2021 Apple TV 4K vs. 2017 Apple TV 4K: Is It Worth Upgrading?

Apple in April unveiled a new version of the 4K Apple TV, but on the surface, it's hard to tell it apart from its predecessor because it looks the same as the 2017 model. There are, however, a few internal changes, but are those changes worth upgrading for? That's what we're aiming to find out in our ‌Apple TV‌ 4K hands-on video.



Compared to the original ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, there are no design changes to the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K with one peripheral exception -- the Siri Remote. The ‌Siri‌ Remote has been overhauled with a new clickpad and updated buttons that make it more intuitive to use.

There's a dedicated power button for the first time, along with a mute button, and the ‌Siri‌ button has been moved to the side. There's no touchpad anymore, and the clickpad that replaces it is easier to use, making it simple to scrub through content with a swipe around the wheel. It's also much thicker and heftier, and Apple believes this will make it harder to lose.

Without a doubt, the ‌Siri‌ Remote is a major upgrade that's worth it, but you don't need a whole new ‌Apple TV‌ just for the remote -- Apple is selling it on a standalone basis for $60. That's pricey, but if you're fed up with the current remote and want something better, it's worth considering.

As for the rest of the ‌Apple TV‌, upgrades include support for high frame rate 4K HDR and Dolby Vision content, which is useful for sports and other fast-paced action. There's not a lot of support right now, but you can check it out on YouTube or on videos recorded with the iPhone.

The ‌Apple TV‌ does have HDMI 2.1, but it doesn't have 120Hz frame rate support, so it's not a reason to upgrade. What is new, however, is eARC support, a feature that lets all TV audio be routed through HomePods. With eARC, audio from game consoles, cable boxes, and other peripherals can be routed through the HomePod when you have a compatible TV.

There's an upgraded A12 Bionic chip in the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, which is a good deal faster than the A10X Fusion chip that was in the prior model, but unless you're playing a system-intensive game on the ‌Apple TV‌, you're probably not really going to notice the upgrade.

If you have a 2017 ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, there's generally no reason to upgrade at this time unless one of the included features is particularly appealing to you. If you have an ‌Apple TV‌ HD or are considering an ‌Apple TV‌ purchase for the first time, the new 2021 model makes much more sense and is worth the $179 purchase price.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

Unggoy Murderer Avatar
36 months ago
The eARC feature was a great surprise, playing the PS5 with HomePod audio is fantastic!

If folks are having issues with audio / video latency on the PS5 via eARC, switch off Dolby DTS in the PS5 audio out settings and it eradicates it for me on my 2018 LG Nanocell.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nutmac Avatar
36 months ago

so basically no.. unless you really hate the old remote, which you can buy separately, or if you need eARC support.
I sold my old Apple TV 4K 32GB (used) for $110, and got the new model for $170 from Costco.

Other improvements:

* Apps launch noticeably faster, as well as many other operations.
* Thread router.
* Dolby Vision no longer has raised black issue. That is, black bars are completely black.
* 60 frames per second 4K with YouTube. HDR is currently janky, but it's probably going to be fixed in the future.
* HDR High Frame Rate, which not something I really care about, is still worth noting.

And it's probably more future proof, such as the presence of eARC HomePods audio routing. I am hoping future tvOS will unlock HDMI 2.1 features such as QMS, which would significantly reduce the blank/no signal screen when switching frame rates.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ELman Avatar
36 months ago
I have both models and I noticed the speed difference with the new device. It's especially noticeable when the system restarts.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TapDatApp Avatar
36 months ago

I have both models and I noticed the speed difference with the new device. It's especially noticeable when the system restarts.
Agreed. Have had the last 3 generations of Apple TV since launch day and the latest model is blazing fast compared to certain lag points the old 4K model had. I’ve noticed in particular, videos load one after another almost instantaneously and updates and restarts are quicker too. May also be faster at switching modes when set to match frame rate and dynamic range in my experience.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TVreporter Avatar
36 months ago
You neglected to mention it has Thread - which is important for those with smart home devices.

Still debating if I want to add this set to a second TV. The 2017 serves me well and unlike many I enjoy the remote and don't have any issues — after I added a case to it for improved grip.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
centauratlas Avatar
36 months ago
I would have to say it is definitely worth upgrading if you use the Photos from the computer feature at all. It is significantly faster and more reliable. That alone is well worth the upgrade. Albums that would sit there or not work reliably do now.

As far as the overall speed of the UI, that is noticeable also.

I upgraded both of our Apple TVs and am quite happy that we did.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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