By mechman on May 23, 2018 at 9:13 AM
  1. mechman

    mechman Senior Admin
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    Apple TV 4K Review

    Manufacturer & Model:
    Apple TV 4K
    MSRP:
    $179
    Link:
    www.apple.com
    Highlights:
    Apple TV Streaming device offers excellent video quality and standard audio.
    Summary:
    The Apple TV 4K is the best streaming device I’ve encountered thus far. Even with serious advanced multi-channel and immersive audio shortcomings, it offers a much better overall experience than any of the other devices I’ve used. While its cost is a bit higher than the competition, Apple’s device not only looks the part, but offers superior reliability and ease of use.
    [​IMG]




    My journey into streaming content has led me down a long curvy path. The quest began several years ago with various Blu-ray players, each riddled with its own little quirks and annoyances. It then took a turn down the route of Android and the Google Chromecast. Chromecast is a neat product, but, unfortunately, it required help - the use of a computer, phone, tablet, etc. About a year ago, my journey upgraded into the realm of UHD, HDR and Dolby Vision with the purchase of a LG OLED65C7P. Around that same time that I stumbled across a deal for a Roku Ultra. This was where the road ahead became littered with potholes, road construction, and just about any other analogous term used for extreme aggravation. To be blunt: the Roku Ultra is currently hooked up to a bedroom display and rarely, if ever, used. I then purchased both an Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra and a Google Chromecast Ultra, neither of which provided any improvement over what a basic Blu-ray player offers. The Amazon Fire did include Alexa, but it proved to be quirky at best. So, I became complacent and used my LG's loaded apps for a while. Then one day, I stumbled upon Apple's newer Apple TV 4K. I read a review or two and decided that I‘d give the 32GB version a test. Apple does offer a 64GB version as well, but it’s my understanding that one only needs more memory if you're inclined to load a lot of game apps. Call me old school, but a TV in the living room is for watching movies and shows, it's not for gaming. For reference, the Netflix app is roughly 42 megabytes.


    In the Box

    Anyone that has ever bought anything from Apple knows that their packaging is the gold standard - functional and yet very elegant. I noticed the packaging with my first iPhone purchase and still notice it every time I buy an Apple product. While others mimic it, Apple invented it. Included in the box are the Apple TV 4K, a Siri remote, a lightning cord, the power cable, and Getting Started guide.

    The Apple TV 4K itself is a black box measuring a little under 4” square and slightly under 1.5” high. The remote is 1.5” wide by almost 5” long with a depth of roughly .25” inch. The power cord is a standard cord and not one of those ugly wall wart types that most everything seems to run on nowadays.


    The Apple TV 4K

    The box itself has a glossy finish on two sides and the front, with a matte finish and a glossy black Apple TV logo embossed upon the top of the box. A single LED indicator light is featured on the front of the box, which lights up when in use and goes dark when asleep. The back of the unit includes connections for HDMI (2.0a), gigabit ethernet, and the power cord. It also includes 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless connections. The Apple TV 4K is powered by Apple's A10X Fusion chip, which provides the same processing power as found on Apple’s elite iPad Pro.

    The unit’s interface should be familiar to anyone that uses Apple products, which is to say: easy to use and intuitive.


    The Siri Remote

    The first time I put the Siri remote in my hand, I hated it. It's small, feels delicate, and doesn’t have the presence of a traditional remote. Once I got the hang of it (about a week) I absolutely loved it. In addition to a Siri voice search button, the remote also presents Play/Pause, TV/Home, Volume, and Menu buttons. That's not all! The top of the remote is a touch screen button. You can use it to fast forward or rewind ten seconds of your content, close apps with a simple swipe, and view media specific information. The only concern being the bottom portion of the remote, below the touchpad, which appears to be made of glass. You won't want to let this remote get buried in the couch and sat upon!

    The Siri portion of the remote is a game changer, because it provides answers for an endless number of questions. Siri has a knack for answering everything I've asked of her. "Siri, turn on Netflix," "Siri, turn on Grand Tour," etc. accomplishes what you’d expect. You can also ask Siri what was said during playback and she will rewind the content and turn on subtitles.


