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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  • solipsism - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    What about playing games on a phone? That's now a huge business.
  • fteoath64 - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    This is in response to Android TV boxes like shield TV box that plays great games. I besides, I apple can do with the revenue from games in the App store.... It has been their business model...
  • michael2k - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    I think the disconnect is that you imagine the A8 as 'limited processing power'; you do realize there is a group of gamers who think the exact same thing of consoles? The XB1 and PS4, after all, use beefed up Kaveri cores when real gamers are using quad core Core i7 CPUs with standalone Titans.

    So if you compare the chasms, this is more powerful (I think) Wii U; technically it is 2x the power of the A8 found on an iPhone, but we really don't know about the clock settings on the Apple TV. We know the Apple TV and iPad mini 4 have twice the RAM of the A8 found on the iPhone 6 so there may also be other differences too.
  • jeffkibuule - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    All of the real-time blurs would absolutely murder the A5 GPU.
  • CharonPDX - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    A few things that really bug me - No 4K. Apple always seems to be a little behind the times, but still. HDMI 2.0 and 4K support, even if the CONTENT isn't 4K, would be nice. (Like the original AppleTV, which supported HDMI output at higher resolution than it could actually play back - at least photos were full resolution.)

    The remote still has IR, but from what I can tell, all communication to the AppleTV is Bluetooth - what's the point of the IR? Will we finally be able to program it to control the TV/receiver's volume on the remote? (Please, please, please. Turning on, and adjusting volume are the only thing I use my receiver's remote for any more. I would love to be able to do both directly from the AppleTV remote.)

    Will the new interface, and, more importantly, the App Store, be coming to the older AppleTV units in an update? While I hope so, I doubt it - I imagine they're going to make A8 and Metal support the "minimum spec" for apps.

    For the love of Jobs, add live TV tuner support! If not an actual TV tuner on the device, at least WiiU-like integrating listings and information for live TV in to the interface. I have an older HDTV that doesn't have an ATSC tuner, and I would love to ditch my home theater PC as my TV tuner.
  • Deelron - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    They did say you could control the TVs volume with the new remote, I assume that's the primary use of the it.
  • quasimodo123 - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    Out of curiosity, how does your HD TV not have an ATSC tuner? Did you purchase it outside the US?
  • solipsism - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    1) I wish it too had a 4K UHD UI for at least photos and the many that do have 4K UHD TVs right now.
    2) IR for your TV volume and source control.
    3) Not getting anything for your old Apple TV.
    4) They do have USB-C, which is unusual for the service port, so perhaps, but I doubt it.
    5) Perhaps I can use a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter from Monoprice to recharge the new BT remote.
    6) I wish the top of the Apple TV would inductively charge the remote, as well an optional stand for the remote for the induction charging if you're Apple TV isn't in a convenient place.
    7) Besides no being 4K, I wish it also had GigE.
    8) It's still not a proper media hub where it can run a version of iTunes that I can edit via iCloud, or from an app, and will access a USB and/or network drive. I do this now with a Mac mini and USB 3.0 connected RAID, but that's an expensive setup just to run iTunes.
    9) I HATE the [Computers] button on the UI. I don't buy movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store but they push you to that. I want direct access to my "iTunes Server" Movies and TV Shows on the main screen, without having to Computers » Choose the right Home Sharing source, then choose the right media type.
    10) I had hoped they would have a proper media hub for your 'main' TV which would then talk to your other Apple TVs on the network. This would then allow you to stop and pick up anywhere in your home.
    11) I also wanted this to be able to recognize the user so you UI, content you want to see/not see, saved places, and other settings would be available if you were controlling the remote. Perhaps a more rudimentary version of Touch ID that would be for convenience, not security.
    12) In 2013 Tim Cook said the home entertainment center is like stepping into the 70s. He wasn't wrong, but he didn't really do anything to change that today.
  • ABR - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    The Apple TV 1 was the last time they made a "proper media hub". I keep hoping they'll find their way back there, but it looks like they are too obsessed with (1) Cloud and (2) stimulating Mac sales by requiring a computer to be on and in the loop to play local content. (Because one CPU's not enough and the setup would be too simple, right?!)
  • fteoath64 - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    One would like to assume that third party TV tuners could be added using the usb-C port??? In future or whenever apple feels like selling you another $99 accessory.

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