Which iPhone has the best picture quality

Apple TV 4K 2021 in the test - better operation, poorer graphics

Jonas Ekelund

Compared to the ideas of the iPad Pro and iMac, the new Apple TV 4K is nothing earth-shattering. Why it is like that.

It's been over three years since we got the first Apple TV with 4K resolution. It was a big upgrade, not only with higher resolution, but with support for HDR and finally Dolby Atmos audio. Since then, requests for improvements and hopes for a new model have increased. Apple also launched the Apple Arcade game subscription, raising hopes that the Apple TV would become a gaming platform. Especially since there are always rumors about new high-performance hardware. Is this the monster model we've been waiting for?

In the test of Apple TV 4K (2021)

Summary of the sixth generation Apple TV 4K

If you've been expecting the game console-like Apple TV that rumors predicted, this is a real disappointment. Apart from a few small changes and a new remote control, nothing has really changed. If you're buying a new device, it's still a great choice, but it's not worth upgrading to. We still have to wait for the real game model to be released.

Plus points

✅ More precise remote control
✅Thread support makes it a modern hub for the smart home

Minus points

⛔️No improvements to justify an upgrade
⛔️Worse gaming performance than the previous model
⛔️The remote control is no longer a game controller

remote control

To start with the most obvious news, we finally have a new remote control. Many complained that the old device had poor ergonomics, that you had to use touch to navigate, and that the buttons were incomprehensible to inexperienced users.

First of all, the original, smooth aluminum surface has returned, so that it feels like a high-quality control element again. The remote control has also gotten bigger and, more importantly, thicker, which makes it easier to hold.

EnlargeApple's remote control has been improved

The touch interface has been replaced with old-fashioned four-way controls that let you click in any direction to select an icon and scroll through lists, as well as select by clicking in the middle. This is more intuitive and leads to fewer clicks. However, Apple has retained its touch controls. You can swipe in any direction to quickly scroll through lists. While playback is paused, you can place your finger on the outer ring, then move your finger in a circular motion to fast-forward and rewind movies and music. It's both clever and practical. By the way, the new remote control can also be purchased separately for older models.

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The menu button has been replaced by a back button, because that's what it is actually intended for. The Siri button has been moved to the side so that the user doesn't accidentally tap it. We also have a mute button and a proper power button. This makes it much easier for users to figure out what to push.

EnlargeThe remote control has not only changed visually, Apple has redesigned the buttons a bit.

What Apple doesn't like to talk about is that the remote control no longer contains a gyroscope or accelerometer. This means that games where you could previously wave the remote to control them Nintendo Wii style no longer work! That doesn't go well with Apple Arcade's ambitions.

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There were also many of us who, when Apple Airtags hit the market, immediately thought that of course we could now use the Where's service to find our lost remote control. However, that doesn't seem to be working, at least for now. However, when you ask Siri to find the remote, it replies that "You haven't set up an Apple TV remote on your iCloud account." So maybe it's in the works?

Picture, sound and functions

One of the innovations is that the video connection has now been upgraded to the more modern HDMI 2.1 standard. One of the big news with this is that it supports both 4K and 8K video resolution at a full 120 Hertz. Something that is a must have for action games and was another clue to Apple's gaming plans.

However, after reading the specs, we learned that the advertised "high frame rate" is the fact that even HDR videos can be played at 60 Hertz. Something that was previously only possible with SDR video. This is certainly nice when you can enjoy your own HDR videos captured with the new iPhone. But compared to our hopes, it was a rather pale improvement.

In addition, there is not yet a particularly good range of HDR videos with 60 Hz. However, some can find them on Red Bull TV, sports broadcasts with their fast frame rates benefit from it.

Order Apple TV 4K 2021 for 199 euros from Amazon

What improves the image quality is the ability to easily adjust the color balance. Once you've enabled the feature in Settings, hold your iPhone X (or newer) up to the screen and it will use the light sensor to determine how closely the displayed color matches the intended color. A color profile is then created that your Apple TV can use to compensate for inaccuracies in the color reproduction of your screen. It's an easy way to get a better picture of badly or incorrectly set devices. However, this is a new feature in tvOS 14.5 so it works with the older models as well.

EnlargeAdjusting the color balance improves the experience.

As far as sound goes, nothing new has happened since tvOS 12 when we got Dolby Atmos. However, it may be time to point out that Apple TV already supports Apple Lossless Audio. This against the background that Apple Music is now being upgraded with higher sound quality and it turns out that the headphones, including the Airpods Max, do not support this. So you can enjoy it on TV.

Also, what is mentioned a little aside and deserves a little more attention is that Apple TV is now becoming a more capable hub for the smart home. After all, it has already done an excellent job as a home kit hub. But now it's getting support for Thread, the new open standard for the Internet of Things. It is a low-power mesh network in which devices from different manufacturers can work together and extend their wireless range. Apple TV remains highly relevant for the smart home.


The wired network performance is the same as before, but the wireless network has been upgraded to WiFi 6. This makes it more suitable for households with busy wireless networks, such as B. in many networked smart home gadgets. It is also better for multiple video streams to coexist in the network.

Inside, the old Apple A10X Fusion chip (as in the 2017 iPad Pro) has been upgraded to Apple A12 Bionic (as in the 2018 iPhone XS). But wait, that's a very old processor! Is it an upgrade at all?

EnlargeThe processing power of Apple TV 4K has been increased to the level of 2018.

Since there are no benchmark apps on Apple TV, we took our measurements from the iPad Pro 2017 and iPhone XS. It turns out that while the computing power increased by 24-34 percent, the graphics performance decreased by 22-29 percent! That's the final coffin nail for this to be Apple's new gaming-centric model.

EnlargeAmazing but true: the graphics performance has deteriorated compared to the previous version.

What's happened

Now we have to speculate as to why Apple did this. It's obvious that the new Apple TV 4K is, or should be, a revelation. Presumably the date for the rumored game console has been delayed and the old model is now untenable out of date.

Presumably they wanted to stop production of the old A10X chip for logistical reasons (this is also supported by the fact that Apple discontinued the Homepod with the A8 chip a few weeks ago - Red's note) and install the more energy-efficient A12 Bionic and take the opportunity to update some standards such as a modern HDMI connection and faster wireless networking via WiFi 6 as well as support for thread in Homekit. This is obviously the "entry-level model" for those who didn't want to buy the more expensive gaming model.

But then they wanted to meet the users and introduce the new remote control. And suddenly, in the absence of the top model, this was the budget model that Apple had to showcase. It would have been better to just smuggle it into the store because then no one would have been disappointed.


  • Manufacturer: Apple

  • Tested: May 2021

  • Chip: Apple A12 Bionic

  • Storage: 32/64 GB Flash

  • Video: 4K with HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, Dolby Atmos, Apple Lossless

  • Connections: HDMI 2. 1, Gigabit Ethernet, IR receiver

  • Communication: Wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Airplay

  • Operating system: TVOS 14.5

  • Remote control: Four-way control with touch surface, 63 grams

  • Weight: 425 grams

  • Size: 3.5 x 9.8 x 9.8 cm

  • Price: 32 GB for 199 euros, 64 GB for 219 euros

This article was translated from Swedish by our sister publication "Macworld Sweden".