to mention that there’s now double the storage for installing such titles.

But while you can play some pretty advanced and involved games on the platform, the vast majority tend to be mobile-first titles best suited to casual play – Crossy Road, Ashpalt, Cut the Rope, Aldo’s Odyssey and so on – and these can’t really compete with the huge selection of top-quality AAA games playable on today’s “proper” consoles.

The big omission from the lineup of available apps remains Google Play Movies & TV but considering any movies you’ve purchased through that platform in the past can be accessed via the YouTube app that’s not a huge problem.

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Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Performance

The performance of TV streaming boxes is consistently good these days and I’ve not come across one for a while that feels sluggish or frustrating to use. However, the regular hardware upgrades Apple introduces tend to be less about raw speed than it is about new features.

With the 2022 model, the main step forward is its ability to support HDR10+ in addition to HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. This isn’t a massive step forwards, per se, since Dolby Vision is the more capable standard, and the one that has been adopted more widely.

However, for owners of Samsung TVs, none of which support Dolby Vision due to the company’s refusal to pay the licence fee, it’s a chance to get improved HDR playback thanks to the HDR10+ standard’s scene-by-scene dynamic metadata. That means certain content that may have looked too bright or too dark under HDR10 will be much improved. Note, however, that the content itself does need to be compatible to start with.

Amazon Prime Video is the biggest supporter of HDR10+, but you’ll also find it on YouTube, Paramount+ and Apple TV+. Other services, notably Netflix and Disney+, only support HDR10 or Dolby Vision.

Aside from that, the extra performance does help the new Apple TV 4K continue to feel nice and slick but it isn’t appreciably faster to launch apps and games than the previous model. I got the stopwatch out and timed both the Apple TV 4K (2022) and the 2021 model launching the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus apps and then fired up SkyForce Reloaded and there was a mere two seconds between the two devices in total. There is 30% more GPU grunt, however, so demanding games should run smoother.

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Apple TV 4K (2022) review: Verdict

Overall, this isn’t a huge update for the Apple TV 4K. It was already the best TV streamer on the market for iPhone owners, and already one of the most expensive streamers available – neither of those things has changed.

It’s now fanless, is smaller and lighter than before and those with Samsung TVs will see picture quality improvements with Apple TV+ and Prime Video content. Plus, the hardware inside will at least ensure this is a streaming TV box that will continue to feel snappy for some time into the future.

However, if you already own an Apple TV 4K and you’re happy with how it works overall, there’s not much here to tempt you to upgrade. It’s a very good TV streaming box and the best option for Apple device owners but it’s the mildest of upgrades.