Apple TV 4K Reviews: Expensive But With Cheaper 4K Movies, Some Limitations Like 1080p YouTube

Apple TV 4K reviews are out, providing us with first impressions of one of the most expensive streaming media players on the market.


The Verge's editor-in-chief Nilay Patel said the Apple TV 4K is "by far the closest thing to being a fully realized vision for the future of TV that exists," but for now it has some limitations that hold it back.

Notably, the Apple TV 4K doesn't have Dolby Atmos sound and the YouTube app can only play videos in 1080p quality.

But the new Apple TV doesn’t support Atmos. And it doesn’t support YouTube in 4K HDR. And it doesn’t have Disney or Marvel movies in 4K HDR. And it makes some 1080p content look less than great. […]

Apple doesn't support YouTube's VP9 video format, which means YouTube on the Apple TV 4K doesn't support 4K HDR playback. Apple doesn't have any timeline as to when or if that might happen; it's a problem that affects Safari on the Mac and iOS devices as well.

Apple told Patel that the lack of Dolby Atmos sound isn't a hardware limitation, and said support is on the roadmap.


The new Apple TV automatically upscales all SDR video to either HDR or Dolby Vision, depending on which format your TV supports, but Patel and some other reviewers said the end result doesn't always look great.

…Apple's HDR video processing is hit or miss. It was great when I watched HD content from iTunes, but it fell down in other apps. I watched The Dark Knight in HD on HBO Go with our video team, and the Apple TV 4K HDR processing blew out all the contrast in the image, sharpened everything to hell, and turned the film grain into noise.

Most reviews pointed out that the Apple TV 4K, priced from $179, is considerably more expensive than its competitors. Google's Chromecast Ultra is $69, Amazon's Fire TV starts at $90, and the Roku Premiere is $70.

However, the price difference could eventually be made up for with a cheaper selection of 4K movies available to purchase or rent in iTunes. Apple is also upgrading customers' existing iTunes libraries of HD videos to 4K at no cost.

Engadget's Devindra Hardawar:

You'll find Apple's first batch of 4K HDR films in their own section on the iTunes store. So far, the selection includes some major new releases like Wonder Woman, Baby Driver and Alien Covenant. Notably, they're mostly selling for $20, with a few older titles going for $15. Walmart-owned Vudu, which has been selling and renting 4K films for years, currently has those titles for $30. Even the rental prices for 4K are lower on iTunes -- $5 versus $10 on Vudu. And, just as Apple promised, several films I previously purchased on iTunes -- Star Trek Beyond, The Lego Movie and Kingsman were automatically upgraded to 4K HDR.

CNET's David Katzmaier:

All HD and 4K titles on iTunes cost the same. On other services, 4K is typically more expensive. Take a new release like "Wonder Woman." On iTunes it costs $20 to buy and $6 to rent, regardless of whether you get the HD or 4K/Dolby Vision version. On Vudu and Google Play, the HD version costs the same but the 4K/HDR version costs $30 to buy and $10 to rent. It's a similar story with new-to-video movies "Kong: Skull Island," "Ghost in the Shell" and "Transformers: The Last Knight."

Bottom Lines

The Verge's Nilay Patel:

I am very confident Apple is going to figure this TV thing out. It's the only company that has the combination of power and care to actually do it. But the Apple TV 4K's unrealized potential just makes it obvious that the future of TV is still pretty far away, and it's simply too expensive to gamble on in the meantime.

CNET's David Katzmaier:

But let's say you're OK spending $179 to get a high-performance streamer. If you're an "Apple person" with a nice TV and a yen for improved image quality, the Apple TV 4K is definitely worth getting -- and if you already own the non-4K one and you have cash to spare, it's a good excuse to kick that box to a secondary room. The same goes for movie buffs who regularly rent or buy new releases in 4K, thanks to iTunes' price advantage and promise to upgrade to the 4K versions.

TechRadar's Garis Beavis:

If you’re already in the Apple-sphere and want a streaming box, the Apple TV 4K makes the most sense. It’s costly, yes, and there are cheaper options on the market if you just want to get high-quality images beamed into your eyeballs.

But if you also want the wider app ecosystem, and the ability to connect sensors and use it as a workout trainer, play games with kids or control your smart home, then the Apple TV 4K is an easy choice.

Pocket-lint's Stuart Miles:

The new Apple TV 4K is the movie fan's champion set-top box and the place to buy 4K movies without breaking the bank, with the knowledge that if you own other Apple devices that you'll be able to easily watch them on the go too.

