New Apple TV sounds great, but where’s the 4K?

“The new Apple TV announced yesterday has lots of intriguing improvements, but it lacks 4K or Ultra HD support,” Dennis Sellers writes for Apple World Today. “I think that’s a mistake.”

“Ultra HD is on track to become an established feature of TVs by 2020, according to Strategy Analytics’ latest predictions. Falling prices, increased retailer support and strong customer satisfaction are the main reasons for Ultra HD TV’s success,” Sellers writes. “Strategy Analytics now predicts that global sales of Ultra HD TVs this year may exceed 30 million units, and by 2020 61% of annual TV sales will be Ultra HD. The analyst firm also predicts that more than 20% of households in leading markets will be using Ultra HD services from pay TV or online video providers by 2020.”

“In Strategy Analytics’ August 2015 survey of 2000 US consumers, nearly two thirds of people have heard of Ultra HD, and 30% now claim to have seen Ultra HD TV in a home, retail store or other location. Ratings of Ultra HD video quality remain extremely high, with 95% of people saying they were extremely or somewhat impressed,” Sellers writes. “Of course, not everyone agrees that the lack of 4K support in the new Apple TV is an issue. 4K is great, but it’s still in its infancy. And there simply isn’t much to watch in 4K yet. While Netflix and Amazon both added 4K streaming to their video services last year, their 4K offerings remain limited. Still, Apple likes to ‘future-proof’ its products. Adding 4K support would have helped future-proof the 2015 Apple TV. As for said TV, yes, I plan to get one. Despite the lack of 4K support, it sounds like a great upgrade.”

The all-new Apple TV with Siri remote and Apple TV App Store
The all-new Apple TV with Siri remote and Apple TV App Store

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple knows that there’s already more than enough offered by the new Apple TV (and much more on deck) that an insignificant number of potential buyers are going to eschew Apple TV due to the lack of 4K support. Our 65-inch Sony 4K will have to subsist on paltry offerings, including those from Netflix and Amazon, for its 4K diet. We expect our new Apple TVs to be used exponentially more than they are currently.

As we predicted last Friday:

If Apple has no answer for the 4K Ultra HD question — if it’s not at the very least “the hardware is capable, the content will be coming at a later date” — they’re going to get absolutely reamed in certain quarters.

Apple TV: What features should it offer to users? – September 4, 2015
Why Apple TV is critical; investors shouldn’t underestimate its importance – September 4, 2015
Why Apple needs so much space for their September 9th event: A series of living rooms? – September 4, 2015
Did Apple pick the right or wrong time to unveil reimagined Apple TV? – September 4, 2015
Apple finally gets serious about pushing into our living rooms with new Apple TV – September 4, 2015
Apple dominates pay TV streaming with 61.9% viewership on Apple devices – September 4, 2015
Analyst: New Apple TV platform is bad news for Netflix – September 3, 2015
The new Apple TV’s potential beyond gaming – September 3, 2015
New Apple TV to offer A8 chip, 8/16GB storage, same ports, no 4K, and new black remote – September 2, 2015
New Apple TV will feature universal search, start at $149 – September 2, 2015
Apple TV 4 to focus on extensive Siri control, deep support for gaming – August 31, 2015
Apple TV 4 coming in October for under $200, Apple TV 3 becomes entry level; both get new streaming service – August 30, 2015
Apple TV said to have motion-sensitive Siri-capable remote with touchpad – August 28, 2015
The next-gen Apple TV’s marquee feature – August 18, 2015


  1. Seriously? “nearly two thirds of people have heard of Ultra HD”. Who cares? I’ve heard of syphillis but it doesn’t mean I’m planning to go out and get it.
    Sounds like the 3D debate all over again. When there’s enough decent and consistent content and enough people have access to sufficient and affordable bandwidth to regularly be able to take advantage of 4K hardware then let’s worry over whether Apple is keeping up.