    Video (The Good!!)

    Apple calls this the Apple TV 4K. But 4K really isn't what someone like me craves. Yes, more pixels are always a good thing but on my 65-inch OLED, sitting roughly 12 feet back, four times the pixels of 1080P doesn't really matter that much. What does matter is HDR10 and Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, both of which are paired with 4K and supported by Apple TV 4K. The first time you set up the Apple TV 4K, it automatically detects the best mode available on your display and uses that for everything - on my LG OLED it locked in Dolby Vision Cinema. Moving the Apple TV 4K to my theater room and the Epson projector I have for review, it set the output to HDR.

    Apps that I used frequently during this review include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and Plex. Vudu is where my 100-plus digital movies reside and Plex is what I use to connect to my local NAS, which contains my music and HD-DVD collection. One of the things that sets Apple’s device apart from the others is the assemblage of all your content under one roof. And it all can be browsed and accessed (including some live sports) by simply selecting the TV icon in the system’s onscreen menu.

    Performance-wise, I found video streamed through the Apple TV 4K to be comparable to the same video played via 4K discs on both the Oppo UDP-205 and my newer Sony UBP-X800; it was difficult to discern any differences. Images delivered by discs may have been a tad bit crisper and streaming video did issue a hint of a compression here or there, but overall artifacts were rarely noticeable. Content that I used to compare streaming versus disc media included Passengers, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and This Means War. The latter title was a purchased DVD that also included the digital copy. When comparing that DVD to the streamed content, the Apple TV 4K won out easily. More than likely this was due to it being played ala Dolby Vision on the OLED, but I also noted it seemed cleaner on the Epson HDR projector review sample in my theater room.

    I haven't purchased anything digitally yet. I'm still one of those hard-core types that need to be able to hold his content in his hands. I do anticipate testing this out in the very near future though. Much of the UHD content that I saw on the Apple TV 4K could be purchased anywhere from $14.99-$19.99, with rental fees running from $5-$6. Don't like iTunes? Netflix, Vudu, Amazon, and many others are also on the Apple TV 4K (and most carry 4K content).


    Audio (The Bad)
    Everything up to this point has been positive for the Apple TV 4K, but it's time to talk about the negative: audio quality. If someone was to tell me that I could get everything discussed above in one device, but that it didn’t include support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS:X, I'd be dumbstruck. To include advanced picture quality – UHD, HDR10, and Dolby Vision – and not include advanced audio makes little sense. It’s worth noting that I’ve heard that immersive sound support may be included in a future firmware update, but it's a bit disconcerting that it wasn't included at release. And until any potential updates, owners are forced to enjoy movies in either PCM, AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1), or E-AC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1), depending upon the movie. However, I’ve yet to find any that offer 7.1-channel performance.

    I find it a bit hard to believe that a streaming box offering HDR and Dolby Vision video would leave sound as an afterthought. But, thus far, that’s the case with Apple TV 4K.


    Conclusion
    The Apple TV 4K is the best streaming device I’ve encountered thus far. Even with serious advanced multi-channel and immersive audio shortcomings, it offers a much better overall experience than any of the other devices I’ve used. While its cost is a bit higher than the competition, Apple’s device not only looks the part, but offers superior reliability and ease of use. When Apple finally does upgrade its sound capabilities, I’ll gladly purchase another for my theater room.


    [​IMG]


    Apple TV 4K Specifications
    Ports and Interfaces

    • HDMI 2.0a
    • 802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO; simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
    • IR receiver
    Video Formats
    • H.264/HEVC SDR video up to 2160p, 60 fps, Main/Main 10 profile
    • HEVC Dolby Vision (Profile 5)/HDR10 (Main 10 profile) up to 2160p
    • H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
    • MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 fps, Simple profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

    Audio Formats

    • HE-AAC (V1), AAC (up to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV; AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1) and E-AC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound)

     
    #1 mechman, May 23, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2018
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Comments

Discussion in 'AV Equipment Reviews' started by mechman, May 23, 2018.

