Old Apple TV 4K vs. New Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) Buyer's Guide

In April 2021, Apple revealed the second-generation Apple TV 4K (2021), bringing high framerate HDR to the Apple TV for the first time and the A12 chip for improved performance, alongside a redesigned Siri Remote.

Apple TV 4K 1 vs 2
This model replaced the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K released in 2017. Although the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K has now been discontinued by Apple, it is common to find it available at discounted prices with third-party retailers. Some other users who already have the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K‌ may also be wondering if it is worth the upgrade to the second-generation model.

Should you consider purchasing the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K to save money, or do you need the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K? Our guide answers the question of how to decide which of these two ‌Apple TV‌ set-top boxes is best for you.

Comparing the First and Second-Generation Apple TV 4K

The first and second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K models share the same design and a number of key features such as support for resolutions up to 2160p, Dolby Vision, and HDR10:

Similarities

  • Design, dimensions, and weight
  • 2160p, 1080p, 720p, 576p, 480p over HDMI (HDCP capable)
  • SDR, HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Supports audio output up to 7.1.4 channels and Dolby Atmos
  • HDMI-CEC
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth 5
  • AirPlay 2
  • Available in 32GB and 64GB storage configuration options

appletv4kdesign
There are a large number of important differences between the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K and the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K that are worth highlighting, including their processors and remote controls.

Differences


Apple TV 4K (First-Generation)

  • 2.38 GHz hexa-core A10X Fusion chip
  • HDMI 2.0a
  • Wi-Fi 5
  • First-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote

Apple TV 4K (Second-Generation)

  • 2.49 GHz hexa-core A12 Bionic chip
  • Support for high framerate HDR video up to 60-fps
  • HDMI 2.1
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • ARC and eARC*
  • Thread support
  • Second-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote

*according to beta code, not yet enabled

Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both of the ‌Apple TV‌ 4K models have to offer.

Video and Audio

The ‌Apple TV‌ 4K supports resolutions up to 2160p Ultra HD. Both models support standard dynamic range (SDR), as well as HDR10 and Dolby Vision for richer colors and deeper blacks. They also feature support for audio output with 7.1.4 channel surround sound and Dolby Atmos.

homepod mini apple tv
The second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K adds support for high framerate HDR up to 60-fps. High framerate HDR video enables fast-moving action at 60 frames per second to play more smoothly and appear more lifelike.

With high frame rate support in ‌AirPlay‌, videos shot on the iPhone 12 Pro can be displayed in full 60-fps Dolby Vision on the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K. Apple is also working with video providers around the world, including FOX Sports, NBCUniversal, Paramount+, Red Bull TV, and Canal+, as they begin to stream in high frame rate HDR.

apple tv 4k tv hdr
The only difference in terms of video and audio capabilities between the two ‌Apple TV‌ 4K models is support for high framerate HDR. If this is a feature that is important to you, then you will need to get the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K.

For the vast majority of viewers, high framerate HDR will not be important enough to justify buying the newer model. Most content is still not available in high framerate formats, and even where it is, high framerate video is best suited to sports, non-cinematic content, and short videos.

tvOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.6 beta code suggests that the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K will also add support for ARC and eARC, allowing users to send audio, volume, and mute commands from the ‌Apple TV‌ to a receiver or soundbar.

This should allow users to send audio coming from other set-top boxes like a cable box or games console to their TV via HDMI, then from the TV to the ‌Apple TV‌ via eARC over HDMI, and finally from the ‌Apple TV‌ to a connected audio device. eARC support on the ‌Apple TV‌ effectively allows users to use the HomePod, when set up in a home theater speaker setup, not only for audio from ‌Apple TV‌, but for all other home theater audio needs.

A10X Fusion vs. A12 Bionic

The second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K features the A12 Bionic chip. The A12 Bionic chip powered the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR in 2018, as well as the 2019 versions of the iPad Air and iPad Mini, and the 2020 entry-level ‌iPad‌.

a12bionicchip
The A10X Fusion chip is older than the A12 and was first introduced with 2017's iPad Pro models. The A12 is a 2.49 GHz hexa-core chip and is slightly more powerful than the A10X, which is a 2.38 GHz hexa-core chip.

