Along with new iPhones and new iPads, today's Apple event came with the launch of the long rumored update to Apple TV. It's almost incorrect to call this an update, as while it shares both a name and a form factor with the existing TV, it is different in nearly every respect. Below you can see what specifications the new Apple TV offers.

  Apple TV
SoC Apple A8 SoC, 2x 1.4GHz Typhoon
Display N/A, HDMI 1.4 1080p60 Output
Dimensions 98 x 98 x 33mm, 425 grams
Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB Type-C, HDMI 1.4, IR Receiver, 10/100 Ethernet
Launch Price $149/$199 32GB/64GB

The new Apple TV receives some much needed hardware improvements. What's funny is that none of them are really required for video playback, as the old A5 chip had the ability to decode 1080p H.264 video in hardware. What the upgrades are required for is running the brand new tvOS, and all the apps and games that Apple hopes will be made for it. I'm surprised that Apple hasn't built in support for HDMI 2.0 or HEVC decoding in order to support existing 4K TV sets and future 4K content encoded with HEVC.

tvOS comes with a brand new interface for Apple TV. The old Apple TV UI looked like a relic of ancient history with its iOS 6 inspired UI, while this new interface looks very modern and fits in well with iOS, OS X, and watchOS.

The tvOS UI is navigated using two methods of input. The first is Siri, and in this case it's a super powered Siri that can do a lot more than the Siri on your phone. You can issue very specific commands and searches, such as finding an episode of a TV series based on a character that guest starred or an event that happened. This is something that I've wanted for a long time, especially for finding episodes of a long series like Seinfeld where it's impossible to remember each specific episode. You can also use Siri to control playback by asking to move forward or back a certain amount. Siri will even recognize questions like "What did she say?", and rewind the video while also temporarily putting on captions so you can understand something that wasn't said clearly.

The second method of input is the new Apple TV remote. This new remote has a glass multi touch surface on the top of the display for navigating the UI. It also has a dedicated Siri button which is how you trigger voice input, as well as a play/pause button, a menu button, a home button, and volume controls. The remote is powered by a rechargeable internal battery that you recharge via a lightning port on the bottom, and Apple claims it can last for months on a single charge with typical daily usage.

Circumstances that would drain the Apple TV remote would likely be related to using it to play games. The remote connects to the TV using Bluetooth 4.0 as well as IR, and it includes both an accelerometer as well as a gyroscope. This means that it can be used as a controller for certain types of games, with other more complicated games supporting third party controllers that you will be able to buy.

It's difficult to describe all that Apple TV offers, and to make a comparison between it and other set top boxes based on what Apple has shown off. Hopefully we will be able to review it in detail in the future, and for now I would suggest taking a look at the demos Apple did on stage if you haven't so already.

Apple TV will be shipping in late October, and will be priced at $149 for the 32GB model or $199 for the 64GB model.

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  • hansmuff - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    HEVC maybe with next version ;)

    I do like the concept of that remote but I don't like the recharging piece. AAA batteries may be a little old world but at least I can throw new ones in and have my remote work instantly and for years to come.

    Perhaps it's too small to add wireless charging, but that'd be a good compromise.
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    The A8/A8X can use h.265 for FaceTime so the hardware support is there. They've just never enabled it for general video playback to date. With the new iPhone 6s/6s Plus shooting 4k video, presumably using h.265, maybe they'll enable playback on A8/A8X in the future so videos can be shared between devices.
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    Doesn't matter if they enable it if your stuck with an 1.4 HDMI port on the thing.
  • az060693 - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    USB Type-C does have an alternate displayport mode that supports 4k@60fps though. Maybe enabled in a firmware update in the future? Though its apple... so probably not. Maybe by third-party developers though.
  • haukionkannel - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    When they can sell new nevice in two years... No we don't get 4K in 4th generation Apple TV...
    It is better deal to sell these first, and new versions a couple of years later.

    I can predict, that we get Apple TV new+ with A8 and 4k (because it is possible) in cheaper category (100$ with 32Gb) and maybe completely new with A9 (with 32gb at 149$ and 64Gb version with 199$ price tag and completely new 128Gb version 299$) in 2018. And everyone will buy new version again! Profit! Maybe we even see new A8 version with 1080P max and 16Gb in 69$ gategory... Wow!
  • solipsism - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    It's a possibility. We know the iPhone 6-series supports H.265 when it's end-to-end 6-series with at least one of them on connected via cellular. I'm not sure why they have the cellular limitation. Obviously to reduce cellular data sizes, but why not offer that for WiFI, too.

    We know it's actively encoding and decoding H.265 in that setup, but do we know it's done with a specific chip, or in SW? I would say that it definitely is in HW, otherwise why bother with any testing of it, but I'm curious if we know it's there, not just suspect it has to be.

    Anyway, I say possibility because even if they do offer it, their FaceTime en/decoding will be using a much smaller video size for the files which isn't like that taxing on the system, but with 4K video it might be to much, although I do hope they do have an excellent chip that can do this without taxing the system much more than their previous use with H.265 and 1080p(?) video.
  • solipsism - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    er, ...previous use with H.264 and 1080p(?) video.
  • iampivot - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    Apple always portions out the improvements in little drips, for the endless upgrade cycle.
  • plonk420 - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    from what i understand, true 4K doesn't exist
  • plonk420 - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    *4K video

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