    1. There’s a huge problem with that argument. Apple is supposed to be the one that *drives* mass adoption of new technologies, even if others have it first. That’s why we have USB-C in the new Macbooks… heck that’s why Apple was the first major PC maker to go full USB in the late 90s.

      The few high-profile examples where they didn’t do that (no 3G in original iPhone, later adoption of LTE/4G radios and NFC), there were good reasons like poor power efficiency of the earlier radios, or there was no good UI to make use of NFC.

      Apple TV doesn’t have power restrictions associated with supporting UHD, and there’s no UI necessary. A 4k/UHD capability in an Apple TV would have encouraged people to upgrade their bandwidth if necessary, and producers would start offering 4K content faster.

      1. 4K is not going to happen until there is a 4K broadcast standard. In America, majority of population still watches their TV content from live TV stations (either over-the-air broadcast, or from their cable operator). Not to mention that sports live broadcasts still represent content of significant importance to majority of American audience.

        Until 4K actually becomes broadcasting standard and American TV stations begin over-the-air broadcasting in 4K, there will be little uptake in 4K content production. A 4K AppleTV without the content for it is pointless. It would be like launching iTunes Music Store (in 2003) with only two dozen albums to choose from.

      2. Moss, there is a huge problem with your argument. 1) 4K is a standard and not a technology. 2) Apple has not historically always supported new standards right away. Remember the hue and cry from certain quarters of the tech press when the original iPhone came out and I’d didn’t support 3G, only EDGE? It was like the end of the world or something.

    2. 4K is a manufacturer created tech meant solely to sell new TVs.

      90% of digital cinemas use Texas Instruments DLP projectors and 90% of them are HD. If there’s no outcry for 4K on a 60ft theater screen why is it necessary for a 60 inch screen?

      Don’t get me started on 8K… insert giant eye roll!

  2. I have to agree with Sellers here. It’s not like 4k or UHD just appeared. And while true 4k content may be scarce, the *latest& AppleTV should be supporting the prevailing standards. Apple sets itself as a premium experience product t. While that has never meant the “latest & greatest tech specs,” in an arena where a certain spec, 4k or UHD, actually does make a difference for the experience, this spec actually matters. My LG 77-inch OLED arrives this week. Would be nice if my new AppleTV at the end of October at least kept up.

    1. But you’re like the top 1% and Apple doesn’t usually support that hardware group. Apple would have to spend more money and hardly anyone would notice the advantage. Anyone who can afford a nearly $25,000 TV can probably afford to get multiple streaming boxes that do support 4K video and maybe even afford to produce your own content, too.

    2. fwiw Apple never adopted Blu Ray (“bag o’ hurt”) even though it was the latest and greatest.

      And 4k adoption will be slow, though I’m sure ATV will eventually support it. Last time I checked, 4K is a $500-$800 premium over HD; on the MDN Angela Ahrendts thread a $100 premium for 64GB vs. 16GB iPhone is considered outrageous.

  3. “Ultra HD is on track to become an established feature of TVs by 2020” That’s 4-5 years! Apple often introduce new technologies before they’re widely adopted, but that’s just ridiculous. I’m also pretty sure they’d want people to upgrade their (main) Apple TV by then anyway. The subset of people who have 4k/Ultra HD TV’s and the internet connection to stream that sort of content now is limited to say the least.

  4. 4K is hardly mainstream. Content is almost nonexistent and Apple is never first to market with most new technology like this. Right now 4K would be hard to stream. Most customers don’t have the bandwidth to stream 4K. So it would have been nice but I don’t think it’s anything to cry over for at least another 5 years. It would be a service nightmare as customers with low bandwidth would be crying foul why there’s doesn’t stream 4K. Better just leave it out for now.

    1. Won’t 4K be mainstream the moment iPhone6s gets into the hands of customers? Millions of people will be shooting 4K videos this holiday season and wondering how to view them on a big screen.

