Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): should you upgrade?

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021)
(Image credit: Apple)

With the least amount of fanfare possible, Apple has announced an all-new Apple TV 4K (2022), the successor to the Apple TV 4K (2021).

Apple TV is the company's line of media streamers that give you access to all your favourite content from all your favourite services. It's not to be confused with Apple TV+, Apple's video streaming service, though unsurprisingly that is one of the services available on Apple TV streamers.

We at What Hi-Fi? loved last year's Apple TV, giving it five stars in our official review. We went as far as saying that it was the best video streamer out there, for those that could afford the premium price over the Amazon, Roku and Google competition.

So, how does the recently announced Apple TV 4K 2022 compare with the 2021 model, and is it worth upgrading to? While we haven’t gotten our hands on the newcomer just yet, Apple hasn’t been shy about revealing details about the latest addition to the Apple TV line.

There's a lot we already know about it, so here's how the two stack up...

New Apple TV 4K vs Apple TV 4K (2021): price

Apple TV 4K 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

The new Apple TV 4K, releasing on 4th November, retails at £149 / $129 / AU$219 for the base 64GB model and £169 / $149 / AU$249 for the 128GB model.

Last year’s Apple TV 4K, which launched in May 2021, cost £169 / $179 / AU$249 for the base 32GB model and £189 / $199 / $279 for the 64GB model. 

Yep, you read that right, the new Apple TV 4K is less expensive than its predecessor at launch. We wouldn't have expected that having seen the increased price of Apple's new iPhone 14 and new 2022 iPads this year, but hey, we aren't complaining.

In the wider context of the video streaming market, Apple TV 4K is still very much a premium product compared to the competition. If you aren't an Apple loyal and you simply want up-to-date 4K streaming functionality added to your 4K TV, you can get a Roku Streaming Stick 4K or Fire TV Stick 4K for around $50 – or even less, typically, if you buy over the Black Friday sales period.

New Apple TV 4K vs Apple TV 4K (2021): design

In terms of aesthetics, the new Apple TV 4K doesn't appear to look much different from last year’s model. There are a few minor changes, sure, but you'd be hard-pressed to spot a difference between the two with a quick glance.

The new Apple TV is actually a bit shorter than the old model, and because it's supposedly more efficient, there’s no longer an internal fan, which will likely eliminate the airflow grating on the bottom of the device. If you were ever bothered by the sound of the fan spinning up on Apple TV, you won’t have to worry about that anymore on Apple TV 4K (2022).

Lastly, you’re essentially getting the same Siri remote you got with Apple TV 4K (2021) – a good thing considering that we felt this remote was much improved over the original – but this time it will have a USB-C charging port instead of Lightning. That's great for owners of Macs, iPads or any other USB-C devices in terms of cable sharing, though Apple isn't including a USB-C charging cable in the box.

New Apple TV 4K vs Apple TV 4K (2021): features

Apple TV 4K 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

Perhaps the single biggest upgrade coming to Apple TV 4K (2022) is a new processor. The new Apple TV is getting the mighty A15 Bionic chip, which was introduced last year with the iPhone 13 and is at the heart of the new iPhone 14, too.

This is no small upgrade, as Apple TV 4K (2021) was outfitted with Apple’s A12 Bionic chip that launched way back with 2018’s iPhone X. Each generation of Bionic chip tends to see somewhere between a 5 per cent and 20 per cent uplift in performance in terms of CPU power, so when you skip a couple of generations that amounts to a big increase.

According to Apple, this change in processor is to give way to “greater responsiveness, faster navigation, and snappier UI animations” while the A15’s meaty GPU is reported to come with a 30 per cent increase in performance that will likely be good news for gamers.

Apple also notes that the new Apple TV consumes 30 per cent less power than the previous generation, and it is this increased efficiency that helped facilitate the removal of the internal fan.

While we’ll have to get our hands on an Apple TV 4K (2022) to actually see what performance is like, better hardware almost always means better performance in games, and a faster, more efficient chip sounds like a win – especially considering what is being replaced.

Lastly, while Apple TV 4K (2021) has an ethernet port on both the 32GB and 64GB models, that connection is now exclusive to the more premium 128GB model, meaning that the new 64GB base model disappointingly misses out.

New Apple TV 4K vs Apple TV 4K (2021): HDR

Apple TV 4K 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

The list of new hardware features on Apple TV 4K (2022) may be relatively short, but a big part of that comes down to how robust last year’s Apple TV was. Like last year's model, the new Apple TV 4K also supports Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Dolby Atmos, Apple-specific features like Color Balance, and, of course, 4K/60Hz and HDR.

The big new feature of Apple TV 4K (2022) outside of hardware upgrades relates to HDR support. While the 2021 model supports Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG, the Apple TV 4K (2022) extends that list to also include HDR10+.

HDR10+ is, like Dolby Vision, a 'dynamic' HDR format that adjusts colours and brightness on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis, whereas a 'static' HDR format like HDR10 makes adjustments at less precise and regular moments.

There’s generally more content and hardware support for Dolby Vision, but HDR10+ is getting more prominent and is the HDR format of choice for Prime Video, so subscribers to Prime should at the very least be pleased about this addition.

New Apple TV 4K vs Apple TV 4K (2021): initial verdict

Apple TV 4K 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

Is the new Apple TV a huge upgrade over last year’s model? On paper, probably not. However, with both a price cut and some key upgrades like a more powerful chip and HDR10+ support, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for shoppers to choose the 2021 model over the new one – unless a crazy discount on the older version arises.

Of course, we’ll have to get our hands on an Apple TV (2022) to give you our final verdict on Apple’s new streamer, but if you’re in the market for an Apple TV, this year’s new one seems like the purchase of choice going forward.

If, however, you can't stretch the budget to either model, or you simply don’t much care for the Apple ecosystem (in which case, we are surprised you have read this far), the Apple TV 4K (2022) isn’t likely to change your mind. And this is where we would point you to our list of the best media streamers for more five-star alternatives.


Here's what you need to know about the new iPad (2022)

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As well as our list of the best media streamers

Ruben Circelli

Ruben is a long-time freelance consumer technology and gaming journalist, and was previously a Staff Writer at What Hi-Fi?. Since 2014, Ruben has written news, reviews, features, guides, and everything in-between at a huge variety of outlets that include Lifewire, PCGamesN, GamesRadar+, TheGamer, Twinfinite, and many more. Ruben's a dedicated gamer, tech nerd, and the kind of person who misses physical media. In his spare time, you can find Ruben cooking something delicious or, more likely, lying in bed consuming content.