The upgraded device has been a long time coming — it’s the first significant update to the little black box, which plugs into your TV and allows you to stream programming from the internet to your TV, in five years.
But unlike other streaming boxes, from competitors like Amazon, Roku, and Nvidia, the new Apple TV doesn’t have 4K capability — it can’t stream “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black” in Ultra HD.
4K is the next generation of high-definition TV. It’s sometimes called ultra HD. It offers a picture that’s sharper and clearer than the standard HD you’re probably used to. Eventually, it will become the new standard for HD TV.
It’s perfectly OK that the new Apple TV doesn’t offer 4K. It’s likely that you have very little use for a 4K streaming device.
That’s because most people don’t actually have 4K TVs, and most programming isn’t even available in 4K.
Sure, the stable of 4K content continues to grow — Netflix and Amazon are shooting their new original series in 4K, and there are some absolutely stunning YouTube videos that show off the quality of 4K — but the vast majority of programming isn’t available in 4K.
4K programming is so limited, in fact, that the new Roku 4 — which can stream in ultra HD — has a dedicated channel highlighting movies, TV shows, and videos in ultra high resolution.
And these are the only titles that show up when you search for 4K on Netflix:
TVs are relatively expensive and people don’t upgrade them as frequently as they upgrade their smartphones or even PCs. According to the research firm IHS, on average US consumers only upgrade their TVs every seven years.
Sure, sales of 4K TVs are growing, and 4K will no doubt be the future, but that future is still a while off. As Wired’s Tim Moynihan wrote earlier this year, we’re still about seven years away from flipping through 4K broadcast channels.
Plus, the new Apple TV starts at $US150, a relatively low price in terms of gadgets. It’s also likely Apple will have a new, updated Apple TV in the next couple of years, that’s faster, more powerful, and chock full of new features, including 4K.
And perhaps that will even be out before you buy a 4K TV.
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