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The Apple TV 4K fixes its Siri Remote and adds great features — but it’s way too expensive

·Technology Editor
·5 min read
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Apple’s (AAPL) newest Apple TV 4K hits the market Friday with a new processor, slick color calibration capabilities, and an overdue upgrade for the Siri remote. It’s a notable array of updates that make the Apple TV 4K quite the remarkable streaming box.

Starting at $179 with 32GB of storage or $199 with 64GB, the Apple TV 4K does more than stream shows and movies; it lets you control your smart home devices, play games, and work out with Apple Fitness+.

The streaming box market, though, is awash with far more affordable options, whether that’s the Amazon's (AMZN) $119 Fire TV Cube, which can also stream content and control your smart home appliances, or the Roku (ROKU) Ultra, which has 4K resolutions and high-dynamic range capabilities.

The Apple TV 4K is likely just too expensive for most people in light of these other options. But for the Apple faithful, the high cost is just the price of admission.

The new Siri Remote is a massive improvement

Let’s start with the biggest change here. The Apple TV 4K’s Siri Remote is finally usable without making you want to tear your hair out. Gone is that large touchpad that made it nearly impossible to select on-screen items. In its place is a new clickpad that makes navigating apps, scrubbing through scenes, and quickly moving through long lists of episodes so much easier than with the prior-generation Siri Remote.

Apple's new Apple TV 4K gets a far better remote and incredibly helpful color calibration feature. (Image: Howley)
Apple's new Apple TV 4K gets a far better remote and incredibly helpful color calibration feature. (Image: Howley)

Apple has also given this version of the remote power and mute buttons that control your TV, so you can fire up that bad boy with a single press, rather than switching between the Siri remote and TV remote. The Siri Remote even controls my Vizio soundbar, meaning I no longer have to worry about losing that, either.

Don’t toss out your old TV remote, though. The Siri Remote can’t change your TV inputs, so if you regularly switch between HDMI ports, you’ll need that old clicker.

Color calibrating your screen is a genius feature

The Apple TV 4K’s most hyped feature, at least by me, is its color calibration. By using your iPhone — and let’s face it, if you’ve got an Apple TV, you’ve got an iPhone — you can color calibrate your screen to improve the look of your shows and movies.

The feature doesn’t work with Dolby Vision, so you’ll need to switch that off in the settings menu, but when in use, the color calibration really does make a difference in your on-screen content. It’s not going to fix deficiencies in your actual panel, like light bleed, but it will make colors more vivid to a degree.

To use the feature, you’ve got to enter the color calibration menu in Settings. You’ll then be prompted to hold your iPhone directly in front of your TV. Your screen will then cycle a series of colors and settle on configuration that looks best according to Apple’s own settings.

Apple’s interface and functionality is top notch

Like many people with some disposable time, I became ever more intimate with streaming content during the pandemic. I’ve also used every major streaming device on the market, whether that’s a Roku Ultra, a Fire TV Stick, or a Chromecast. And the one constant between them all is that their interfaces largely pale in comparison to Apple’s.

Apple's new Siri Remote is a major improvement, and includes a dedicated Siri button on its right side. (Image: Howley)
Apple's new Siri Remote is a major improvement, and includes a dedicated Siri button on its right side. (Image: Howley)

As soon as you sign in, you can see all the content that you’d like to watch on the Home screen, regardless of whether it’s from an Apple TV+ or Hulu. Amazon’s Fire TV interface has always been confusing, with a barrage of shows and movies smacking you in the face, while Roku’s interface is about as basic as it gets. You click into your apps and go from there.

The Apple TV 4K home screen provides you with a glimpse of the various apps you're signed into, letting you pick up from where you left off with your shows or movies right away. What’s more, you can set up the box from your iPhone, which automatically signs you into your user accounts without having to deal with the annoying process of entering usernames and passwords.

I do, however, wish Apple would change the input mechanism for usernames and password. The alphanumeric lines that stretch from one end of the screen to the other make manually entering your information a serious pain — though, you can also use Apple’s Siri to input your credentials.

Another addition to the Apple TV 4K is the company’s A12 Bionic processor. Apple says the chip not only improves the look and feel of games, but also allows the box to stream high-dynamic range video at 60 frames per second, making for a far smoother viewing experience.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to be available for most services. Apple, though, says it is working with streaming providers to get more content.

Should you get it?

The Apple TV 4K’s interface is wonderful, the new Siri Remote is a major improvement, and the color calibration capabilities are incredibly helpful. But at $179, I can’t see many people opting for the latest Apple TV 4K. It’s not as though Apple has locked down its Apple TV+ content to the box, so the main reason you’d get one is for its features. But with so many less expensive options available, it’s hard to recommend the Apple TV 4K for the average consumer.

If you’re an Apple diehard with cash to spare, the Apple TV 4K won’t let you down. But if you’re just in need of a box to stream Netflix for some trashy reality TV? A Roku or Fire TV will do the trick.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com over via encrypted mail at danielphowley@protonmail.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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