Is It Worth Upgrading to the Apple TV 4K?

The fourth-generation Apple TV was a big step up from previous generations, but now that 4K is becoming more popular, Apple is joining the party with its new Apple TV 4K. However, should you upgrade your current fourth-gen Apple TV to the new one?

What’s New with the Apple TV 4K?

As you probably guessed, the biggest new feature in the latest model is 4K. Whereas earlier Apple TV models maxed out at 1080p, the Apple TV 4K has the capability to play…well…4K content. If you don’t know much about 4K, check out our primer on the subject. The gist is that 4K offers four times the resolution of 1080p, which gives you way better image quality and sharpness. And of course, the Apple TV 4K also supports high dynamic range (HDR).

Apple says they’ve remastered their screen savers and user interface for 4K, and most major studios will bring 4K movies to iTunes. 4K movies will cost the same as HD movies, and Apple will even upgrade your current HD library to 4K for free.

On top of 4K resolution, the new Apple TV 4K comes with the company’s A10X chip, which is the same processor that’s in the iPad Pro. Apple says this allows for double the CPU performance and four times the GPU performance of the previous Apple TV model. Hopefully, this allows for much better games, which always has been sort of an afterthought for the Apple TV.

Other than that, everything else is still largely the same—same design and same user interface.

Should You Upgrade?

4K is great to have, but there are several things to keep in mind if you’re deciding whether or not to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Apple’s streaming box.

You Need a 4K TV

Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry is that the Apple TV 4K won’t display video content in 4K without a television that can display in 4K in the first place. If you still use a traditional 1080p television, movies and TV shows will still show up in 1080p (although some 4K TVs upscale 1080p content to at least make them look a little better). Furthermore, to take advantage of HDR, your TV will need to support that, too.

4K Content Is Growing, but Still Lacking

Even if you have a 4K television and an Apple TV 4K, you still need 4K content to play. Luckily, more and more 4K content is coming out—Netflix and Amazon have handfuls of content in 4K, Blu-ray movies in 4K are becoming more popular, YouTube and Vimeo allow users to upload 4K videos, and some cable providers are starting to offer 4K channels.

However, there’s still way more 1080p content than there is 4K content, and if you dive deep into 4K right now, you’ll likely still be watching most of your movies, sports, and TV shows in 1080p for the time being. You might even save some money if you wait a little longer, as used units will likely appear on eBay after a few short months.

You’ll Pay the Price

So, if you’re definitely going to upgrade to the new Apple TV 4K model, that’s great and all. However, you’ll be paying a bit more for that pleasure.

Whereas the fourth-generation Apple TV is priced at $149, the Apple TV 4K weighs in at $179 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 64GB model. It’s not a huge jump in price, and paying that $30 difference for 4K capabilities really isn’t that insane at all, but $179 for a set-top box is considered pretty expensive compared to the competition (you can grab an Amazon Fire TV for $85, which can do 4K as well).

In any case, the Apple TV 4K will be released later this month on September 22, with pre-orders starting on September 15.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.