    1. Sonnie

      Sonnie Senior Admin
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      I tried one of the Monoprice to my projector and it did not work... had to go fiber. I think it was 35'... over 30', so obviously not the same ones, but everyone claimed it was working for them, so figured I'd try it.
       
    2. mechman

      mechman Senior Admin
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      At this point you'd be crazy not to use fiber for long runs. I'll probably take my ceiling down this fall and run a fiber cable. It will give me a good opportunity to fix my conduit as well.
       
    3. JStewart

      JStewart Active Member
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      I'm feeling pretty lucky then. 30ft was all I needed. I was worried when I added an avr that I could pass the video through instead of a direct run to the PJ from the source. So I got a 6ft of the same and thankfully its working just fine.
      To your point there were a couple of others I tried first that other's were successful with but they didn't work for me.

      After reading through this thread I've decided to give the ATV a shot in the fall after atmos becomes available. Most everyone seems pretty happy with it. One question I have and sorry if I've overlooked an answer to it, but can the ATV be set to pass the native resolution or is everything upscaled?
       
    4. JBrax

      JBrax Senior AV Addict
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      When it first came out it was upscaling everything to varying degrees of success. From my research some content was downright bad because of this. You can now choose for yourself through the settings. I’ve set mine up for 4K SDR and I match the audio/video of the source material. 4K HDR and 1080P looks amazing.
       
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    5. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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      So, I finally picked one of these up yesterday, just because I saw one on craigslist, brand new at a discount.

      One other thing that Apple has mastered is setup. This was so incredibly simple. I pulled out my old AppleTV and just reused the same cables. Let it fire up, login to my iPhone and set it next to the AppleTV, and it does the rest. Connected to my unpublished wi-fi, logged into my iCloud account, downloaded all the apps that were on the old AppleTV, arranged them all the same. All I had to do was click a few agreements, login to a couple apps, and it was good to go.

      Got it all connected to my Sony, which is an early UHD model. I bought it in 2015, and it was kind of the bottom of the line. I heard rumors back then that they may be able to add HDR to the set via a firmware update, but I talked to them at the time and they said they had no plans to add it to this particular set. Well, lo and behold, I went in to the settings to just look and make sure I had everything set correctly and to verify that the AppleTV was sending 4K, and I found a new "Enhanced UHD" setting that can be configured on each input. And what do you know, checked a box, saved the settings, did a quick reboot, and the TV now does 4.2.2 10-bit HDR.

      I had never paid any attention before, since they said they didn't plan on it. I don't even have a disc player connected. It's just the TiVo and the AppleTV. And my son's Nintendo Switch. I hadn't had a reason to dig into the settings until now.
       
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    6. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      Really?

      Wow.... that's quite a bit of good luck, thrillcat. I'd be curious to read about you doing an A/B comparison of 4K HDR media with the mode both on and off.

      And I agree. Apple does setup right. So easy. So quick. It's amazing how integrated they've designed their products.
       
    7. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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      I can tell a difference. But it's really hard to A/B HDR and SDR, as on the TV it requires going into a menu that covers the screen, and then when you come out of it, it takes about 5 seconds to go into HDR mode, but it switches while on a black screen, and you can see the black get deeper.

      On the AppleTV, switching modes requires leaving your content, going into the settings, digging down, changing the setting, confirming that the TV can display that setting, then navigating out of settings, back to the content.

      A/B comparisons ain't happening. But there's a definite improvement.
       
    8. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      Good points.

      Interesting you can see a change in Black floor when switching on the TV. I would have assumed it would stay the same.
       
    9. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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      It's not right when switching the TV on, it's when the AppleTV is going from SDR (menus) into HDR (movie). So you're making your selections, and then when you click on play, it goes to black, flashes once (like it's renegotiating an HDMI handshake), then it locks on black, then fades to a deeper black, and then the content plays.
       
    10. Stacey

      Stacey New Member

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      Nice review! I have heard that the apple 4k does not play 4k HDR videos on you tube app is this true? Unless I can get this on sale I might just hold off on buying this until they can get Dolby Atmos and dates:x. as well.
       
    11. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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      Haven't tried YouTube, but if it doesn't play 4K HDR, that's a limitation with the YouTube app, not the device.

