The Apple TV 4K set-top box will receive some needed upgrades, including the remote. Today, at an event largely focused on the new M1-powered iMacs and iPad Pros, Apple told attendees to press and livestream viewers that a new model of the Apple TV 4K will ship with the A12 Bionic CPU inside. The previous model introduced in 2017 included the A10X.
The A10X was a system-on-a-chip with several components, including a CPU and GPU; it was included in Apple’s 2017 iPad Pro tablets and was based on the same architecture as the iPhone. (The iPhone chips don’t have an X or Z in the name, e.g. A13 or A14.) However, the A10X and A12 Bionic are more powerful than their iPhone counterparts, especially when it comes to graphics performance.
The new Apple TV 4K uses the chip for image processing, for example to upscale 1080p content with standard dynamic range and encode it for 4K HDR displays. The A12 Bionic further enables high frame rate 4K HDR (probably 120Hz, although Apple didn’t specify it), presumably powered by HDMI 2.1, although Apple didn’t mention the inclusion of the newer HDMI standard during the stream. The previous Apple TV 4K stuck to HDMI 2.0, which is still enough for most people, but it can’t support some technologies and features that are only coming to market in the very latest TVs.
That said, the Apple TV 4K also plays games, and it’s here that the A12 Bionic can show a marked improvement to the user experience. Apple has been pushing its Arcade gaming subscription service in recent months and has just added a plethora of new titles. All Arcade games are required to run on Apple TV devices, but the A10X in the previous model often proved insufficient to properly run the games at the device’s intended 4K resolution.
Like its predecessor, the new Apple TV supports 4K 4K output, HDR and Dolby Atmos. In addition, Apple offers the option to calibrate the color presentation of your Apple TV using your iPhone 12 sensors. By holding your phone against the screen, the light sensor analyzes the colors and automatically matches them to what Apple considers to be professional standards for color balance.
Finally, Apple has addressed one of the main complaints about previous Apple TV devices: the remote. Although it had a few fans, many users didn’t like the touchpad-like remote control of the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. This time, Apple returned to a riff on the original silver aluminum remotes with a click wheel and contrasting buttons. This style is fused with some of the touch features it introduced in the all-black, part-glass remote it replaces, such as the ability to drag your finger on the click wheel to scroll through video. The remote now also has power and mute buttons as you move the Siri button to the side of the remote.
The new Apple TV 4K comes in 32GB for $179 and $199 for 64GB. It is available for pre-order on April 30 and will be available in the second half of May.