If you’re still stuck in the dinosaur ages with your Apple TV 3, you might be curious about upgrading to the latest and greatest—the Apple TV 4 or 4K. But depending on how you use the set-top box, it might not be necessary.
The Apple TV received a major overhaul at the tail end of 2015 with the release of the Apple TV 4, which included an App Store, an all-new Siri-enabled remote, and the ability to play all sorts of games. It sounds a no-brainer upgrade for those with older hardware, but that may not be the case for some users.
All I Do Is Stream, Stream, Stream, No Matter What
Streaming is pretty popular these days, and a lot of users do nothing more than just watch stuff on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video. If that’s all you really use your Apple TV for, then there’s really no need to upgrade.
The Apple TV 3, while outdated at this point, still has a ton of channels available (yes, they’re called “channels” on the Apple TV 3, rather than “apps”). Aside from the usual contenders, you have access to streaming apps like HBO Go, YouTube, and a handful of live sports streaming services.
Of course, if you want to do anything more than the streaming basics, then the Apple TV 3 may not cut it for you anymore. At that point, it might be worth looking into upgrading.
Don’t Rely On It for Gaming
One of the big new features that Apple touted with the introduction of the Apple TV 4 was gaming, but that part of the set-top box sort of fell flat on its face and hasn’t yet recovered. So if you’re thinking about upgrading to a new Apple TV because of its gaming capabilities, don’t bother.
There are definitely some fun games you can play on the Apple TV, like Asphalt 8, Geometry Wars 3, and Chrono Trigger, and you can even use dedicated gamepads with the device, but you won’t really find any big AAA titles on the Apple TV. Sure, if you’re a casual gamer, then the Apple TV 4 could easily fulfill your gaming needs, but don’t rely on it as your one and only gaming device if you’re even remotely a serious gamer.
Gaming on the Apple TV is mostly seen as a side dish to its streaming video entree—it’s implemented in a way that almost makes it seem like an afterthought, rather than a core part of the system, which is completely okay, but it’s not a good reason to upgrade from the Apple TV 3.
If You’re At All A Video Enthusiast, It’s Probably Worth Upgrading
The Apple TV 3 is perfectly fine for casual streaming of shows and movies on Netflix and such, but if you’re wanting anything more than that, then the Apple TV 4 or 4K is worth buying.
With the addition of the App Store, there are a lot of really great apps that you can download to your Apple TV. Plex and Infuse are a couple of my favorites, because they both let you watch videos that you have stored locally on your network, and they’ll play pretty much any format (although Plex requires Plex Media Server). On the Apple TV 3, you could only play a very small number of video formats, and even then the capabilities were pretty limited.
RELATED: How to Install Plex on Your Apple TV
Furthermore, the Apple TV 4 and 4K have way more video streaming apps available to download than the Apple TV 3 (again, thanks to the App Store). While the Apple TV 3 has its fair share, you can get all kinds of streaming apps from lesser-known broadcasters and networks on the Apple TV 4.
4K Is the Future, but It May Be a Few Years
So you’ve decided to upgrade to a newer Apple TV, but aren’t sure whether to grab the Apple TV 4 or the Apple TV 4K. Which one should you get?
The Apple TV 4K’s biggest feature is…well…4K capabilities. It also comes with a slightly-faster processor, which not only handles the 4K video better than previous models would, but it also makes navigating through menus a bit faster.
The thing is, while 4K video content exists, it’s not quite in the mainstream just yet. While many movies are starting to release in 4K, most TV shows and broadcasts are still in 1080p or 720p. There’s still way more regular HD content than there is 4K content right now.
While you could pay more and get an Apple TV 4K now (thus, have a futureproof setup), you could also wait a couple of years until 4K content becomes more prevalent. By then, used Apple TV 4K units will most likely be more affordable.
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