I’ve owned two Apple TVs through the years, and neither noticed a lot use. When I look again now, it’s clear why. I purchased them as a result of I believed they’d convey a number of the greatness of my Macbook Pro and iPhone on to my huge display. Only they didn’t.

Perhaps it was a dumb expectation within the first place. Truth is, the iPhone and Macbook reworked my productiveness greater than my media habits. If an Apple TV was going to work, it will must terraform my viewing, a feat that neither the third- nor fourth-gen ATV pulled off.

In latter occasions, the Apple TV’s trigger has been made all of the more durable by the competitors. Since I purchased that final fourth-gen ATV, I’ve allowed a Sky Q field and an Xbox One S to take up residence beneath a new-ish 50in 4K TV in my front room. 4K stay TV? Tick. Hi-def gaming with immediate entry to a mega library of titles? Check. Smart TV entry to 4K Netflix and Amazon? A button prod away.

Still, the information of a (lengthy overdue) 4K Apple TV obtained my consideration. I’ve sufficient vested in iOS to need Apple to launch a field that’s nice sufficient to interchange (or a minimum of be a part of) the opposite containers beneath my TV. I’m prepared to forgive the false begins – I nonetheless need Apple to win. But I imagine the stakes for Apple are excessive, extra so than with every other product in its arsenal. The 4K can’t afford to be a steady-as-we-go improve.

So let’s discover out – is it the required leap, or too small a step on the way in which to a larger place?

DESIGN: Happy staying within the background

Like its predecessors, the fifth-generation Apple TV is designed to fade. It’s a field. A really black field with rounded edges, and just a little white gentle on the entrance that shines to let that it’s doing stuff.

Atop the field there’s an almost-black Apple emblem, whereas across the again you’ll discover sockets – one for energy, one to take an HDMI cable, and one on your Ethernet cable (simply in case your wi-fi sign isn’t robust sufficient for the Apple TV’s built-in Wi-Fi).

Although the case’s depth will catch your eye faster than Amazon’s almost-flat, easy-to-hide Fire TV field, the ATV will nonetheless fade into nearly any setting. And it’s as quiet as it’s bodily nameless – the 4K’s silent in operation.

Apple’s Siri Remote is extra fascinating than the field that accompanies it. If you’ve owned or performed with an Apple TV earlier than, you’ll be acquainted sufficient with the way it works. There are buttons to manage the amount, to invoke Siri and to maneuver you out and in of the interface, together with a easy trackpad that takes up the highest third of the stick.

Although the Siri Remote hasn’t modified a lot from its forebear (there’s now a white encompass to the Menu button), it nonetheless ranks as one of many coolest, smartest remotes on any gadget – it’s gentle, straightforward to deal with, and extremely correct. And handily, it may be charged by way of the identical lightning cable you employ on your iPhone.

SETUP AND SOFTWARE: Typical Apple slickness right here

If you personal an iPhone – and I’d guess that most Apple TV customers will do – your new TV 4K shall be up and operating in a couple of minutes. The set-up walkthrough is self-explanatory – and on the level the place it is advisable to login to your iCloud account, it prompts you to carry your iPhone subsequent to the Apple TV field (for sure, the 2 have to be linked to the identical Wi-Fi community). Input a PIN code, and that’s it – inside seconds, you’re greeted by the Apple TV dwelling display. If you do not personal an iPhone it’s kind of extra of a faff, however you will nonetheless be sorted in about 10 minutes max.

As you’d count on, the brand new 4K comes with the newest tvOS, model 11, straight out of the field. Fact is, there was little flawed with the tvOS interface within the first place; it’s easy, clear and logical. So it’s good to see that the newest replace doesn’t mess with these its strengths.

Instead, you get good new touches, lots of that are genuinely helpful. For instance, there’s auto-detection of AirPods in-built. Dig into Settings, and you may fully change the interface to Dark Mode, or set it to automagically change. Lastly, now you can sync dwelling screens by way of iCloud, must you personal multiple Apple TV (what do you imply you’ve got six?).

PERFORMANCE: This factor actually flies

The Apple TV 4K is quick. It’s fast to arrange, and dependable in day-to-day use, with transitions between screens significantly easy. All of this could come as no shock on condition that the reminiscence has been upped from 2GB to 3GB, whereas the heavy lifting now comes courtesy of the A10X Fusion chip (the identical 64-bit processor you’ll discover beneath the hood of the 12.9in iPad Pro).