  5. I don’t know anyone who has a 4K video TV or is planning to get one. Is there even any 4K video content available? I’m still watching movies in 720p and 1080p. I know I’m very happy with 1080P and will continue to use my HDTV for many years to come. I always expect to get at least five years use out of any TV I get.

    I see a lot of those Android TV streaming boxes all supporting 4K and they don’t cost much at all. There must be an ample amount of processors that support 4K video so maybe that’s why the tech-heads are upset that Apple isn’t supporting 4K video. Tech-heads are always pouting if the latest and greatest tech isn’t being used in some hardware device. I can only speak for myself and I don’t care one bit that the latest AppleTV doesn’t support 4K video.

    1. I’m a cinematographer and I’m perfectly happy with HD, which in and of itself is as good as flat 1:85 projected 35mm movies were (resolution wise). It seems like now a technology barely has a chance to take hold for a couple of years before those who have a vested interest in selling camera’s, gear and TV’s to consumers & professionals want to up the ante for the sake of sales, at the expense of an eco & delivery system that have yet to exist for it. That said Apple might have moved the needle forward with a 4K Apple TV and then offering 4K movies in iTunes. 4K and up though are a medium that screams out for a super large TV to be appreciated and even large HD sets (70″ and up) now are still too expensive for many.

      1. This is out of my knowledge base but is 4K definitely the next stage or is there a chance in a few years that something even better is going to supplant it thus making it a make weight standard? That is the only reason I can think of for the delay other than making the next version of the box more of an upgrade in a year or two or when they introduce the streaming solution, which is purely a marketing decision.

  6. 149$ devide doesn’t need to be future proof for 5 years, or even two. It’s far more important to be 149$ for relevance today.

    Let’s assume 4K version would cost 299$ today. Would it be wise to pay 299$ today to be future proof rather than pay 149$ today and another 149$ in 2018 for the 4K version, with A11, and 4x processing power etc. (also saving one dollar and putting the old device to another room)? I don’t think so.

    4K version today would have very little sales, and even for the ones buying it, it would not be a very good deal. At the moment, having 4K for all does not make business sense, and having another SKU for it is not worth it (even though Apple could easily already introduce one using A9X).

    Apple has always been introducing new tech at the right time instead of being first (sometimes being first just happens to be the right time). This is no more of an issue than not having the most RAM or megapixels or whatever.

    1. So you’re an advocate of Apple making disposable technology? Plan for obsolescence?

      Apple used to be the best value in computing hardware because it was designed to last and still be useful 5 or even10 years into the future. With iOS products, Apple seems to want everyone to ditch their hardware every 1-3 years. The new Apple TV is already obsolete, as BluRay players on the market now already include streaming options plus 4K content. Deniers clearly don’t understand that 4K is already here — not only are all the good TVs on the market capable of UHD, Apple puts Retina displays onto most of their displays and 4K resolution into the iPhone camera. To launch an Apple TV that can’t support it is foolish.

      I’m more than happy to keep using a Mac + BluRay Player to feed my home cinema. The Mac still works better by far than any Apple TV ever did, without all the stupid limitations that iOS/TVOS forces on the user. When you have an archive of home movies, what does Siri do for you?

      There is nothing revolutionary in the new Apple TV hardware. People will now have one more chance to be frustrated with Siri’s inability to figure out what you really want. Apple has merely married the App store with Nintendo-like low resolution gaming. If you’ve already got a superior game console like a PlayStation, why downgrade to Apple TV?

      One will always be able to get the media apps (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, HBO, MLB, etc) elsewhere – on a Mac or on any internet device.

      Apple swings and misses.

  7. seriously, until cable and cell companies drop bandwidth costs, and a compression codec becomes standardized, 4K isn’t needed. If they update Apple TV every 1-2 years they’ll come out with it at a time that is right for the market. I’m guessing next year when they update the processor to the 9X and all that good iPhone 6S 4K content is out there. Until then there is little compelling reasons to do so.

    Think Edge for the first iPhone when 3G was just starting to kick around. Exact same issues and solution.

