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Apple TV 4K (2021) vs Apple TV 4K (2022): Too Soon To Upgrade?


Apple TV 4K 2021 vs 2022

The Apple TV 4K 2022 is very similar to the 2021 Apple TV 4K player. So similar that it’s probably not worth upgrading from the 2nd generation to the 3rd generation model. For those that have never picked up an Apple TV 4K player in the past, they are also similar enough that any price drops on the 2021 version are seriously worth considering instead of the new model. Depending on the 2022 model purchased, the 2021 Apple TV 4K might actually be a better buy in general.

The first Apple TV 4K was released in September 2017 and this was then followed by a second version in April of 2021. The 2021 version was available to buy at $179 with 32GB storage and $199 with 64GB storage. As the 2021 model replaced the original 2017 4K Player, this left 2021 buyers with the choice of either picking up a 2021 Apple TV 4K or a 2015 Apple TV HD.

The newest Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) was officially unveiled in October and became available to buy on November 4th, 2022. Unlike the 2021 version, the 2022 Apple TV 4K player is available to buy in two versions. The cheaper Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi costs $129, while the Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Ethernet costs $149 in the US. In addition to Ethernet, the other main differences include storage capacity and Thread support

Below is a more detailed look at the specs of both 2021 and 2022 Apple TV 4K players:

Apple TV 4K20212022
Height1.4 inches (35 mm)1.2 inches (31 mm)
Width3.9 inches (98 mm)3.66 inches (93 mm)
Depth3.9 inches (98 mm)3.66 inches (93 mm)
Weight15 ounces (425 g)7.5 ounces (214 g)
ProcessorA12 Bionic chipA15 Bionic chip
Siri Remote2nd generation3rd generation
SDR videoup to 2160p, 60 fpsup to 2160p, 60 fps
Dolby Visionup to 2160p, 60 fpsup to 2160p, 60 fps
HDR10up to 2160p, 60 fpsup to 2160p, 60 fps
HDR10+Noup to 2160p, 60 fps
Dolby AtmosYesYes
IR receiverYesYes
Wi‑FiWi‑Fi 6 (802.11ax) with MIMOWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO
Gigabit EthernetYesWi-Fi – No
Wi-Fi + Ethernet – Yes
Thread supportYesYes

Too soon to upgrade to the 2022 Apple TV 4K?

In reality, there isn’t any definitive reason to upgrade from the 2021 to the 2022 Apple TV 4K. Although there are improvements in some areas, they are relatively minor, and especially compared to the differences between the 2017 and 2021 players. Instead, the newest Apple TV 4K is more of an upgrade that looks to build build on many of the changes introduced with the 2021 version.

The main differences (and potential reasons to upgrade) are the processor and the newer Siri remote. Starting with the processor, the 2021 Apple TV is equipped with an A12 Bionic chip. This is a 2018 chip compared to the 2021 A15 Bionic that powers the 2022 Apple TV 4K. While the newer chip will result in a faster and more reliable experience, it is not like the 2021 player is particularly slow. Unless there is a reason to suspect performance issues, the gains are probably not worth paying the cost of an Apple TV upgrade after only one year.

Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) with remote
Apple TV 4K (3rd generation)

When it comes to the Siri remote, the main difference is the newer version has a USB-C port. For those that find looking for the cable when needing to charge the Siri Remote annoying, the inclusion of a universal port makes it possible to use any USB-C cable. Even though this is a useful improvement, is it enough to warrant buying a whole new player? More to the point, the newer Siri Remote (3rd generation) can actually be purchased on its own from the Apple Store. At just $59, picking up the remote is considerably cheaper than the minimum $129 cost of the least expensive 2022 player.

It is also worth noting that the cheaper $129 Apple TV 4K is actually missing some features that are included with the 2021 version. Specifically, Gigabit Ethernet and Thread support. Due to this, it is almost certainly not worth considering upgrading to the Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) model. In contrast, and in addition to the other upgrades, the Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet) does comes with either twice or four times the storage of the 2021 version. For those that find their current storage level to be too limiting, this is another potential reason to upgrade.

Apple TV 4K 2021 vs 2022 summary

The 2021 and 2022 Apple TV 4K players don’t just look similar, they are similar. While the 2022 players do come with a newer processor and Siri remote, it remains to be seen if they are enough reason to justify an upgrade. When it comes to the Wi-Fi model, upgrading will actually result in the loss of Thread support and the Ethernet port, reducing the reason to upgrade even further.

If planning on buying a new Apple TV player in general, then the same considerations should be made. The Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Ethernet is going to be the best and most advanced option overall. However, depending on the price and whether Ethernet and/or Thread support matters, some homes might find it is better to buy the 2021 Apple TV 4K than the cheaper 2022 player. If Ethernet and Thread support are unnecessary, and 64GB storage is enough, opting for the $129 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) will result in a newer processor, USB-C-enabled Siri remote, and HDR10+ support.

John Finn


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