Apple claims that the A10X is 30% quicker than final 12 months’s A9X, with a 40% quicker GPU. Throw Wonder Woman in 4K HDR on the new ATV, and also you’ll fortunately imagine it. There’s merely zero stutter or lag.

Just as spectacular is how fast the interface is to modify between purposes. With nothing else in thoughts however abuse, I started enjoying Leo’s Fortune, then switched to streaming Alien Covenant, then an NPR podcast, then Netflix enjoying It Follows. I then spent 10 minutes speed-multi-tasking between the 4. Try as I’ll, I couldn’t get the brand new ATV to lose its footing (in truth, the one glitch appeared to return from the Netflix app – the others retained their nonetheless preview within the multitasking view, whereas Netflix confirmed as a clean black field).

Picture high quality: The greatest Apple TV has ever appeared

Of course a lot because the minor velocity enhance and UI enhancements could be welcome, you are actually solely right here for one cause: eye-delighting 4K telly. 

The excellent news is that the 4K image high quality on supply is usually very good. That’s actually true of any 4K movies purchased from iTunes, with a crispness to pictures that you will miss the second you come to watching plain previous 1080p. Not that you will need to try this once more.

It’s value allowing for that you may’t obtain 4K motion pictures or reveals from iTunes – that’d take up an excessive amount of house – so you will want a reasonably quick broadband connection or danger buffering hell; I skilled just a few minor issues on my 100Mb line, though solely when beginning to play a brand new episode quite than throughout one.

HDR is offered too, assuming your TV helps it, and that is one other huge bonus. Sure, how efficient it’s is determined by what you are watching – it is extra apparent and due to this fact extra worthwhile in high-contrast scenes – however with iTunes content material it all the time improved the image. 

Netflix is a little more variable, and the rationale for that’s far too geeky for me to spend an excessive amount of time on right here. Basically, Apple’s designed the TV 4K in order that it converts all content material into its favoured 4K / HDR / 60fps format. Any content material recorded in a unique native decision or frame-rate is upscaled, and upscaling is all the time a little bit of a hit-and-miss course of.

There’s much more to it than that – the TV you are utilizing, your broadband connection and a couple of billion different components can all make a distinction – however I’ll level you within the course of this glorious article on The Verge for the total story.

What I’ll say is that Netflix in 4K on Apple TV presumably will not look fairly nearly as good as it should in your TV’s built-in app.  On my TV, my stream of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt contained just a little extra noise on the Apple TV model and whereas it was hardly a giant deal, if you happen to’re an absolute TV obsessive you will nonetheless be higher off watching a UHD Blu-ray.

For most of us although, the image high quality right here will routinely delight you.

VALUE FOR MONEY: Er, probably not

Apple is likely one of the few corporations that (for now) can ask any value. Look on the Macbook Pro, the most cost effective Touch Bar model of which prices greater than £1500. Or the iPhone X, which can nonetheless promote like scorching truffles regardless of emptying your account to the tune of just about £1000.

At £179 for the 32GB mannequin and £199 for the 64GB, the Apple TV 4K could not appear as – err – formidable as its brethren. But then, you should purchase a 4K-capable Amazon Fire TV field tomorrow for £74.99 – lower than half the value of the bottom ATV. And if you wish to be actually scientific, these of you with 4K TVs will have already got most of the apps that the ATV brings to the celebration (iPlayer, Netflix, Allfour and many others).

Your verdict on the 4K’s worth for cash will come all the way down to how a lot of your life is locked into Apple’s ecosystem. If you’ve spent the previous couple of years shopping for your movies by means of the iTunes Store, the newest Apple TV could make a stable case on your money. Once you’ve found that your present iTunes library is upgraded to 4K HDR (the place obtainable) at no cost, the case turns into much more compelling.

But if you happen to’re an Amazon Prime buyer, there’s an honest probability that you just’ve switched a bit of your viewing to Amazon Video. Same goes for Netflix, or any of the opposite video streaming providers. Netflix 4K is supported, however because it stands right now, the Apple TV 4K lacks an Amazon Prime Video app (though there’s one on the way in which, we hear). Nor, if you happen to flip to YouTube, will you get your 4K repair there – as a result of ATV 4K doesn’t help it but.

Yes, we all know that you just’re more likely to have a 4K TV or Xbox One S that may deal with 4K Amazon / Netflix / YouTube duties, however… actually? If Apple is to lastly persuade me to spend high quality time with the brand new ATV, it wants extra of the elements in place.