  8. Who streams 4k now????
    Tell me more about 4k content now…?
    Streaming 4k is a not a done thing. They are working on it!
    All of them!

    Broadcast stations and studios just finish paying their loan for their HD rigs…

    Read about it before complaining.

  9. 4K really???? I would say: “What happened to Home Kit?” before that!! Anyway it looks great!! Can not wait until I get my hands on one. And @ $199 for a gaming console/streamer is a barman. Bye bye Nintendo, look out Microsoft and Sony we are coming for you too!!!

  10. I don’t care about 4K. 1080p HD is just fine for me. I just bought a new TV, and I’m not going to run out and buy another one that includes 4K JUST for an Apple TV that supports it. Most people won’t give a damn about this, and Apple knows it.

  11. You need at least a 55″ screen to see the difference between 4K and 1080p. What percentage of the people who use some sort of set top box, like Apple TV, have a screen that large at this time? I don’t and don’t anticipate purchasing one for years. I’m perfectly satisfied with what Apple is bringing to the market in Apple TV 4.

    Apple is not entering the war of specs, just as they didn’t with the iPhone camera. What’s more important? Specs or what you can actually do with the equipment you own?

    1. The CNET article I read that involved eye doctors and research on what the human eye can perceive put it at 77 inch screen at 10 foot distance. Any smaller and you are wasting your time with 4K.

      1. CNET has been negative about 4K from the start. Please, please, do your own research and not just read an article. I watch 4K on a 60″ TV from 10 feet. It looks great. It looks fantastic, and CNET isn’t going to tell me I’m wrong and don’t know what I’m looking at. They don’t know what they’re looking at. 70″ or more is ideal, but not absolutely necessary.

      2. The average speed on southern California freeways is less than 50 mph. Therefore, buyers should limit their purchases to what they need today. Heck, Porsche and Ferrari should stop selling cars there. Same logic.

        Why are so many people advocating that Apple become a technology laggard?

  12. I’ve seen several 4K TVs at trade shows and they look pretty good. I’ve also seen HDR TVs (HD resolution and deeper colors) and they look even better. That would be a huge improvement on any sized display.

    But a lot of people who claim no interest in 4K are missing an important point and that’s the lack of H.265 decoding. H.265 can be used both on 4K and regular old HD, and it knocks the file size down to about half of what you get with H.264. This would make a big difference in bandwidth requirements for ANY kind of streaming video.

    You can easily experiment with H.265. Handbrake has an option for encoding (very slow at the moment) and VLC will play it back in real time. Too bad the new Apple TV can’t.

  13. The 4K TV market of today looks very much like the HDTV (at the time, plasma was big) of 15 years ago. Quite many HDTVs were being purchased back then because people were getting hoodwinked by the slick salespeople at whatever was the Best Buy equivalent at the time. I remember reading some research in 2006 that found out that almost 80% of HDTV sets were connected to the old-fashioned, analogue, SD cable feed, and the picture was stretched to fill the screen. More importantly, almost all of those users believed they were actually watching HD in their home (!!!??).

    Same thing is happening today with 4K. Quite many people are getting duped into buying 4K TVs, thinking that when they hook them up to their cable boxes, they’ll be getting 4K TV picture. No more than about 5-10% of 4K owners actually know how to get 4K content for their TVs.

    All this tells us that Apple did the right thing. They made their new box cheaper by leaving out the feature that nobody would know how to use. There is plenty of time to add 4K to one of the upcoming iterations of the device.