      Nothing streams DTS:X yet, as far as I'm aware.
       
    12. mechman

      mechman Senior Admin
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      tvOS 12 coming September 17th! Four days until ATMOS!
       
    13. JBrax

      JBrax Senior AV Addict
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      AWE SNAP!! I completely forgot about that. Woo Hoo!
       
    14. Sonnie

      Sonnie Senior Admin
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      I noticed we get Atmos on our Shield TV Pro, which for some reason I was thinking we didn't and was considering the Apple.
       
    15. celticpride

      celticpride New Member

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      thanks for reminding me of dolby atmos coming soon! I still have not bought the apple tv yet nba season start in a few weeks . i have had bad luck with roku so i will more than likely buy me the apple tv 4k soon.( my roku wont even load up netflix for me anymore!)
       
    16. GFOviedo

      GFOviedo Senior Member

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      I've got an INTEL NUC in my HT to watch movies via Plex. Our TV is a smart TV that has Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon for everything else. My wife wouldn't like it if I go and spend $150 for an Apple TV, which according to her will do the same thing as the devices that we've got already. I supposed if I had a 4K TV, it would be worth doing the switch, but I am not sure when that's going to happen.
       
    17. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    18. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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      What any of these articles are failing to mention is that Apple is not the ones removing and downgrading the files. The studios have complete control over what is made available. Apple is merely a storefront, just as they're saying, and just as is clearly stated in the user agreement. They do not own the content.

      What they're also not mentioning is that you can download all of your iTunes purchases, including films, and regardless of whether or not Apple is currently offering a title for sale, if you have a purchase downloaded, you can play it on any computer, phone or AppleTV that is authorized to your account. But I think I'm the only one who keeps a backup drive with all my iTunes movies.

      What I would be interested to see is if these are customers hell-bent on bashing Apple, or if those titles have been removed/downgraded across Movies Anywhere, UltraViolet, and iTunes. I have yet to see an article that lists a single title.
       
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    19. GFOviedo

      GFOviedo Senior Member

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      I can already see a lawsuit with this against Apple and any other streaming service who charges full price for a movie / tv show and deletes it.

      What a scam.
       
    20. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      I'd say 99.9% of folks don't read that lengthy user agreement... so you're probably right, there's an assumption there that will leave a lot of folks scratching their heads. The notion of "buying" a title as opposed to renting it certainly implies that you own unfettered access to the title for eternity.

      You have to admit, if you weren't in tune enough to be downloading and storing your flicks, you'd be mighty disappointed when you find out a title has been removed.

      Recently I've noticed two albums I enjoy listening to have been removed from TIDAL. Despite the fact I've not paid to download them, it's left me a tad frustrated and disappointed. I'm over it, obviously :redgrin:, but there is something about a service taking away from what is assumed to be offered.
       
    21. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    22. GFOviedo

      GFOviedo Senior Member

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      I have noticed that all streaming services have been removing content when they right to have it or licensing expires. I definitely noticed on Netflix when Dory wasn’t available anymore. My kids were upset. Luckily, I’ve bought and stored all my movies in my server so they can streaming via Plex.
       
    23. GFOviedo

      GFOviedo Senior Member

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    24. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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    25. thrillcat

      thrillcat Active Member

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      Oh, absolutely. I don't buy many online, and when I do, it's generally not through iTunes. And I also don't download most of them. But I do if I purchased through iTunes.

      It will be interesting to see if Apple changes the word "BUY" on the store to something a little more generic, or if they keep it the same.

      I will also add, I believe if the studios ever make those titles available in iTunes again, they will reappear in the iTunes library of anyone who has purchased in the past. And this is highly likely, as well. Studios remove things frequently, and nobody notices. For example, Movie ABCXYZ is available in Online Movie Mart 12345. You purchase it. Then, a couple years later, Movie ABCXYZ is about to be reissued for the 30th Anniversary of its release. Movie ABCXYZ is removed from Online Movie Mart 12345 temporarily to drive sales to the new disc reissue. Several months later, the title is then made available again in Online Movie Mart 12345 after sales of the disc trail off.
       
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