6 min read

Apple TV 4K (3rd gen)

For the longest time, I never really considered buying an Apple TV. It just didn't seem like something Apple paid that much attention to, after all, back at its introduction, Steve Jobs referred to it as a 'hobby' for Apple.

It clearly did become more of a focus over the years, but the cadence of updates to the product did still signal they weren't super serious about it. But, additionally, I also mostly ignored the on going progression in part due to those initial impressions.

Since upgrading my old Panasonic plasma a few years back with an LG CX, I had mostly been using the LG applications for all my TV watching. They were mostly quite good, not the best performing - but way better than I expected and they were frequently updated.

But over the years, they have become increasingly slow and unreliable, not unusably so, I just have a low tolerance for this sort of stuff. Additionally, I've been seeing more people praising the Apple TV, particularly for its performance and general all around capabilities.

So after getting a bit annoyed yesterday with the clearly decreased performance and reliability of the third party apps on the TV, I nipped out to my local Argos and bought an Apple TV - 4K, 128GB + Ethernet model.


The Apple TV 4K (3rd gen) comes with an Apple A15 SoC, an excellent chip that powered the iPhone 13, 13 Pro and iPhone 14 - albeit with one additional CPU core disabled (for 5 core CPU, 5 core GPU).

The software experience is quick, smooth and reliable. What you'd expect from an Apple iOS derivative, especially when powered by such capable silicon. I fired up a couple of games just to try it out, it's not what I'll be using it for, but again - high framerates and reliable performance.

No complaints and does feel like a substantial quality of life improvement over the standard TV software experience, even over competing (though definitely a lot cheaper) dedicated TV boxes/sticks.

Video feature set

With Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and HDR10+ support - everything just worked as I had hoped out of the box without any fiddling. I turned on 'match content' and 'match framerate', as being in the UK - I do have both 50 and 60hz content and services.

The only downside to this is that there is a momentary black screen when exiting certain video as the TV swaps the dynamic range and/or frame rate.

My initial setup had 4K Dolby Vision enabled in the UI, and this is great from a visual perspective - the UI looks nicer and the cool aerial video screensavers look even better too. But I found that this increases the frequency of the black screen when entering/existing video as still a substantial amount of content I watch is still SDR, so the process in that case would be:

  1. Start in Dolby Vision rendered UI
  2. Open SDR content, black screen -> SDR
  3. Exit to menu, black screen -> Dolby Vision rendered UI

Alternatively, the content could also be HDR10+ instead of Dolby Vision, in which case you see the black screen a bit more.

This isn't an issue unique to the Apple TV - but it is bit more evident due to the settings I have chosen. I could disable the match framerate and/or dynamic range settings and the black screen issue would be significantly reduced or even eliminated. But there are advantages to these settings when actually watching content, so I want them on.

It could also be alleviated if you have a newer TV, my LG CX doesn't support 'Quick Media Switching', which when enabled on the Apple TV, should reduce the impact of this problem.

Overall, it's not really a problem, it just interrupts the flow when bouncing between applications - which isn't something you're doing that often. I'm doing it more at the moment because I'm exploring the device and the multi-tasking capabilities of it are beyond what you typically see on a TV.

I think the main area where it is quite annoying is if you're looking at your iCloud Photos/Videos and you're scrolling through Dolby Vision videos and regular photos, in which case the TV will switch quite frequently. I think in that circumstance, I'd just enable Dolby Vision universally whilst looking through my library. A better solution might be to be able to enable Dolby Vision per app, so I could just set iCloud Photos to always run in Dolby Vision and the rest of the OS in regular 4K SDR, but that doesn't exist currently.

Additionally, when in SDR or standard HDR mode (non–Dolby Vision) you can use the Apple TV's built in colour calibration tool - which utilises the sensors on the front of a FaceID equipped iPhone to find the best colour profile for your TV. I ran it and it gives you a nice way to compare the changes it made and decide if you prefer them or not. I did, so I enabled it - which will apply in non-Dolby Vision content.