      1. Thank you! I remember several friends who were thrilled with their ‘amazing HD picture’ on their brand new $10k 40″ plazma TVs, and it was so obvious they were watching a stretched analogue SD image, with all the trappings of analogue TV signal…

        And the difference between HD and SD was quite obvious, while on anything smaller than 70″, the difference between HD and 4K isn’t nearly as visible, especially when someone is seeing what they want to see (instead of what is actually there)…

  14. Probably the issue is Storage, even for local storage, and not movies, games, it would need better processor, more RAM
    so in 1 year or 2 current iPAD Pro CPU would be great for those games, and all content, and cheaper by them

      1. To paraphrase Apple’s last great leader, HDMI is a bag of hurt. It is even worse than BluRay. It is technically inferior to competing connectors. It is an unecessarily expensive license. The standard has been poorly/slowly managed. HDMI is also fundamentally flawed in physical connection security, software overhead, and cable logistics. Apple could have used DisplayPort or ThunderBolt and tossed in a free adapter, but instead we get a crap connector that works only for basic theatre installations.

        There is absolutely no advantage — actually performance disadvantage — bundling audio and video. If Apple cared about offering users flexibility (remember when that statement held true ???), the new Apple TV would have at least additional separate audio outputs. Whoever said Apple is turning into a fashion house is pretty close to being accurate. Apple isn’t even trying to get its technical specs competitive with the state of the art.

  15. Note that the Apple TV has last year’s A8 chip that appeared in the iPhone 6/6+. Why would Apple have an A8 in the newest Apple TV, and A9 and A9x on the newest iPhone and iPad Pro respectively?

    The answer is that Apple plans to update the Apple TV yearly as it does with most of its products. It’s not a hobby anymore, it will be a cash generator since people will always want a faster processor yearly to run more and more powerful games!!

    USD149/199 might sound reasonable compared to the PS4 and XB One, but in fact, it will cost you USD745/995 (149/199 x 5 years) for the life of the PS4/XB One.

    4K wil come in the next update, or the one after that. Apple has a tendency of adding features yearly, not all in one go.

    I’m still going for the Apple TV though.

  16. Point A) …but it lacks 4K or Ultra HD support

    Counterpoint A) First off, 4K IS ‘Ultra HD’. What’s with the redundancy? Second off, 4K is a professional grade resolution USED IN MOVIE THEATRES. Apple is of course NOT going to support 4K for a home TV device. IOW: Your point is ridiculous.

    Point B) Ultra HD is on track to become an established feature of TVs by 2020

    Countpoint B) No it’s not. There’s no point in bothering. No one on a home TV can see the resolution difference anyway! It’s beyond the ability of the human eye to discern. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp.

    IOW: ‘Ultra HD’ on a home device has one and only one purpose. That is: Sucking money out of the suckers.

    Exception: Movie professionals who want to show professional resolution movies on giant screens in their homes.

    Point C) 30% now claim to have seen Ultra HD TV in a home

    Counterpoint C) So which are these 30%? Professionals? Or suckers? I’d say most of them are plain old suckers who just gotta waste money on ‘the latest thing’ so they can show off or they haven’t bothered to comprehend the technology. I laugh. 😆

    1. You don’t give your eyes enough credit. You have obviously never seen real 4K or UHD (they aren’t the same but I couldn’t tell if you were being serious).
      I suppose the near 4K resolution of the 12.9″ iPad isn’t necessary either.
      UHD allows you to sit very close to a large-ish TV and not feel like you’re sitting so close. You can sit a few feet from a 42″ and not see the pixels.

      1. I’ve watched real 4K in the theatre on huge screens. They look great. But I think you need to look up UHD because the definition includes 4K and 8K. Here is one of many pages with the definition. Read the first sentence:

        I don’t understand what you mean when you say the 12.9″ iPad Pro has 4K resolution. It does not. Again, look it up. My understanding is that the iPad Pro can PLAY 4K video. But NOT all the pixels are represented on the screen.

        UHD allows you to sit very close to a large-ish TV and not feel like you’re sitting so close. You can sit a few feet from a 42″ and not see the pixels.

        Certainly. But the ‘viewing distance’ for a monitor is defined as the diagonal length of the screen. If you’re sitting any closer, you’re looking for technical details regarding the screen. You’re not looking at the media it is portraying.

        I don’t want to be mean, because you’re interested in the tech. But you’ve got your definitions and figures wrong. Sorry.

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