While processing power is not an absolute priority with a set-top box, the ‌Apple TV‌ 4K's more recent A12 chip will generally be more capable than the A10X. Whether it comes to playing games, app launch speeds, or simply general responsiveness, the A12 is likely to be more snappy.

The A12 isn't necessarily a clear winner in every aspect, however, as the A10X actually outperforms it in some graphics benchmarks thanks to its additional graphics cores, so comparative performance may depend on the type of content.

Through progressive updates to tvOS, the A12 will guarantee better performance over time and will be more future-proof than the A10X in the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K.

Connectivity

Wired Connectivity

The second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K features the most recent version of HDMI with version 2.1, while the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K uses the older HDMI 2.0a. HDMI 2.1 facilitates many of the newer ‌Apple TV‌ 4K's added video capabilities like high-framerate HDR. Both models have gigabit ethernet.

appletv4kports

Wireless Connectivity

While both ‌Apple TV‌ 4K models feature Bluetooth 5.0, only the second-generation model features Wi-Fi 6. The first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ has the older Wi-Fi 5 wireless networking standard.

The second-generation ‌‌Apple TV‌‌ 4K is the second Apple device to have built-in Thread support, following the HomePod mini, for improved integration into smart home setups. Thread is a low-power networking technology that offers a secure, mesh-based system able to interface with other Thread-enabled smart home devices for improved connectivity.

Siri Remote

Alongside the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, Apple introduced a completely redesigned ‌Siri‌ Remote. With a thicker, one-piece aluminum design, the new ‌Siri‌ Remote fits more comfortably in a user's hand.

The new ‌Siri‌ Remote features a clickpad control that offers five-way navigation for better accuracy and is also touch-enabled for fast directional swipes. The outer ring of the clickpad supports an intuitive circular gesture that turns it into a jog control.

The new ‌Siri‌ Remote also has a power button that controls a TV's power directly, and another for mute. The ‌Siri‌ button has been relocated to the side of the remote for convenience. The second-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote also dropped the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope from its predecessor.

apple tv 4k siri remote
The first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K features the older, first-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote that first appeared in 2015 with the ‌Apple TV‌ HD.

The first-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote has a glass touch surface with no directional buttons. There is no power button or mute button, nor is there the ability to use the touchpad as a jog.

appletvremote1
The design of the first-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote has been criticized for being unergonomic and has been replaced by the significantly improved redesigned model. Although the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K features the older remote, it is possible to simply purchase the new remote separately for $59.

Other Apple TV Options

The ‌Apple TV‌ HD was first released in 2015 and has remained in Apple's lineup since then as an entry-level option for $149. The ‌Apple TV‌ HD features the A8 chip and only supports resolutions up to 1080p. In spite of its older hardware, the ‌Apple TV‌ HD comes with the second-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote.

There is only a $30 price difference between the ‌Apple TV‌ HD and ‌Apple TV‌ 4K.
The only people who should consider the ‌Apple TV‌ HD are individuals on a strict budget, those with no intention of upgrading their setups, and those with no interest in technologies like Ultra-HD 4K, HDR, or Dolby Atmos.

The ‌Apple TV‌ HD may also appear to be a good option for existing ‌Apple TV‌ users looking to buy an additional ‌Apple TV‌ for another room for activities such as Apple Fitness+.

Final Thoughts

For most existing first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K users, the upgrade to the second-generation model will likely not be worth it since the improvements are minor.

Given the complaints about the first-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote, it is difficult to recommend new buyers to miss out on the redesigned version. If the new ‌Siri‌ Remote is the most alluring part of the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K for you, then it is possible to simply buy the new remote separately for $59.

It would make sense to buy the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K if you can get it cheap enough that you can buy the second-generation ‌Siri‌ Remote to add to it, and still have spent less than the $179 starting price of the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K.

apple tv 4k design
Unless you do this and get the first-generation ‌Apple TV‌ for a very good price compared to the second-generation ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, it makes sense to buy the newer model instead.

