Last week I decided to update my 2017 Apple TV 4K to a newer 2021 model after writing about a killer Amazon deal: I bought the 32GB model for $100 on something of a whim. But it was the smartest purchase I’ve ever made.
I didn’t need it, mind you. Even with a five-year-old chip, my 2017 Apple TV box was as fast and responsive as the day I bought it, and I had long jettisoned the terrible first-gen Siri remote for a Caavo one. But for $79 off, I decided to update to the 2021 model even though the 2022 update starts shipping today. Here’s why it was one of the best decisions I ever made:
I need ethernet and want Thread
With the 2022 Apple TV, Apple made the surprising move to drop ethernet and Thread support from the entry-level model. Even if you don’t care about using wired internet for the fastest possible connection, you should care about not being able to use your Apple TV 4K as a home hub. This might not seem like a big deal now, but as Matter support grows over the coming months, Thread will become more important.
My old Apple TV 4K was already hooked up to wired internet over ethernet so that’s a necessity, which now means for me, the cheapest Apple TV 4K model that Apple sells is $149. At $100 for the 2021 model with ethernet and Thread, it was a no-brainer.
HDR10+ isn’t worth it
The main upgrade in picture quality for the 2022 Apple TV 4K is the addition of HDR10+. However, it’s not really an exclusive feature—for one, the Apple TV app on other devices was just updated to support HDR10+ and for another, it’s mainly a feature for Samsung and some newer Hisense TVs that don’t support Dolby Vision. I actually own a Samsung TV but it’s still not worth the upgrade. I can always use the Apple TV app built into my television if I want to watch “Ted Lasso” in HDR10+. And besides, I also got an upgrade to high-frame-rate HDR, which was introduced last year.
The Siri Remote is incredible
Apple completely changed the Siri Remote with the 2021 model with a new design, new buttons, and new functionality. I hadn’t used it until now and I can’t say enough great things about it. It’s one of the best remotes I’ve ever used, and it’s already replaced my beloved Caavo remote that I bought for the previous model. It’s simple, yet highly functional, has a pleasant thickness, and feels good to hold.
The only new remote control feature in the 2022 model is the switch to USB-C instead of Lightning, but I have plenty of Lightning cables lying around—and besides, it needs to be charged so infrequently, I can dig up a Lightning cable when I need it.
Extra storage is pointless
Apple doubled the storage on the new Apple TV 4K, from 32GB and 64GB to 64GB and 128GB. That would be a bigger deal if it was an iPhone or iPad, but I use so little storage on my Apple TV, I could probably get away with 16GB.
The processor is more than good enough
The new Apple TV 4K has an A15 processor. The 2021 model has an A12 processor. The 2017 model that I was using had an A10X Fusion processor. Apps launch and shows begin playing so quickly, I can barely tell the difference between the A10X and the A12. I can’t imagine the jump to the A15 would matter much at all.
The HDMI port is the same
The 2021 Apple TV 4K featured an upgraded HDMI 2.1 port, but Apple didn’t actually add any features like 120Hz or Auto Low Latency Mode. The new model has the same HDMI 2.1 port, so any new features—such as QMS VRR, which lets TVs switch between different frame rates without needing to flash a black screen first—should come to both models.
It’ll last for as long as I need it to
As I said, I had my prior Apple TV 4K since 2017 and it was working just fine–better than fine, actually. Except for the remote, it’s very hard to tell the 2017 and 2021 models apart, and the differences are even smaller with the 2022 model. I expect this model will last for years and years, since new TVs, and things like 8K and variable refresh rate won’t matter to me for a while.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.