The new streaming media device, which made its debut alongside a range of colorful iMacs and a pair of M1-equipped iPad Pros, looks identical to the previous model, that is until you look at the Siri remote. The remote control has been given a complete revamp and now looks a lot like the aluminum remote that shipped with the third-gen Apple TV.
The slender remote is made from 100% recycled aluminum and replaces the controversial touchpad with a traditional 4-way directional pad, which also acts a touchpad for swipe gestures if you prefer that way of navigating the Apple TV interface. Moving your thumb around the outer circle of the D-pad will let you move forward and back through video streams.
The new remote also includes a dedicated power button, which can power your TV on and off along with the Apple TV 4K. There’s also a new way to chat with Siri — the mic button has been relocated to the side of the remote.
As with the previous Siri remote, you recharge the second-gen device with an Apple Lightning cable.
Apple TV owners who don’t want a full upgrade can buy the second-gen Siri remote on its own for $59.
The remote isn’t the only thing that has changed. Under the Apple TV 4K’s black plastic housing, Apple has given the device a new brain: The Apple A12 Bionic chip.
This new processor enables some new features including high-frame-rate HDR, for streamed video content, as well as video, that’s streamed over AirPlay from iOS devices.
Speaking of iOS devices, Apple has added a very clever new Apple TV 4K feature for iPhone owners. Using the iPhone’s onboard sensors and cameras, it can be used to achieve pro-level color balancing for your TV — something that most folks have trouble doing given the wide range of settings that are hidden within each TV’s menus.
One change that Apple didn’t discuss during the event is the addition of the HDMI 2.1 specification to the new streaming device. This won’t mean much for the average consumer of movies and TV shows, but it lays the groundwork (along with the A12 Bionic chip) for new gaming features.
Variable refresh rate (VRR) and 4K at 120Hz are two aspects of HDMI 2.1 that make demanding first-person shooters and other fast-action games much more enjoyable, as they reduce screen tearing and improve smoothness.
The price of the new Apple TV 4K remains unchanged at $179 for the 32GB version and $199 for the 64GB version. Pre-orders begin Friday, April 23, with shipping starting in the second half of May.
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