Audio feature set

Here, things are a lot simpler. I have a Sonos Arc + two surrounds plugged in via eArc, it all works fine. Gets the output right on auto and dolby atmos mode and have no complaints.

It's also nice to be able to easily connect my Airpods and listen through those though, not something I'll need often, but perhaps with Facetime on tvOS I might use it?

OS, applications and remote

The 1st generation Siri remote was controversial, the primary input was a touchpad that many reported frustration with. Constant accidental touches, either too sensitive or not sensitive, and gestures not working consistently.

The new one is more conservative, it still has a touchpad, but it is housed within 4 directional buttons. To me, this feels good - the sensitivity of the touchpad is good and you can fall back to the directional buttons when it's more appropriate to do so. It feels nice in the hand, it charges through USB-C and I like the position of the Siri button.

The OS, as I mentioned, is smooth and performant. As are the applications. Siri has lots of problems across Apple's platforms, but I find its actual voice recognition is quick and accurate for me, so in the context of tvOS I've found it very useful and quick so far. One of the most frustrating UX experience on TVs is having to type anything out, so the fact Siri seems to be quite good at this is a big bonus.

Another bonus - when you open a text input on Apple TV - your phone can prompt you to enter the text on your phone instead. If you're entering long text, this is a much better and convenient method. It's especially useful for entering passwords as the text input does support password manager autofills too, so I can use 1Password easily.

In the OS, settings are clean and understandable. I don't have much to complain about. The bar is pretty low when it comes to TV UX (even on good systems like games consoles, chromecast, Fire TV, etc), so it doesn't take much to impress me here. But I like it, I'm happy.

It has some nice features that apply across applications, such as subtitle and audio preferences, picture in picture mode (though it appears apps can disable that, so it's not universal).

Applications are all much more performant, playback starts much quicker and navigation is miles faster than the LG CX's built in apps. Even on applications that don't seem to have had great amount of attention to them, the base level experience afforded by the strong software platform of tvOS is just better than they are on other platforms that I've tried.

Apple's applications

Some of the supposed benefits of the Apple TV should be Apple's own apps, I use Apple Music and I have a Fitness+ subscription. The Apple Music app seems decent and it has some cool karaoke-like features. The Fitness+ application is something I could see myself using, given it supports the display of health metrics such as heart rate and calories burned directly on the Fitness+ content and I need to burn off my substantial bulk ASAP.

iCloud Photos seems very typical, it's a blackbox of sync magic. You don't know how or when photos will sync fully and you can't force it to sync. The same experience you get on iOS and macOS, which is to say - not as good as it should be. But I do appreciate the ability to turn on/off certain aspects of your photo library as naturally there could be privacy implications to your TV having access to your photo library in shared household.

The core AppleTV application has search hooks into a variety of applications. It means searching for content across a variety of apps is easy. Other systems do this too, my LG CX does it - I can speak into the remote and after the 8th attempt it'll probably understand me and do a search across a variety of services for the content I was looking for.

The AppleTV experience here is significantly better. It's fast, smooth and seems quite well integrated. It has an 'Up Next' section in the application which combines content from across applications and Apple's own and surfaces your in progress content from third party apps, though this seems a bit inconsistent, which may be an Apple issue or an issue with the particular apps I'm using.


Overall, I've been somewhat surprised by it. It does feel like a genuinely decent upgrade for watching TV and irons out a good few niggles I've had for the last couple of years.

It isn't the cheapest TV box out - not even close. But expecting that of Apple would be silly, but I do think it's one of the best 'value' products Apple make (a very low bar, I know). An Apple A15 SoC with 128GB of NAND flash, an ethernet port and a decent remote for £169.99? That's pretty good for Apple, especially considering how much they charge for storage on their other products.

There is a cheaper model that has 64GB of storage and no ethernet port, and if the lack of ethernet port isn't a problem for you, then you can save £20 by getting that model.