More Reviews: Mashable, BuzzFeed News, iMore, Financial Post, TIME

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 13
Tag: reviews
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
35 months ago
I would think the limitations of YouTube, would be more on Google, than Apple.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
35 months ago
"I am very confident Apple is going to figure this TV thing out." - Patel

With the brainpower, influence and cash this company has, if they haven't figured it out by now, why on earth would you be so confident they will in the (reasonably near) future?

Somebody needs to hold these guys responsible for their shortcomings or explain/expose why they're holding back. Geez.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
35 months ago

The Verge in now completely in Google's pockets. On Apple stuff, they always have the worst takes, the lowest scores of all reviewers.

They should be forced at gunpoint to write only positive reviews of anything Apple releases.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
35 months ago
I’m so glad I couldn’t care less about 4K.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
35 months ago
YouTube app on Apple TV is like a timeback machine to the year of 2007.
I wish Google and Apple whould get their **** together.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
35 months ago

I would think the limitations of YouTube, would be more on Google, than Apple.

If I'm not mistaken, Google broadcasts Youtube 4K video in the VP9 codec. The ATV4K doesn't support that codec. Doesn't Apple decide which codecs it will support?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

'This App is No Longer Shared' iOS Bug Preventing Some Apps From Opening

Friday May 22, 2020 3:58 pm PDT by
An app bug is causing some iOS users to be unable to open their apps, with affected iPhone and iPad users seeing the message "This app is no longer shared with you" when attempting to access an app. There are multiple complaints about the issue on the MacRumors forums and on Twitter from users who are running into problems. A MacRumors reader describes the issue:Is anyone else experiencing...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...

Top Stories: Apple Glass and iPhone 12 Rumors, iOS 13.5 Update, and More!

Saturday May 23, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
It was another big week for rumors this week, with a flurry of reports about Apple's augmented reality glasses, the iPhone 12, and Apple's "AirPods Studio" over-ear headphones. This week also saw the release of iOS 13.5, bringing a number of health-related updates to Apple's mobile devices. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Other topics of interest this week included ...

Apple's 'Bounce' AirPods Ad Wins 'Best of Advertising' Award

Friday May 22, 2020 10:09 am PDT by
Apple's creative "Bounce" ad designed to highlight the AirPods took top honors in the 99th annual ADC (Art Director's Club) awards for advertising, earning the "Best of Discipline" award along with two Gold Cube awards in the craft in video and branded content categories. Released in June 2019, the ad features a bored man who pulls his AirPods off of their wireless charging pad and then pops ...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Apple's 'AirPods Studio' Over-Ear Headphones Have Reportedly Kicked Off Production

Friday May 22, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
We've been hearing quite a bit recently about Apple's long-rumored over-ear headphones, said to be called "AirPods Studio," and it looks like a launch may be coming in the relatively near future. Artist mockup based on Beats Studio3 Rumors have generally suggested a summer or fall launch for AirPods Studio, with a report earlier this week claiming that suppliers in Vietnam will begin...

Future AirPods to Include 'Ambient Light Sensors' Possibly Related to Rumored Health Features

Monday May 25, 2020 2:53 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors in a new model of AirPods in the next couple of years, according to a new report today, suggesting their use could be part of rumored upcoming health monitoring features in the true wireless earbuds. In a paywalled article, DigiTimes reports that ASE Technology could be involved in manufacturing the sensors: Apple is expected to...

'Apple Glass' Rumored to Start at $499, Support Prescription Lenses, and More

Tuesday May 19, 2020 6:30 am PDT by
Front Page Tech host and leaker Jon Prosser today shared several alleged details about Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses, including an "Apple Glass" marketing name, $499 starting price, prescription lens option, and more. The marketing name will be "Apple Glass" The glasses will start at $499 with the option for prescription lenses at an extra cost There will be displays in both...

Former iOS Chief Scott Forstall Shares Intriguing Story of His Interview With Steve Jobs at NeXT

Friday May 22, 2020 4:01 am PDT by
Former Apple executive and iOS chief Scott Forstall made a rare public appearance this week at Code.org's virtual Code Break event, and in between classes, Forstall shared the intriguing story of how he was hired by Steve Jobs. Forstall revealed that he had been considering working at Microsoft when he went to interview at NexT, the company started by Jobs after he had left Apple. Forstall...

Apple Memorial Day Deals: Shop the Best Apple Accessory Sales From Twelve South, eBay, Anker, Mophie, and More

Friday May 22, 2020 6:39 am PDT by
We're now just a few days away from Memorial Day on Monday, May 25, and numerous retailers have opened up discounts in celebration of the holiday. This includes sales on helpful Apple-related accessories like Anker's portable batteries, Beats headphones at eBay, Incase and Incipio's protective iPad and iPhone cases, Mophie's iPhone battery cases, JBL's Bluetooth speakers, and much more. Note:...