The Apple TV 4K set-top box will receive some needed upgrades, including to the remote. Today at an event largely focused on the new M1-powered iMacs and iPad Pros, Apple told attending press and livestream viewers that a new model of the Apple TV 4K will begin shipping with the A12 Bionic CPU inside it. The previous model introduced in 2017 included the A10X.
The A10X was a system-on-a-chip that included 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 lack the X or Z in the name—for example, A13 or A14.) The A10X and the A12 Bionic are more powerful than their iPhone counterparts, though, especially when it comes to graphics performance.
The new Apple TV 4K uses the chip for image processing—for example, to upscale and code 1080p, standard-dynamic-range content for 4K HDR displays. The A12 Bionic further enables 4K high frame rate HDR (likely 120Hz, though Apple hasn’t specified) presumably enabled by HDMI 2.1, although Apple didn’t mention the newer HDMI standard’s inclusion during the stream. The previous Apple TV 4K stuck with HDMI 2.0, which is still enough for most people, but it can’t support some technologies and features that are only just hitting the 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 marked improvement for the user experience. Apple has been pushing its Arcade gaming subscription service for the past several months, and it 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 inadequate to run the games well at the device’s target 4K resolution.
Like its predecessor, the new Apple TV 4K supports 4K output, HDR, and Dolby Atmos. Additionally, Apple is including the ability to calibrate your Apple TV’s color presentation using your iPhone 12 sensors. By holding your phone to the screen, the light sensor analyzes the colors and fine tunes them automatically to what Apple says will be professional color balance standards.
Finally, Apple has addressed one of the main complaints about prior Apple TV units: the remote. While it had a few fans, many users did not like the touch-pad like remote from the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. This time, Apple’s returned to a riff on the original silver aluminum remotes with a click wheel and contrasting buttons. This style is melded with some of the touch features it introduced in the all-black, partially glass remote it replaces, like the ability to drag your finger around the click wheel to scrub through video. The remote also now includes power and mute buttons while moving the Siri button to the side of the remote.
The new Apple TV 4K comes in 32GB for $179 and $199 for 64GB. It’s available for pre-order April 30th, and will be available in the second half of May.