Although the second-generation model is very similar to its predecessor in terms of specifications, the faster and more recent A12 processor will make it more future-proof. Users who watch a lot of sports and care about high framerate video will also be better off spending more to get the newer model.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

countryside Avatar
7 months ago
I would just get the newest model... they do not refresh these Apple TV's often. The new remote is great.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nutmac Avatar
7 months ago

Although the first-generation Apple TV 4K features the older remote, it is possible to simply purchase the new remote separately for $59.
Instead of spending $59 for the remote, you can also sell Apple TV 4K with A10X like I did for about $100-120 and buy new Apple TV 4K with A12 and new Remote.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nutmac Avatar
7 months ago

If only Apple could match Nvidia when it comes to upscaling. I love Apple TV's, but the 4k AI Upscaling on my Shield is just miles better.
Agreed. While I am glad Apple TV is updated and remains in the line up, it's disappointing that the team did not push the product to become the best in its class.

Improving upscaling not only results in better viewing experience (if done right like NVIDIA SHIELD), it would also reduce (or eliminate with HDMI 2.1 Quick Media Switching) the blank screen as you play lower resolution contents.

A12 certainly has the headroom to improve upscaling. With WWDC only weeks away, maybe? I would be disappointed if tvOS 15 fails to add:

* Support for HomePod mini as permanent default speakers, ideally with some virtual surround sound processing.
* Spatial Audio with AirPods Pro and AirPods Max (just the surround sound sans dynamic head tracking), especially with rumors of Apple Music Hi-Fi with some contents in Dolby Atmos.
* Option to render games at 1080p or 1440p, upscaled to 4K (like Xbox Series S). This should greatly improve the frame rate.

Bonus points for:

* Expand Color Balance with guidance for adjusting contrast and brightness.
* If A12 is capable, AV1 and/or VVC (H.266) codecs.
* Lossless audio passthrough.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mikeyteh Avatar
7 months ago
I think it's worth noting that the Siri Remote 1st gen was Bluetooth 4.0 while the new Siri Remote 2nd gen is Bluetooth 5.0. It does impact the range of the remote.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jav6454 Avatar
7 months ago
If you get a good deal in the 1st Gen 4K, get that one.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JMStearnsX2 Avatar
7 months ago
I have the 1st Gen 4k, I ordered the new one. The 1st gen is selling for around $100 used, mine is in like-new shape. I figure that instead spending $60 on the new remote (which I really want) for $20 more out of pocket I can get an updated model. $20 is worth it to me.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

belkin airtag holder 2

AirTag Accessories: Keyrings and Holders for Apple's AirTags

Friday May 7, 2021 12:39 pm PDT by
Apple's AirTags do not come with a hole or any kind of attachment method, and short of drilling your own, you're going to need some kind of keyring, adhesive mount, or holder to attach the AirTag to various items. In this guide, we've rounded up a list of useful third-party AirTags accessories that you might want to check out. Apple Apple makes its own series of AirTag cases, which are...
iOS 14

iOS 14.6 Features: Everything New in iOS 14.6

Monday May 24, 2021 12:44 pm PDT by
Apple today released iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6 to the public. The iOS 14.6 update isn't quite as significant as the iOS 14.5 update that preceded it, but it still introduces a number of notable new features. We've highlighted everything that's new in iOS and iPadOS 14.6 below. Apple Music Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio Support Apple in May introduced two new Apple Music features, which...
0CB23085 7AE1 40AF AA4C CC0002FAE5B2

AirTag vs. Tile Buyer's Guide

Thursday April 29, 2021 1:58 am PDT by
AirTag is Apple's newest product line, a small round disc used to track items using the Find My app. Yet Apple is not the first to offer item trackers of this kind. Tile has been making Bluetooth item trackers for almost a decade and is now AirTag's main competitor. As the two leading item trackers share a number of key features, it may not be immediately obvious which is better for your...
apple findmy network feature

Everything You Need to Know About Apple's Find My Network Accessory Program

Monday April 12, 2021 12:50 pm PDT by
When iOS 14 launched, Apple announced a new Find My network accessory program designed for third-party accessory makers, and in April 2021, Apple launched the initiative, allowing device makers to integrate Find My right into their products. With the Find My network accessory program, third-party accessory makers can add Find My integration to their devices, allowing products to be tracked...
Beyond iPhone 13 Feature2

