Apple’s streaming box, the Apple TV, has historically always been late to the party — competitors like Roku, Google, NVIDIA, and even Amazon have dominated the streaming-on-TV market, leaving the Apple TV as a niche device primarily for users with a lot invested in iTunes. But Apple’s most powerful streaming box yet, the Apple TV 4K — coupled with the upcoming operating system update, tvOS 12 — changes all that.
At long last, the Apple TV 4K can finally fulfill the dreams of Apple users looking to build a dead-simple, fully integrated home theater. It’s all here: format support for any video or audio file you have, bleeding edge audio-visual technology, and of course, Apple’s legendary ease-of-use. And perhaps best of all, while the Apple TV’s home theater chops definitely deserve first billing, Apple’s “little streaming box that could” also includes a host of killer features that competitors simply can’t match.
Whether you’ve got an Apple TV 4K already, or you’re considering buying one, take a moment to get to know everything it can do for you — the new feature list is definitely worth a second look.
In addition to Dolby Vision, the Apple TV 4K also supports the competing visual standard, HDR. Many of the leading streaming services, including iTunes, Netflix, and Vudu, offer movies and TV shows in HDR or Dolby Vision.
Here’s a breakdown of a few of our favorite things to do with an Apple TV 4K.
Enjoy 4K movies in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos surround sound. With tvOS 12, the Apple TV 4K is the only streaming box to offer both of Dolby’s latest and greatest formats together: Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Dolby Vision is a video format that competes with High Dynamic Range (HDR) to improve the brightness, colors, and contrast of a TV’s picture. Dolby Atmos is a sound format that can create ultra-realistic, object-based surround sound with a properly enabled AV Receiver or soundbar. The bottom line: while you’ll definitely need a good 4K TV and the right audio set-up, the Apple TV 4K will bring them both to life like no other streaming box can — with eye-popping visuals and cinema-quality sound.
Grab a controller and play console-quality titles. While there’s usually a big difference between mobile gaming and console gaming, games on the Apple TV definitely blur the line between the two. Surprisingly, many Apple TV games are designed for use with a controller, and unsurprisingly, the Apple TV’s video hardware makes every title look incredible. While you won’t find many first-person shooters or games for pro gamers, the App Store is full of games ranging from 2D platformers to racing titles for hours of fun.
Control a smart home. Internet-enabled home security systems are just about everywhere these days, and most of the major brands on the market offer Apple TV apps for watching your security video feed. Whether you want to spy on your baby at night, keep an eye on your most prized possessions, or just see who’s knocking at your door, an Apple TV can be your personal doorman.
Not all iOS games have Apple TV equivalents; some are only for mobile devices like an iPhone or iPad. To see a list of compatible games, check the App Store.
If you’ve got an Apple TV already, and you’re looking to augment the experience overall, there are two key places to invest: gaming and surround sound audio.
Need an Apple tv game controller? There’s an app for that.
The Apple TV 4K’s remote doubles as a game controller, although it can be challenging to use. If you’re interested in trying out gaming on the Apple TV 4K, but you’re not ready to buy a dedicated controller, you can use Apple’s “Apple TV Remote” iOS app, which can transform your device’s touchscreen into a capable game controller for your television. Neither the included remote nor the iOS app offer as much control as a proper game controller can, but they are still useful for casual games. If you’re ready to take the leap and invest in a proper gaming controller that’s compatible with tvOS, check out our favorite, the SteelSeries Nimbus.
Ready for Dolby Atmos? Know what you are (and aren’t) getting.
Not all Dolby Atmos devices are the same! Dolby Atmos is a term that indicates object-based surround channels have been added to an existing sound format — but that original format can vary. For example, on the Apple TV 4K, Dolby Atmos is used to take existing streaming audio tracks in Dolby Digital Plus format and add object-based surround channels that are also in Dolby Digital Plus format (a typical practice for any streaming video that supports Dolby Atmos). However, on many physical 4K Blu-ray discs, you’ll find a Dolby TrueHD core soundtrack with Dolby Atmos object-based surround channels. In this case, because Dolby TrueHD is a superior format to Dolby Digital Plus, the resulting audio (Dolby TrueHD core audio with Dolby TrueHD object-based surround channels) will sound much better. The Apple TV 4K’s version of Atmos sounds fantastic, but it’s important to keep in mind that if you’re looking for Atmos at its absolute best, you might be better off with a 4K Blu-ray player.
Regardless of how you get your Atmos, you’ll need compatible equipment. Here are our favorite models for every setup.
If your Apple TV is set up in a smaller space, a soundbar might be your best bet. Atmos-compatible soundbars are expensive, but include additional speakers to create a sonic experience throughout the room. We love the LG SK9Y.