Apple has a huge and dedicated fan base. If you watch Apple TV+ originals, have an iPhone that you use to listen to Apple Music, and work out with Apple Fitness so you can track it on your Apple Watch, you probably want to spring for the second-generation Apple TV 4K to round it out.
It has sleek menus that are easy to navigate, an updated remote, and stellar voice features. But if you aren’t an Apple stan and just need a streaming device, it probably isn’t worth the money. In that case, there are plenty of devices that work almost as well and are much cheaper.
The newest Apple TV 4K—which is not to be confused with the company’s streaming service, Apple TV+—does what every streaming device does. You use it to watch your favorite shows and movies from every major service available. If you’re planted firmly in Apple’s walled garden, you can also access Fitness+, Music, and Arcade directly on your TV. (If you have the last 4K or HD Apple TV, you have access to these already.)
Like all Apple hardware, the TV has some glorious standout features. If you’re watching something and missed a line of dialog, you can hold down the Siri button on the remote and ask “What did they say?” The TV rewinds to the beginning of the last line of the person or people you’ve specified, and it kicks on captions and turns them off again afterward. This is my favorite feature that I didn’t know I needed.
You can also use your voice to open apps, play movies or music, browse genres, or enter tedious things like passwords. The TV searches for your queries across all streaming services, which is a feature I also loved with the Chromecast on Google TV. You can search for specific titles, like the new American Horror Stories, and it will show you the title on Hulu. You can also search by specific genre if you want something spooky but aren’t sure what.
The main interface not only lets you browse by streaming service but also gives you recommendations based on your history and what’s popular—another feature I like about Google TV that you won’t find on a Roku. If you want recommendations to be accurate for the whole family, though, you need to create an Apple ID for each of your family members.
You don’t have to subscribe to Apple TV+, but it recommends a ton of titles on that service, as well as across all other streaming apps whether you subscribe or not. I found this annoying, but it may tip you over the edge if you’ve been on the fence about subscribing to a certain service. If you’ve never tried Apple TV+ before, you can get a three-month trial when you buy the TV 4K.
If you have the previous Apple TV 4K from 2017 and are happy with its performance, you don’t need to upgrade. However, the internals are improved here. If you have a brand new 4K TV, you’ll probably get more out of this model.
Apple’s A12 Bionic chip is not the company’s newest chip, but it does boost the overall performance and I didn’t notice any lag while browsing or switching through apps. It also supports a high frame rate HDR of up to 60 fps, which is optimal for most 4K TVs.