Beyond iPhone 13: Long-Term iPhone Rumors

Saturday March 27, 2021 10:00 am PDT by
As we get closer to the launch of the 2021 iPhone lineup, rumors surrounding what may come after the iPhone 13 have already begun circulating. Apple is believed to plan its new iPhones several years in advance of their release, so it is highly likely that plans for 2022 and 2023 iPhone models are well underway at Apple. There have now been a sufficiently large number of reports from reliable ...
iphone apple watch unlock 2

iOS 14.5 Features: Everything New in iOS 14.5

Monday April 26, 2021 11:34 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to the public, introducing a slew of new features and changes. These updates are the biggest updates that we've had since iOS and iPadOS 14 were released, and we've highlighted everything that's new below. Unlock Your iPhone With Apple Watch When Wearing a Mask With iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4, also available now for the Apple Watch, Apple is...
Lossless Support Feature

Apple Music Lossless: What Devices are Supported?

Tuesday May 18, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
Apple in June 2021 added new Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless tiers to Apple Music, but so far, it's a bit confusing trying to determine which devices support Apple Music's Lossless Audio and which devices do not. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. This guide covers everything that we know so far about Lossless Audio, and we'll be updating it as we learn more. What is...
iPad Pro vs Air Feature Yellow

iPad Air 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2021 Buyer's Guide

Thursday April 29, 2021 4:51 pm PDT by
In April 2021, Apple updated its popular iPad Pro lineup, introducing a faster M1 chip, a Liquid Retina XDR display, a Thunderbolt port, and more. Since the iPad Air saw a major update in September last year, both the iPad Air and the iPad Pro now share similar designs and an increasingly close feature set. Despite their appearances, the iPad Air and iPad Pro are still very different devices...

Popular Stories

airtag in hand

Apple AirTag Linked to Increasing Number of Car Thefts, Canadian Police Report

Friday December 3, 2021 7:10 am PST by
Apple's AirTags are being used in an increasing number of targeted car thefts in Canada, according to local police. Outlined in a news release from York Regional Police, investigators have identified a new method being used by thieves to track down and steal high-end vehicles that takes advantage of the AirTag's location tracking capabilities. While the method of stealing the cars is largely ...
macbook pro 13 inch banner

Apple Planning Five New Macs for 2022, Including Entry-Level MacBook Pro Refresh

Sunday December 5, 2021 7:55 am PST by
Apple is working on five new Macs for launch in 2022, including a new version of the entry-level MacBook Pro, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, Gurman said that he expects Apple to launch five new Macs in 2022, including: A high-end iMac with Apple silicon to sit above the 24-inch iMac in the lineup A significant MacBook Air...
MBA Mock White Front Blue

2022 MacBook Air Getting Major Display Upgrade With One Drawback

Friday December 3, 2021 3:01 am PST by
Apple's next-generation MacBook Air is reportedly set to bring over many of the new MacBook Pro's features, with one noticeable omission, according to recent reports. The latest MacBook Pro models feature a mini-LED "Liquid Retina XDR" display with deep blacks and support for up to 1,600 nits peak brightness. The display also features Apple's "ProMotion" technology, which is capable of...
m3 feature black

Macs With 'M3' Chips Expected to Use TSMC's 3nm Chip Technology With Test Production Reportedly Underway

Thursday December 2, 2021 7:36 am PST by
Apple's chipmaking partner TSMC has kicked off pilot production of chips built on its 3nm process, known as N3, according to Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report, citing unnamed industry sources, claims that TSMC will move the process to volume production by the fourth quarter of 2022 and start shipping 3nm chips to customers like Apple and Intel in the first quarter of...
apple watch series 7 aluminum colors

2022 Apple Watch Lineup Rumored to Include New Apple Watch SE and 'Rugged' Model for Sports

Sunday December 5, 2021 8:22 am PST by
Apple is planning an entire revamp of its Apple Watch lineup for 2022, including an update to the Apple Watch SE and a new Apple Watch with a rugged design aimed at sports athletes, according to respected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. Writing in the latest installment of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said that for 2022, alongside the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple is planning an update to ...